Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Cow Crap Contentment

We live in Salmon, a very isolated community in the midst of mountains, rivers, and farm ranches. Lots of farms and ranches. In fact, we live on my father-in-law's dairy farm and cattle ranch. You get used to the smell of cow crap.
I remember voicing aloud several times in high school that I would never marry a cowboy. I refused to belong to that type of "crowd" and so I thought it would be pretty easy to not ever be infatuated with a "cowboy", let alone marry one. I hated the sight of wrangler jeans, the sound of twangy country music, the apparel of the buttoned-up flannel shirts and the large belt buckles, and how can people wear hats THAT big? Anyways, you get the point.
So, I fell in love with my husband. He didn't wear wranglers, didn't wear the hats or the large belts, didn't listen to the twangy music. After I fell in love with him, he brought me to his home in Salmon to see where he grew up and to meet his family. It was then that I realized, I had fallen in love with a cowboy of a different kind. He loves to ride horses, loves to work on the farm, loves to ride his motorbike to change irrigation pipe, loves to be in the mountains on the summer ranch, etc. I had stereotyped cowboys, and had fallen right through the facade I had created.

In the beginning, I wasn't used to the horse riding or the cattle drives or the way 4-wheelers worked or accustomed to all the dust on my car from endless driving on dirt/gravel roads. But I have grown to love this way of life. We live 7 miles from town, and today on my drive to town, we drove right through a cattle drive. Right in the middle of the highway were 100 beef cattle, being herded by 4 or 5 cowboys on horses. The road was covered in cow crap, the calves were bellowing to keep up with their mothers, my kids were so excited that so many cows were within inches of our car and they were yelling and "whooping" at them to go!

I had a moment right then. A moment where I was lost in my thoughts. A moment where things all came together. A moment where my life was in complete perspective. I love where I live. I love the sound of the cows, the smell of the crap, the dust on my car, the dirt on my kids' shoes. I am so lucky to live a life out in the country. So glad to raise my kids in this environment. So glad for small isolated towns. So glad for the slower paced, laid back lifestyle. So glad for the familiarity of the timeless tradition of herding cattle. I am so happy to have had the moment, the moment full of thoughts and flashbacks and wishes for the future, for however brief that moment was, I was truly content.

And then the cows were all done weaving around our car, headed south. And we continued north to do all the errands in town. But for that one brief second in time, cow crap was truly a good thing!!!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Brilliant Great Britain

