Sweet Home California
A few years ago, I had an epiphany while walking through the bedding section at the Invercargill Warehouse, feeling up winter duvets, and wondering if I could just get away with using a flat sheet as a fitted sheet on a bed I had just inherited, in the south city room I had just moved into.
The flat sheet was half the price of the bottom fitted sheet.
It seemed stupid to pay for a fitted sheet. For the last year since that moment, I had been studying in Wellington, then doing guiding trips around the South Island, then travelling overseas, and during this time I had fallen asleep most nights in hotel sheets, backpacker sheets, sheets wrapped around the bottom cushions of friends' houses, or, more frequently, no sheets at all and just my sleeping bag.
It had been a couple of years since I moved into a bedroom or flat of my own. And I had forgotten, I realised, as I stood, overwhelmed in the bedding aisle, how expensive sheets actually were.
Sheets were still foreign to me as I adjusted back into a non-transient world, where housing didn't change with the seasons.
The Montana dispatch:
One of the most common questions I get as a waitress on this ranch is ''are you a skier?''
My answer, as I clear their bread plates and steak knives, is generally: ''I'm trying.''
I'm not a natural at anything that requires coordination and speed or even balance.
But the great thing about getting a few decades under your belt, is that you realise you have a choice in life: stay in your room and do nothing, ever, that requires effort and/or public humiliation.
A year and one week ago I was driving past Splash Palace and saw something which made me brake to get a good look at a crime I was sure was about to happen.
I had just driven past this kid - I'd guess him to be between 14 and 16 - and he was walking in a way that didn't seem quite right.
He was wearing a big, black puffy jacket on a warm summer evening. His left arm was down; it was holding something he was trying to conceal and he walked with great purpose and swagger.
Something was definitely about to happen.
I did a U-turn so I could drive past the kid again. I didn't really want to follow him. I didn't want to witness anything, which would inevitably mean I'd have to go back to the newspaper and file a story.
This morning three of us girls laced up our snow boots, wrapped scarves around our necks, pulled our hats down to our nearly instantly frozen eyelashes, and set out into the morning with beef stroganoff, sautéed green beans, and a bottle of $5.99 sparkling wine.
This is our official brunch morning. Which means we all collect at different spots around the ranch and then make our way to the coveted three-story cabin on the ridge above the main lodge, where the other, luckier, more senior management ranch staff are housed.
We are like the three Magi walking with our gifts, shrouded mysteriously in tea towels, which will get us a free pass into the ridge cabin.
But it is worth the hike in below freezing temperatures. Unlike our sunless hovel that has no potbelly stove, the ridge cabin gets the full winter sun.
It has a porch with a swing, a woodburner with stacks of firewood ready to go, deep chairs to sit in, and a couch that looks out to the Big Sky ski runs.
If you know me at all, you know how much I love my space and that I closely guard my alone time like a fire-breathing dragon.
I am a real sweetheart most of the time. But like other massive introverts, my secret superpower is that I can cast a vibe of doom and darkness that consumes everything my territory if I feel you are threatening me, by say, speaking to me in the morning before I have had at least a forth of the cup of coffee I am holding in my hand right now, capisce?
Right now I am living with seven girls in very tight quarters in a snow-bound house in the woods. And there is a lot of loveliness around us.
So it is safe to say that I struggle with balancing two very different parts of myself that are torn by opposing impulses: breathe fire to protect my den or jump in a truck and head for ice skating and whiskey sours.
One impulse doesn't want to miss a second of my time in Montana. It is beautiful. I want to say yes to every adventure. And this place is a paradise of adventuring.
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