My dad grew up waterskiing and on the day I was born (literally THE day–meaning they went to the hospital immediately afterward) he bought a medium-sized inboard/outboard boat. We were living in Tennessee at the time and there are lots of lakes in Tennessee (so I’m told). I don’t remember because we moved from Tennessee to Wyoming when I was not quite two years old.
Wyoming is a terrible place to live if you love to waterski. There are only about two months of the year when the water is warm enough to make it appealing. One of the three skiable reservoirs within two hours of my hometown was drained for one of those months. During those summer months, we would load up the boat on a Saturday and drive 25 minutes to Granite reservoir, which sits at about 8000 feet elevation (brrrr!) or the two hours to Gurnsey State Park when it wasn’t drained. We spent the morning in the strong sunshine, taking turns behind the boat. We always had a big canvas tote bag filled with snacks and a cooler with cold drinks and sandwiches. We took turns in the water until we were all exhausted or an afternoon thunderstorm rolled in.
When I was a little girl, we traveled to Lake Powell every summer. Mom and Dad loaded up the ski boat with provisions to last a week and pulled it 625 miles to Bullfrog Marina in far-southern Utah. My sisters and I would wake up in the cargo area of the 1983 Chevy Blazer. We played Barbies and My Little Ponies, without seat belts, in the back seat and cargo area of the truck, listening to Michael Jackson and Steve Miller Band on cassette in a little boom box (the Blazer had only AM/FM radio).
When I think about these trips now, I am amazed at the effort my parents put into the execution of these trips. They packed coolers with dry ice so incredible camping dishes like fried pork chops and bacon and eggs could be served during the weeklong stay in the 90-100 degree F temps. My dad made an outhouse out of a toilet seat and a five gallon bucket, shielded by four poles and blue vinyl tarp. My uncle Gary, who joined us on some of these trips, called it the “hoolie” or “the big house.” My mom used it as a place to send difficult children for time out. The smell was a formidable punishment in the heat of the day.
My dad would rise, early in the morning and ski as daylight was breaking. Then he would return and cook breakfast on the Coleman stove, basting the eggs with bacon grease. My sisters and I spent our days playing in the sand, wearing thin spots in the bottoms of our ruffled swimsuits. I must have been about six when we stopped making the trip.
As I got older we continued with another annual boat trip to my parents’ home town in Southern Idaho. There is a stretch of the Snake River that is wide and calm there. The current pulls the boat wakes downstream and the land rises up on the west bank, shielding this stretch from the frequent Southern Idaho winds. As a young adult, my grandfather and his buddies rented tractors and dredged this section of the river to make it suitable for ski boats. This is where I learned to waterski, first on two skis, then slalom. We spent entire days making passes up and down the River. We set up a picnic on the public dock by the boat ramp, the roar of the boat engine stopping only for a moment. Little kids played in the shallows of the boat ramp, collecting snails and sticks and shooing away large clumps of grass we called “seaweed.” Grandmas and grandpas would drive down with potato salad and sandwiches and cheer us on as we showed off our skills.
These days were the reward for long, cold winters spent on the Wyoming plains. The balance for days inside listening to howling wind and watching snowflakes swirl.
Distilled down, the only two ingredients necessary for this bliss are sun and water. I’ve lived many years now without ready access to the boat that I took for granted in my first twenty years. But I’ve found the same rejuvenating power in white water rafting, canoeing, surfing and swimming/sunning next to a lake/river/ocean.
The practice of distilling a favorite activity down to the magic, to its essential ingredients, is pretty powerful. It has allowed me to find these experiences in all the places I’ve lived. Places that were not glamorous or desirable. Places that are too hot or too cold most of the year. Places that lack amenities of the big city or the wilds of the country. If I can find the sun and water combination, I can create a little bliss. Sometimes the water has been in a bathtub. Sometimes I’ve have to wait for the sun to appear on a zero-degree day and, like my mom taught me to do during those Wyoming winters, lie on my back on the carpet in front of the window and let the sunlight rest on me.
My point is that bliss is available wherever you are and wherever you aren’t, so it makes sense to focus on finding it where you ARE. Identify those ingredients that make it bliss and put them together in your current circumstance. Put your butt in the sand. Fry bacon on the beach miles away civilization. Stare into the starry sky. Give your soul what it craves.
…or move to San Diego. Actually don’t. There are already too many people here for a Wyoming girl. `