Two months ago, I took the vacation of my lifetime! Josh and I went together to visit England and Scotland for 10 days. 4 days were spent travelling, and 6 days were spent enjoying the countries! Other than the plane trips (that was the very first time I flew) the whole trip was absolutely amazing!
We arrived in London at 6:00am, and spent the entire day and half the next day seeing the sights. London is on the southern tip of the country. We went on the London Eye, and that was breathtaking. We took a 45 minute river cruise along the river Thames, with an awesome tour guide and learned a lot about the city and saw a lot of varied buildings and bridges. We toured the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, and the Westminster Abbey. The Westminster Abbey was incredible. It’s where every king and queen have been crowned and where most of the country’s loyalty is buried inside in tombs. That was such an awe-inspiring visit there. London is rich with history! I watched the play "Wicked" and loved it! We used every type of transportation possible: train, bus, tube (subway), taxi, boat, and walking. Two things we didn’t like about London: (1) It is very crowded and fast-paced. Thousands of people are everywhere, hurrying to their destinations and people aren’t very friendly. (2) It is filthy! There are no trash bins anywhere. Apparently due to the threat of terrorism, all the trash bins in the city were removed because a bomb could be easily hidden in one. Street sweeping men walk around with vacuums attached to their backs and large bags to pick up all the trash left on the streets and sidewalks. But London was overall a great experience, and we are so glad we went there, as well as glad to leave.
We took a 2 hour train, jam packed with people, to Leeds. Because the large train filled up so fast with commuters returning home from work, we were standing in a cubicle with about 14 people. It was extremely uncomfortable. Leeds is in the middle of the country. While there, we got a rental car (remember they drive on the wrong side of the road! We had our only mishap right after we picked up the car, and never forgot again!) We spent the night in a nice hotel and took advantage of their hot tub. Next morning, we drove to see the Bolton Abbey, an older church with half refinished, and half in ruins. It was absolutely beautiful. It was on acres of lush grassy countryside. We enjoyed walking on the grounds and hiking to get a better view of the Abbey and the surrounding country. We visited Mary, the woman Josh baptized 11 years ago when he was on his mission there. That was neat. We went to the very big street market downtown and got lots of goods for rather cheap!
We drove to Grimsby next, it is on the Eastern Coast of England. We went to church there and visited people that Josh knew when he served there. We went to dinner at an old friend’s house and loved visiting with them and eating real British food and just relaxing. We have fond memories of Grimsby!
Next, we took a day’s drive across the northern end of England, from the east coast to the west. We visited Scarborough, a tourist town on the beach. I spent an hour just walking along the beach, searching for seashells, and loving every minute of it. We visited Thirsk, the hometown of author James Herriot, which Josh was pleased to see. We went to two sections of Hadrians Wall, the hand built wall built hundreds of years ago that follows the England/Scotland border. We saw so much farmland and sheep farms and land lined with hedges and stone walls. It is such beautiful country.
We stopped at Dumfries Scotland next. That was our favorite part of the trip. We love Scotland! In contrast to London, Scotland is very friendly, very laid back, very naturally beautiful. We wish we could have spent more time there. But it was only for a day. We went to the nicest restaurant we have ever been to. I have never seen such well-dressed waiters, such beautifully set tables, such a large amount of silverware placed before me. It was grandeur! Our bed and breakfast was superb. The owner was super friendly and so pleasant to talk to. Early the next morning, we set out for Caerlaverock Castle. We enjoyed every second we were there. We were the only ones visiting it at the time, and took in the breathtaking views with silence. It was so peaceful and so gorgeous. We stopped at a nationally ranked golf course for Josh to visit and see as well. I could go on and on about Scotland. Ahhhhhhh.
We drove south, stopping at Preston to see the LDS temple and visit my cousin Ben who’s from Boise, serving in the Manchester mission. In every town we drove through, a large old Church of England church is present. But I had only spotted two LDS chapels in all of England. It was so nice to see an LDS temple. It was perfectly manicured, and so beautiful. We ended the drive at Manchester, dropped off the rental car, went to a large supermarket for a few chocolate souvenirs (their chocolate is so yummy!) and we walked around the city and stopped for dinner and drinks at a pub.
I learned a few things on my trip about England. I thought it would be very similar to America, but it wasn’t. They have different words, such as: couch=settee, diapers=nappies, trucks=lorries, pants=trousers, underwear=pants, cookies=biscuits, dessert=pudding, boots=wellies, car trunk=boot, trailers=boxes, and so on. Their history is so rich. In comparison, American history is rather new. When you go over there and see things that are 1000 years old and still standing, you have a new appreciation for their heritage. Their way of life is so different. Everywhere we went, the majority of people live in little homes, mostly either duplexes or fourplexes. They drive little cars, they have little yards (called gardens), they have narrower roads, etc.
But one of the most important things I learned is that I have truly been missing out. This was my first real vacation anywhere. We never even went on a honeymoon. WE HAVE BEEN MISSING OUT! I can’t believe we have never done this before! The British have such a different outlook on life than Americans. As a generality, Americans live to work. We are workaholics, and never take too much time off to enjoy the wonderful things of life that are available to us. In contrast, the British work to live. They live to go on holiday (how they say vacation). They take long holidays, for 2 or 3 weeks at a time. They visit places and see things, and take a break from their life. I think they have it right. We need to enjoy our lives! If all we do is work work work, where’s the enjoyment in that? So now, Josh and I have goals and plans to go on vacations every year. We’ll do the big trips to other countries and overseas like every 5 or 10 years, and see things in the US the other years. We want to go to Las Vegas, Seattle again, DC, Chicago, California, etc. We are already looking forward to returning to Scotland and seeing Ireland and Wales as well.
Our trip was truly unforgettable. We are better people because of it. We enjoyed our time alone together (we only had 2 fights! which isn’t very much considering we were with each other 24/7 for 10 days!) and we were so relaxes and able to enjoy what we saw and visited. I relish the memories in my mind! I am so glad we took the trip, and we look forward to a new lifestyle that includes vacations in the future. Great Britain was brilliant!!!