4.08.2009

Wyoming Weather Report: Cloudy With a Chance of Doubt (or, Cows Don't Write Novels)

We've developed a fun relationship with the local newspaper, The Sheridan Press. True, we don't always (ever) agree with the opinions of the political editorials of regulars like "Conservative Bill," but it's given us a taste of a different lifestyle--one where the police blotter fills a full page, and mysterious happenings such as "shrubbery violations" are commonplace.

We showed up at Jentel thinking we’d see some seasonal changes, that the dusting of snow covering the hills mid-March would be long gone come April, replaced by daffodil sprouts and new grass. We biked and hiked and joked about the shoe-stealing mud.



And then, winter made a U-turn. As local Wylie Baker told the Sheridan Press, “I thought winter was bad in Sheridan this year—til spring showed up."



Two blizzards and two "winter storms" later, in our last week of residence, we’re no longer snowed in. But there’s still plenty of the stuff out there. And it's taken its toll; this blanketing of what is already a pretty sparse landscape has a strange effect on the mind.

There’s a lot space here, both mental and physical. The only scheduled event of the week is Thursday morning’s grocery run. On one hand the freedom is good—I can immerse in a project with little distraction. But what if the project feels off? There’s a lot room for doubt to creep into my little studio. What if I just can’t write a novel? What if I'm only good at stories? Maybe I should write a memoir instead...

That’s it! I’ll write a memoir! Memoirs sell. I already know the story; I know the characters and...

Solution: I take a lot of walks.

With all the snow we’ve been having, the county road has become our sole outlet for exercise. You get to know the animals; anything with vertical rise stands out. And it seems the animals feel the same about people passing by. Grazing cows turn. In the beginning, I’d say, “MooOO!” Now I just mumble, "Hey," and keep walking. And there are horses, always in packs. When they see me coming, they saunter over to the fence. When I run, the horses trot along with me.

I took a walk yesterday to clear my head, sick of my thoughts and sick of getting sucked into my own drain. And I met this cow. She had shifted to face me and just stood there, looking. After awhile she reached down and ate some grass.



I thought, That cow isn't writing a novel. That cow doesn't spend the day wondering when she’ll hear about a fellowship. Cows don’t worry that they’re not getting enough done, and when it snows two feet in ten hours they wait for the snow to melt and when it does they move to the place where the grass shows through.

I told my fellow residents about this revelation at dinner and they laughed. But Cow Zen has relieved some of the pressure. Even with all the time in the world, you have to make room for tomfoolery. Whether it's celebrating your Irish heritage...



or building an igloo.

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