Seventeen degrees when I woke up to a little bit of light and finally silent wind chimes at five a.m. All those starts my husband brought me home from the nursery over two hours away, which I tenderly planted in the safe new location of the raised beds and covered with a double layer of plastic sheeting for added protection, just in case. Dead. All that promise of a juicy ripe homegrown tomato at ten thousand feet. Gone. Turned to a mushy dark sick liquid green.
I wanted to cry. Really. May seem silly to be so upset over the death of plants, but I think it was the last straw. First it was a bad morning. The outhouse down at the Little Cabin blew over in these brazen winds, the power tripped causing us to fire up the generator for the first time since last fall burning that dreaded fossil fuel I do my best to conserve, and there was a dead ground squirrel in the have-a-heart traps that was set to capture the danged pack rat that’s been chewing his way into our storage cabin.
Yet it was the plants, my dearly tended, fragile plants. That was the hardest. They represented more. Hope. Life, when so many friends were dealing with death. This week, one friend lost her dog while helping her sister through the diagnosis of cancer, one lost their dear old mare, and another lost her mother. I was going to grow life. In the form of juicy ripe tomatoes.
A nasty blow. Enough to bring tears to my eyes. But not enough to compare with the losses my friends are bearing. I will sweet talk my husband into dropping another hundred bucks next time he’s in the valley, and I will replant. Life replaced, as simple as that. And maybe I’ll get that tomato this summer after all.
I think of my friends dealing with their losses, and I know it is not fair. Life isn’t. In fact, sometimes it really sucks. And then it gets better. Just like that. Though maybe it takes a while. Hours, days, weeks, maybe even years. It’s crazy, isn’t it? This rollercoaster ride with all the ups and downs. We heal, we forget or forgive or learn to cope, and still find the guts to buy another ticket and go for another ride.
But for now, I’m still upset. Walking around all morning in a funk, on the verge of tears. I let my boys know this is not OK. Such emotional creatures we are. So affected by the simple things. If we let it get to us, and I usually do.
So while the rest of the family gathered together to whoop it up for the holiday and partake in the traditional barbeque, I chose to be alone with my dog. I needed to get high.
Thirteen thousand feet high.
Though my intention was merely twelve. That extra thousand feet was bonus points. That’s where the addiction part comes in. That, my friend, is altitude sickness. Not because at that altitude I felt queasy in my head and stomach, though that has happened before. But because somewhere in my heart and soul there was this fluttering. This crazy, driving, lustful urge that blinds reason and tells you to keep going, like a drug you should keep taking. Seeing nothing but one foot in front of the other, a slow ascend, and focusing on the sound of my own labored breathing. That which controls you, guides you, forces you onward beyond reason. All for the five minutes of sitting on top of the mountain in the blaring winds and blinding light and biting temperatures, sucking in thin air and looking around 360 degrees in absolute awe, next to Gunnar Guy, my never questioning why on earth we spend all this time trudging to the top only to turn around and scramble back down faithful side kick of a dog.
The sickness of addiction. Mesmerized and seduced by the altitude and elements. For I didn’t mean to go so far. But I’m glad I did.