From Summer to Fall

I really don’t want to write these days. I also don’t want to read. I have developed an aversion to words on the page. Rafal keeps encouraging me to write — sometimes resorting to guilt tactics, like “your blog is a record for our family” — but I haven’t been able to bring myself to do it.

Part of it is that I don’t know where to begin. So much has happened since I was blogging on the regular. But I’ve found my way here to the keyboard today, so here’s my attempt to bring us all up to speed.

SUMMER

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This summer I had the honor of working as a ranger in Yellowstone National Park, and it was awesome. I was an Interp ranger, which is to say not a Law Enforcement ranger. My job was divided across three tasks: roving (walking around specific areas of the Park and talking to people), working the welcome desk at the Visitor Center (answering myriad questions and helping visitors plan their trips), and delivering programs (writing and performing guided walks and talks).

If you know me then you are not surprised to know that giving programs was my favorite part. I did the Fort Walk, which toured historic Fort Yellowstone, and detailed the history of the US military’s management of the Park. (Yellowstone is 34 years older than the National Park Service). I did the Terrace Walk, which toured the Mammoth Hot Springs Travertine Terraces, and dropped both historical and geological knowledge of the area. I did a short 20-minute wildlife talk, during which I got to demonstrate how to use bear spray (using an inert can). And finally, I researched, wrote, and delivered an original evening program at our small outdoor amphitheater.

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Frankly, I was perfect for the job.

I had a lot to learn in terms of natural resources (most people who do this job have a background in forestry or something similar), but I what I lacked in that area I made up for in terms of storytelling, research skills, and personal knowledge of the park.

Rafal and I had only one day off together each week, and every other week we used that day to go to Bozeman for groceries, errands, and the miscellaneous luxuries of town. On top of that, I was exhausted from being pregnant and working on my feet all the time. So we didn’t really do a whole of lot of fun summer stuff.  

But we did manage to camp at Buffalo Bill State Park (and it the process save a man from drowning), float the Yellowstone river on innertubes (spending two hours longer on the river than intended and getting sunburned), host visitors (my mom, Rafal’s mom, Mary & Vince, Monika & Rob), and attend the Montana Folk Festival in Butte.

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My mom and Rafal also brought Lydia to an event in Bozeman called Digger Days, which may have been the highlight of her life thus far. (Unfortunately, I had to work.) And in early September, Lydia started preschool. 

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FALL

On September 21st, I delivered my final Terrace Walk of the summer (which was my longest and most physically rigorous program). As I finished the walk, I made a joke about how I successfully made it through the season without going into labor on the terraces. I realized then that I didn’t have a single photo of myself as a pregnant ranger (aside from a few selfies), and I asked a visitor if she would take one. (This is the glamorous NPS maternity uniform.)

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I started having contractions that afternoon. Here I am with my friend, Madi, after about three contractions.

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I was supposed to work my final day of the season on September 22, but I did not go into work that day. Instead, I had mild contractions all day. That night, we dropped Lydia off at our neighbor’s, the Youngs, and drove the 1 hour and 15 minutes to Livingston Hospital. (We stopped at Follow Your Nose BBQ for take-out on the way.) By 9:00 pm my contractions had stalled out, but we spent the night at the hospital.

The next morning — September 23 — active labor started in earnest at 5:00 am. The hospital kitchen wasn’t yet open, but my nurse brought me coffee from the employee area (because even in labor I need my coffee).

I was the only patient in the birth center and my room had a view of the mountains, for the true Montana-birthing experience. Labor was fast and intense. By 10:25 am, she was born. (No epidural, btw.) 

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Violet is a calm, sweet baby. She nurses great, she sleeps pretty good, and she has a peaceful disposition. Lydia is a loving big sister and a great helper. Of course, sometimes she’s jealous. Sometimes Violet is inconsolable. Sometimes I’m too exhausted to do anything at all. We are all adjusting. We are all trying to find our new groove.  

In the days since Violet’s arrival, we enjoyed Rafal’s month-long paternity leave, hiked a few trails, and celebrated Halloween. We stayed in a forest service cabin. Lydia started yoga classes.

I am writing this on November 5. The roads into Yellowstone closed today to let the snow accumulate. (They will reopen December 15 for over-snow travel.) Yesterday, Rafal put the winter tires on the car, and this morning we woke to a fresh coat of snow.

I dropped Lydia off at school this morning and drove down to Gardiner with the baby. Wonderland Cafe is having “locals appreciation day,” so I got a free cup of coffee. I am snuggling and nursing and trying to write.

I don’t want to jinx it, but I have to say it’s easier the second time around. Either I’m better or she’s better or both. And I’m glad to be a Mammoth/Gardiner local today (not just for the free coffee). I always love the shoulder season. When for a quick moment it’s just us, and all of this is ours, and everyone is extra nice, and you can look around and see who really lives here. You can just feel the community. 

This community truly stepped up for me this summer and fall. From taking care of my kids to bringing over food to just extending their arms to hold my baby for a while: I feel very supported. It’s also fun to see these posters hanging up around town. It’s wonderful to feel like a part of something. (Note what’s happening in March.) 

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So in case you haven’t heard from me in a while, I’m still here doing my thing: mothering, hustling for the arts, enjoying the outdoors, and once in a while trying to write.

I’ll try not to stay away so long.

❤ Nico 

 

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