This has been a hellacious winter, the kind that drove Russian poets to ingest massive amounts of Vodka, and write about fate. Let’s call it a Tolstoy-Winter because it has also rivaled War and Peace in length. Next week is our spring break, so naturally the 20 Prospect clan is heading to the rugged North Shore of Lake Superior because that’s just the kind of
idiots tough bastards that we are.
Bring it Tolstoy.
There is something about this time of year that makes a person go just a little crazy. I’ve recounted several stories about ridiculous adventures that I have gotten myself into, and most of them occur during the months of March and April. In fact, in my youth I think I started, and ended, more relationships at this time of the year than any other. Perhaps there is something in the stars that has aligned for me, or maybe it was the desperation of winter that finally forced me to screw up my courage to ask a girl out. There was one stretch of 4 years in a row, where I started dating someone the 2nd week of February. That streak came to an end with the lovely Mrs. 20 Prospect whom I met February 9th, 1992. But that’s a story I have told elsewhere.
That late winter of 1992 will forever be etched into my mind for the time I spent crossing, and re-crossing the intermountain west. Salt Lake City; Rock Springs, Wyoming; Colstrip, Montana interspersed with trips back to our office in Denver, I must have put five thousand miles on the Jeep that winter. I can remember driving across the open range with antelope racing alongside the car. I’d been crossing Wyoming for hours, underneath a pale sun light that washed the color out of everything until it was just a sage and khaki landscape.
There was something acutely lonesome about Wyoming. It’s wasn’t just the lack of people, but the lack of trees as well. There was no way to hide the fact that I was utterly alone. For an Easterner like me it was disconcerting to think about the emptiness. Yet at the same time I found it strangely liberating. For the first time in my life I felt completely free, and in control of my life. There was no one to save me, no one to hold me up, no one to protect me, and surprisingly, I was OK with that.
Gone was the remorse, and self doubt that I’d been struggling with ever since I left college. And while I didn’t know it at the time, the girl I had just met in Minnesota, and would begin talking to long distance, would eventually become my wife. But for that moment, as I crossed the rangelands I felt well and truly confident that whatever happened to me in my life I would be able to handle. I think the Buddhists have a word for that feeling, but I have no idea what it would be. The Buddhists have a word for everything.
Nearing the Bighorn Mountains I could see a car behind me as it approached from miles away. I remember thinking how comforting it felt to see another lost soul, wandering alone out on the range, two prospectors conquering the wilderness in their modern day Conestoga Wagons. Surely whoever was behind the wheel of that car must feel the same way I did. Surely they must be another dreamer lost in the poetry of the open sky.
As the car passed me I turned to give a nod of recognition to this fellow wanderer, only to see a head in his lap, working up and down like an oil well. My mouth fell open as they passed and receded into the distance ahead of me. After that, I saved the poetry for another time, and popped a tape into the tape player. Who knew the pioneers ever had it so good? Apparently those are the stories that Laura Ingalls Wilder left out of the books.
A few weeks later winter ended and I drove through the Black Hills and into Nebraska. When I left Montana it had been snowing, but by the time I rolled up alongside the front range in Colorado the snows were gone, the sun was out, and I was driving in short sleeves with the windows of my Jeep rolled down to let in the air. The farmers were burning the grasses along the ditch banks, and the rising smoke lent a gorgeous orange hue to the setting sun.
Tolstoy-Winter can’t last forever. Sooner or later it must yield to the irresistible bliss of spring. Hang in there prospectors.