At my friend Louise’s home in a rich green valley where geese and elk pass through to loll in the meadows tall with grass and the pond’s filled with algae, ducks and geese, pink reigns: rich smelling pink lilac dripping from shrubs, pink petunias overflowing from giant ceramic pots, shocking pink peonies opening under homemade birdhouses; pink quilts and pillows on company beds, and pink and green sofas inviting a guest to stretch out on the porch and watch the sun paint the sky over Glory mountain. At nigh the elk squeal like babies and wolves howl followed by a bark. But as yet, this trip, I have not seen a wild beast!
It seems each year, Jackson knits a new sweater - now the political issue is about building two or three story buildings around the town square (where famous arches of stacked elk horns are beginning to wilt and need repair) to make room for more condos and apartments, particularly for town workers who cannot afford the multi-million dollars estates that Jackson thrives on. (Workers must pass over a treacherous pass to Idaho to find reasonable rentals.) Sadly, construction is moving in - although there is a building moratorium - animals are moving out - there’s no place to lay their head and motor machines turn them into road-kill. Here is one area in the USA which has not hit foreclosure crisis ( nor has the Vail and Aspen and KeyStone areas of Colorado). Prices are so high they burn the eye because they seem ridiculous to pay that much for a large log cabin with view to spend a couple months a year inhabiting. But it’s fact. And the town wants more accessibility on its two main drags crammed with cars and trucks passing through at a snail’s pace.
I lived here two years - found a sliver of my soul, but not enough to nourish it for life. There were no poor people,(only a few homeless cowboys on motorcycles); the Indian reservations which I had hoped might be a valuable ministry zone were too far for a single woman to commute to in winter, and the state prisons were even further away, although there were two programs that I would have cheered to be able to work in - one had prisoners weaving belts out of horse hair, and the other was pairing the most violent criminals with the wildest range horses - each to tame the other. (There are less residents in this entire state than there are in Shelby County, but probably more horses and cows). Sadly, the local clergy didn’t "trust" deacons, demanded I start from scratch, ignoring I had spent ten years of tough ministry in Uruguay, and were not actually involved with the Indians and prisoners. I was insulted, I admit, and backed off from involving with that kind of mind set.
After much agony - and having tackled the Grand and some neighboring mountains with Jim (my Everest guide) and receiving a D minus at climbing school five years ago (although I was growing addicted to rock climbing gyms) I, dragging my tail, returned to Memphis four years ago to see if I could survive where my roots dug deep. It was a devastating time for me. Jackson had not been a reenforcing place to live alone all year around. I did write a novel (or complete it) here, learned about E-Bay, realized that snow on the deck was yellow for a reason, and experimented with New Age territories I didn’t need to include in my soul - although walking through them I picked up pointers on how to have a surer faith. For a moment, I stepped shoulder deep into world astrology through a fascinating Yoga teacher who had me standing on my head (wow! - I didn’t even do that as a child); learned about past lives - I was a Venetian Renaissance artist’s muse and later a rebellious slave saving others on the underground escape route, -questioned if colored stones on my chakra spots really could heal my tears (so I collected rocks, and washed them when the moon was full to keep them vibrant); found the most extraordinary Thai masseuse I’ve ever been twisted and stretched by in my life; trudged through six feet of snow for a Native American Indian "sweat" - where hot stones fired to red hot were placed in a tent - wearing a bathing suit you sit cross legged (ouch) on the ground in a circle - to make you sweat out all your pain and sorrows - while praying to the Great Creator for better times and healing for yourself and others; and I tested every kind of healing touch, hovering hands for energy production, rolfing dig and oil infusion offered in this valley, including frequent Tarot card readings because I was intrigued by the artwork.
Best was getting fit: working out almost every day in a gym with personal trainers, who proverbially pushed me up boulders and paths toward the Grand Teton peak, (Augie and Gary), and I was photographed as an example of aged grit training in a gym for the weekly paper encouraging folks to get fit for summer. I had an encounter at the top of Glory mountain with an eagle; ran off a mountain side to catch the wind and soar like an eagle paragliding; sifted up a few thousand feet in a colorful hot air balloon right in front of the Grand, got drenched by the cold sprays of Snake River rapids taking my grandson on a white water rafting excursion; froze in a sunny ten-below zero day as my family visiting for the holidays tried dog sledding that led us to a hot springs pool. No I did not learn to ski. I tried cross-country but my feet went numb and I hated that. I became a regular at Pearl Street Bagels (their Wild Tribe shake is addictive), at Nikai sushi restaurant, at Amagani’s spa (seaweed scrub in a steam I recommend), and my home was featured in two fancy Western magazines. I loved having wooden decks I could exit to from every room in the house and Sunday biscuits in teepees at Dornans down in Moose (yes, that’s the town’s name.)at the beginnings of the Teton National Park. When snow covered the Direct TV dish on my deck rail, I sloshed out on the deck with my broom and brushed it off to regenerate reception. It was also in lonely Jackson that I found my guard dog Brandy - a giant size mixed yellow lab and Husky - rescuing him from the local pound.( Pounds of dog from the pound.) He never budged when the earthquakes passed through making my log house shiver like a breath too deep nor had a barking fit when we encountered moose on our morning hike, which I did in crampons when there was snow and ice and felt accomplished.
Yes, 2004 was a wretched time for me as I pulled away from twenty years of happiness and success in Uruguay and tried to return to this country and pick up a feisty, relevant ministry and family relations, which I have done mas o menos in Memphis, but still I’m not where I need to be. I’ve made many mistakes. Jackson was a transition point, I guess, and so I can come back and salute it now and then for opening up thought pores and hidden spiritual strength. At least in my small garden on Bar X Road, I was able to grow delphiniums in every shade from pale blue to dark purple as well as lupines (those wonderful mountain flowers) the colors of raspberry and blueberry sherbet. With June arrived shoulders of daffodils to greet me each morning with joyful faces. Yes, the moose dropped in now and then for a chew on my willow trees, elk crossed the short fence in the night leaving footprints to wonder by, coyotes sang me to sleep when stars and the moon were as bright as day, and once a wild cat humped up in a golden "n" when I made the daily trek up the butte behind my house to build leg muscles and to salute the Grand Teton resting across the way on the multi- million dollar side of the valley.
Photos: The Grand Tetons; Cowboy Bar, motorcycles, elk horn arches; Lilac shrubs in the valley; pink peony in Louise's garden; Cowboy boots hang with toes up; goat's beard among the fox tail weeds; colorful lupines.