Saturday, May 4, 2013

Taking It All With Me


The trip is winding down, and here at about a half-way point between the Black Hills and home in Iowa, it’s time to get some sleep.  Packing up this morning, rarely my favorite thing to do, I was consoling myself that even though I was leaving a beautiful place, I was going to take many things back with me. 

The buffalo herd moves across the grasses, mostly in a slow and loose conglomeration of shaggy creatures.  Babies test out their legs, and discover hopping and running to their great joy.  The mamas look as if they hope the babies will do several more laps to be naptime ready sooner rather than later.  The herd sentries grunt back and forth; passing along directional, pace, and herd behavior instructions.  Rolling in the dust, sturdy buffalo legs stretch in wallowing holes to take dust baths.  Tiny cow birds gather around the buffalo, partners in their environment.  The calves stretch out next to their mommas, soak in the sun, and wake recharged and hungry.  They try to add their own grunts, with baby voices that are much higher than the adults surrounding them.  I will take them with me.

Antelope, elegant creatures of patterned colors, perch high on hills and low in the gullies.  They tend to pretend that human viewers are simply not there, conspicuously ignoring the person within view.  Watching the antelope, quietly munching the grasses and moving along the hill lines, I love their patterned looks and the sounds of their quiet grass clipping.  I will take them with me.

Sylvan Lake, Legion Lake, Stockade Lake, and several other lake spots reflect the pines, snow, and rock formation.  The ducks and geese that make their homes in the waters take turns honking and quacking at each other, flapping around in a merry chase of territorial nesting crankiness.  The air is full of pine smell, clean and sweet.  The water, still frozen in some places, is cold with spring snow melt.  Little fish dart in and out of the cattails.  Tiny birds played as they move in and out of the reeds.  An osprey dipped and dove into the waters.  The trails around the ponds and lakes are each different.  The Sylvan Lake path leads past the waters framed in low rocks to a path sided by tall rock walls.  The pines and birch trees close to the rocks are still encased in thick snows.  Higher up, where the sun is hitting, the snow has melted to form icicles that glow in the sunshine like jewels.  I will take them with me.

Blue birds perch on the fences and bird houses.  Tiny spots of sky blue, they are like little sky streaks that dart around.  The females are toned in browns, like little paintings that reflect the good soils and stones around them, delicate in coloring and well disguised in their environment.  The meadow lark sings the most beautiful song, loudly and joyfully from tree branches, fence posts, and anywhere else they can find.  Yellow, with a swirl of black on their chest, these birds are as beautiful to see as they are to hear.  Magpies, white
and dark blue, dart about as if they are the supermodels and everyone else should pause to watch.  They are beautiful, and I do pause.  A strutting turkey, fluffed up and gliding over pine needle covered ground attempting, all in the attempt to impress a hen was a beautiful sight.  She was even chasing him for a few minutes, so apparently it was working.  The gobble gobble and cluck cluck of the turkey was fun to hear.  The pheasants, hawks, burrowing owls, and noisy crows were all there and all so wonderful to see.  I will take them with me.

I have met wonderful people.  A woman on an adventure who displays warmth and caring in her work, will have a collection of stories that is worthy of writing in a much shared book.  A local small store owner brings Bob the Manager to the store each day to “work” as a greeter.  Bob is a liver colored lab who likes belly rubs and to show off his big blue toy bone.  The Custer Chamber of Commerce awarded Bob as having friendliest customer service; all because his person brought him to work and let those who visit the store enjoy that personality.  Another woman has picked up the pieces of her life and found a passion for photography that has inspired her to make more than a so-so existence, but to enrich the lives of others around her.  I felt as if she was looking to share, as one who cares about an art wants to share it with another.   A gentleman is warmly greeting guests, even as he is a guest here.  I hope that he feels as welcome
in the Custer area as he made us feel.  A retired rancher, working at the Wild Horse Sanctuary, let me see the plains through his eyes.  Grasses, sustainability, the balance cycle of predator and prey, water conservation, and the joy of spring’s arrival from the presence of a burrowing owl were only the frosting on the cupcake.  His love of the horses and caring for them and their preservation was something that could be described more as a passion than a job.  People who have greeted, smiled, welcomed, and been kind – I will take them with me.

Snow falling so gently while enveloped in the heat of the steam and water of a hot tub, watching deer eat their dinner just beyond the pines from the same hot tub, and the sound of migratory ducks and geese as they fly over - they are all cabin memories.  Tucked near an outcropping of rock, the cabin was a quiet landing place at the end of a day.  With a gas stove fire started, the living room was toasty and the perfect place to end a day flipping through pictures.  A kind hearted woman owns the cabins and so wants to share her joy of the cabins with those who stay there.  I will take these with me.

These are just a few of the things I will take home with me.  I packed them all so gently in my luggage and have them with me even now.  They are many more, and those also I will take with me.