Sunday, June 13, 2010

Woman Versus Wild

More than once during my weekend getaway I heard “Don’t put this in your blog.” So, as I embark on recounting my adventure know that this is a partial retelling and the full one requires security clearance. Luckily, the last forty-eight hours provided a wealth of storytelling material to choose from.
Why don’t we pick it up with my nighttime arrival back in the state of Virginia. A state that misleadingly claims to be “for lovers” when indeed it is “for driving obstacle courses”. I made it to level three in this game on Friday night when I successfully navigated narrow, winding, two-lane roads in the pitch dark without hitting a single animal the encroaching woods threw at me. Animals like deer, raccoons, opossums, and possibly a warthog (I didn’t get a good look at that one.) The next morning, as I left from my first night’s destination to go to my friend’s mountain home, I noticed that other motorists didn’t fare as well. And judging from the carcass strewn highway, the animals fared even worse. I’m not sure what type of training is required for taxidermists, but I do know where they can pick up some practice animals if they need them.
We’ll come back to how I made it to level four in the rural driving obstacle course game later, because I actually have another animal related story to share at this juncture. And let me start by assuring you that I’m not making this up. My half-sister and her mom, who I spent the night with on Friday, found themselves pet-sitting for two different sets of neighbors who had gone away on beach vacations. That’s what neighbors are for, right? And checking in on and feeding someone’s dog or cat or even gecko is no big deal. But I think at the point the owner starts telling you where to bury the dog if it dies while they’re away, you have to draw the line on the pet-sitting. I’m pretty sure that when the conversation took this turn, my half-sister and her mom were at a loss for words and just followed the woman out to the sacred burial tree out of confused curiosity. My step-mom did say, “But you’re not expecting the dog to die, right?” The owner assured them that, “No, no. Not really. But let me just show you the blanket you should wrap him in if he does.” Seriously? I think we can all agree that shrouding and grave-digging would warrant a few surcharges to the pet care bill. I, for one, would not bury any friend or neighbor’s pet for less than two hundred dollars. I guess I might do a goldfish for like twenty bucks.
Back to the driving experiment: I had to find my way to my friend’s mountain log cabin using only my trip gauge and random markers like green mailboxes, tiny concrete bridges, and abandoned settlements, circa 1700s. And level four came when I had to mount what they graciously term the “driveway”, a gravel speckled path that went at a 90 degree angle toward the sky. This was no easy feat in my Mazda 6. The precarious climb was worth it, though, as they have built for themselves a paradise on a mountain top. It was breathtaking. And while I don’t know that I could ever sacrifice the conveniences of city-dwelling, I must admit the beauty their lifestyle offers is tempting.
But I think the main reason I couldn’t live that way is my complete reliance on civilization. I don’t know how to live off the land, fend for myself, etc. My friend, P, on the other hand, along with her husband, Tarzan of the jungle, ooze competence and independence. They literally built their own home whereas I can barely hang a picture frame in mine. They grow their own vegetables, which isn’t so uncommon, but I personally harvest my crops at the grocery store. And remarkably, despite being brought up in the same county as the two of them, I wouldn’t even know where to begin with the whole planting a garden thing. Even when forced to work in my family’s garden as a child, I paid little attention to what I was doing. My mind was always elsewhere, plotting out my future stardom no doubt.
At some point, when we were discussing hunting (their forte being wildlife, mine being discounted shoes), I learned they could survive in even the worst of times, as they are willing to eat not only deer (venison) and the even more obvious turkeys, but also have killed and eaten wild chickens, rabbits, and squirrels! Okay, number one, I know that even the most lackadaisical animal lover is outraged over the rabbit thing and needless to say vegetarians probably started weeping during the first sentence. But in my friends’ defense, they hunt for food, not sport, and one can certainly understand how it might be beneficial to cut down on the bunny population, as there is a common saying of things multiplying like rabbits. And number two, yes, I said squirrels. I was as surprised as you. But, apparently, they taste like chicken if you cook them right. You know what else tastes like chicken if you cook it right? Chicken. And I’m more of a Tyson boneless, skinless, prepackaged girl.
The highlight of my weekend was hiking/mountain climbing/rock climbing up to a beautiful waterfall. And I felt such a sense of accomplishment for making it up there unscathed, even surmounting an enormous boulder at the top that once we climbed over brought us to the other side where the waterfall emptied into a sparkling pool of water before it meandered gradually down the mountain. My lifelong friend and I rested there, enjoying the majestic view and recounting many highlights of the past 32 years of our lives, which turned out to save me some time later as I tried to scale my way back down the boulder on the edge of a cliff and didn’t have to fool around with the whole life flashing before my eyes thing since we’d just gone over that. I just had to choke on my fear and go for it, knowing there was some delicious chicken salad back at the house for us to enjoy at lunch. At least I think it was chicken.

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