In Bozeman Montana we slept in a hotel room for the last time. The rest of our nights would be spent in friends’ guest rooms, rest areas, and Wal-Mart parking lots. We both became lighter when we made the decision to splurge on a Comfort Inn suite with two queen beds and a complimentary breakfast. Kevin served us plates of food as I talked to the woman at the Comfort Inn haggling our price down with the mention of AAA. We sat in Garret eating our deli food from the Bozeman supermarket. And we were so relieved to have given in to the idea of luxury. “We’re like a well oiled machine.” This comment escaping Kevin’s lips made me smile.
We became close as we traveled tightly in our midsize SUV.
We sauntered into the lobby with two days of filth covering our bodies. But there was a confidence that existed that only exists when you do something that others think is implausible, impractical, impossible. There is a high you get when you tell your story.
We laid in our plush white beds that night. I went in and out of sleep, intermittently taking out my white mac that matched my white bed and writing things I did not want to forget.
The grizzly bear that caused congestion on the two-way highway in Yellowstone. He caused so much attention by simply being him. Sometimes I crave the kind of recognition this bear received. He dug in the dirt with a claw that could kill any person and ignored the crowd of people that watched him like a cirque de sole act. I wondered if he enjoyed this surveillance. I wondered if he experienced insecurities. And then I imagined life without them. Insecurities I mean. People could do so much, I could do so much.
The dancing sulfur above the geothermal pool that contained all the colors of the earth in one condensed oblong circle. The trees made a rumbling sound as the sulfur danced in our faces as though to say we are still beautiful despite you humans.
I finally fell asleep in between the opening of computer screens and writing of beautiful, natural things.
The next morning, as though beauty was our addiction, we decided to drive nine hours to Canada as opposed to our planned five hours to Glacier National Park. The decision was made as we ate bananas and yogurt and fake sausage at a round table watching the weather channel talk about tornadoes hitting cities we would soon be in. It was spontaneous and unreasonable and thrilling.
The part of Montana we drove through started as yellow and flat. And then water was introduced and it became green and fecund. We drove over many bridges as the river curved in and out of our lives. Houses scattered the flat land that became a valley between mountains, as though they were after thoughts. Humans were secondary in this part of the country.
We made it into Banff after nightfall and we concentrated on the thick darkness before us. Our eyes adjusted and realized the giants with snow caps that surrounded us. Their hazy outlines that were only intermittently visible made these beasts feel intimidating. Alive. My fear that they would gobble us and Garret up was obvious through my eyes as I leaned over the dashboard and looked straight up. They did not gobble that night. We made it safely to the spot we would sleep in the back of the car on folded seats. We laughed as we situated ourselves in our sleeping bags. That night I found out that Kevin sleeps big. His limbs stretched and I decided I would sleep in the front seat from that night forward. The next morning we would get high.
We drove towards Lake Louise, our destination in this gorgeous part of our world. I was nervous because we had created high expectations for this place. Kevin kindly stopped the car at a café for my morning coffee. It was a café filled with people from all over. People better prepared for the cold in fleeces and wool socks. I stood there in my leggings and t-shirt in anticipation of my first sip of warmth.
We pulled into the parking lot that was now empty but would be full by the time we ended our day.
I am going to fast forward to last night for the rest of this narration.
Last night I went to dinner at a house that looks over the ocean. They were family friends. I was friends with the children of these people I ate an Asian themed meal with. After pot stickers and edamame and stir fry, we sat in a library with books this couple had accumulated throughout their lives. I wanted my collection to have this significance one day. To fill the walls of a room and to remind me of what has been filtered into my brain over decades of living. They talked about Patti Smith and Franklin D Roosevelt and the architecture of the Art Museum in Milwaukee. As we sat there I became the grizzly bear. They looked at me and asked me questions about my life now living in Long Beach in a cluttered house with two women, one of who used to be a man. I felt as though I was betraying her in some way by talking about her with such revelry and intrigue. We then moved on to graduate school and tears formed in my father’s eyes as he sipped on his after dinner Scotch. And then we talked about the trip and this day came up. Because, in the end, this day altered my perception of what life should feel like.
“Tell them about the hike to the teahouse.” My dad said.
We started by walking around the edge of the lake that is turquoise. The pictures don’t exaggerate. Have you seen the Wes Anderson film with the hotel? There is a hotel on the lake and it reminds me of that hotel in that film. I can’t tell you why, but it does. We walked towards the mouth where the glacial tongues protruded at the other end of the lake. And then we started up. Kevin used his energy to walk fast. I chose to take my time. I walked with a man who pointed out the bighorn sheep that balanced and blended with the side the mountain above us. It started out green and lush and narrow and then it opened up and became more sparse and white and cold. The stones on the ground were different colors. Pinks and blues. And then after 2 hours of hiking we came to a tea house. It was made out of logs. The only way you could get there is by foot or horseback. There were prayer flags hanging and people drinking and eating. There was shaggy rust colored dog that looked like he was half wolf. I needed water but had no money. The people at the tea house told me to use the stream. I drank the clear water from the stream and sat on a bench and watched the still mountain across from me. And then I watched the still glaciers in the other direction. And it began to snow. And the stream became my soundtrack. And even though there were people all around, I felt completely alone in this moment. And it felt perfect.
I said all of this very quickly as I realized I got nervous with so much attention. It was quick and emotional. It refocused me. We ended our after dinner chats and got up to leave. The woman who made the Asian themed dinner apologized for asking so many questions.
“Don’t be silly.” My mother said. “She loves it.”
I blushed at this comment because it was truth. I loved feeling admired by simply being me, just like the grizzly bear.