Thanks to Dowyd & DuffieDawg
and several advance readers that prefer to maintain deniability
Ever feel sometimes that you've climbed so high that the only direction left to go is just down? That's kind of the way I felt lately ... stuck up on top of some mountain with only a rough downhill path left to travel. The view wasn't even particularly nice anymore ... nothing but fog or dark clouds in every direction I'd look.
It just makes made feel lost and sad.
It didn't used to be that way or at least it wasn't while I had Maryanne. I thought she was the best thing to ever enter into my life, and maybe she was for awhile. Now that she's gone, just when I thought I finally made it, I found myself back where I started from, alone. Losing her wouldn't be so bad at all, but I'm always back on these damn mountains when I fall!
I first met Maryanne (she didn't like to be called Mary) at a wildlife preservation fund raiser in Seattle, early one spring. I was a young, fairly good looking biologist pretty much fresh out of graduate school and working for the National Park system at Northern Cascades in northern Washington State. My specialty was bears and I presented a brief five minute dog and pony show at the fund raiser explaining the new Recovery Area project for encouraging the repopulation of the highly threatened grizzly bear back into the southern 48 states. They're doing fine up in Alaska, but they're quite rare south of Canada.
Now not everyone loves the idea of having an eight foot tall alpha predator living next to your back yard and potentially stalking your campsite if you're hiking, fishing or skiing. This group of ecologically minded potential benefactors was a pretty good (and well heeled) audience and my boss raised a lot of money. I got a nice 'Atta-boy' and earned a few brownie points along with a little gold star in my personnel folder that said "plays well with others". When it comes to budget time, they'll keep the good scientist that actually owns a suit and doesn't mind wearing it once in awhile over a more brilliant, but surly one that objects the loudest to occasionally having to sing for ones supper. The fun work might be studying the animals in the field, but the real important work is always behind the scenes getting the public support (and the cold hard cash) needed to keep us there.
The evening was successful on other fronts as well. I was also given the phone number for an especially attractive young blonde, pretty much straight from college herself, majoring in Art History, and was already quite bored with the local social scene. She apparently found a rugged young field biologist, complete with a scruffy beard, to be an exotic and romantic figure. She was everything that I wasn't; confident to the point of being aggressive, filthy rich, and extremely bored with everything and everyone around her ... largely due to the fact she had the attention span of a gnat.
In short, we had absolutely nothing in common, but that didn't mean we couldn't have a bit of fun for awhile ... especially in bed.
It ought to have been an amusingly short and mostly harmless romance. A few evenings out at odd and very irregular intervals, a bit of fun and then the inevitable breakup as she found someone else to help her occupy her time a bit more full time, but it didn't work out that way. I was only able to drive down to Seattle about once a month to visit her, but that seemed to perfectly fit her schedule. Somehow, in spite of everything, our relationship blossomed.
Maryanne even came up to visit me at the National Park a few times that summer. She got to see the public side of things, with the campers and their boating, fishing and hiking activities. I took her around the areas that I worked for a long hike to give her a fairly explicit idea of what I did for a living ... collecting bear shit to be analyzed, tracking the whereabouts of GPS tagged bears to see what they were up to, and (hopefully) finding an untagged bear or two to add to our database, and studying their behavior.
It was apparent right from the start that Maryanne was not a 'nature girl'. The hardest she had ever roughed it before in her life was at a merely three-star hotel without room service, or a hairdryer. She didn't like the hiking, the strong mountain sun and wind, or the numerous denizens of the insect kingdom very much, and I hoped that showing her the true nature of my rather unglamorous job would knock off a bit of the romantic view she had of my work, but it was all pretty much for naught. She tended to still think of me as just a smarter Park Ranger and assumed that, like the bears, that I'd have nothing to do when the Park closed for the long winter, thus could be freer to amuse her.
I still don't think she ever understood that winter would always in fact be one of my busiest parts of the year. After all, I'd have about six months worth of collected bear shit to process, nutritional charts to graph, film to catalog, and behavioral notes to type up. Not to mention weeks of hiking out in the worst winter weather possible crawling up and down icy mountains, cataloging every winter sleeping den for every GPS tagged bear in the entire park.
Ok, I had my blinders on a bit too. I like what I do for a living, but it excited me to know that she really liked what I did for a living. You don't get a whole lot of pats on the back in my profession, and I really appreciated her support and semi-understanding. Apparently none of her other trust fund friends and acquaintances did anything meaningful with their lives. Sure they donated to all of the hip and trendy eco causes, like the Recovery project, but I actually walked the walk, instead of merely just talking the talk.
I was never going to get rich, however, and I was sure in the end that this was the final sum total of how her little section of society rated one's success or failure in life. Despite her romantic notions, someday she was going to wake up and decided that I was a near big fat zero failure in life. I was going to go into her book eventually someday as a 'loser', and that losing would just remain a permanent way of life for me that she would no longer want to take in and be a part of.
Despite all odds, and everyone's better judgment, Maryanne and I were married that August. She got the big church society wedding that probably cost more than I made in a year, but wouldn't have put much of dent in daddy's 'walk-around' pocket money. We then had another more private reception later at the park for the Rangers and park staff to attend, after which we spent two weeks in the Caribbean where we both got horribly sunburned, had a bout of food poisoning, lost my best Nikon digital camera to a motorized snatch & grab thief, but it was still had the most fun I'd ever had in my life.
I didn't realize at the time that Maryanne was under a lot of pressure to marry someone – anyone – from her family. Much of her large family Trust Fund came from the estate of an extremely old-fashioned and conservative Aunt that didn't think very highly of unmarried "independent" young women in general. The 'earlier the better' was her attitude regarding marriage. If Maryanne did not marry by age twenty-five she could lose about two-thirds of her Trust Fund. She was also apparently 'on the rebound' from an old lover, Dennis, who had left her and gone to New York to work at an uncle's commodities trading firm. It wasn't until later that I learned that Dennis, not me, was really Maryanne's one true love of her life. I just made an interesting diversion (and safeguarded her inheritance) until the day that he could return.
The honeymoon was the pinnacle of our marriage, and like the glaciers on the east side of the mountains in the park, the snow fell hard and the sun rarely shined, so the ice become a glacier that just flowed slowly downhill.
I suppose Maryanne assumed that she would have the bored wives of the Park Rangers and other seasonal staff to help amuse her while I was off at work, often for several days at a time away from home. I don't think she quite realized that Rangers tend to marry rather incestuously other Rangers or scientists, if they even ever marry at all. We tend to be rather odd folks and live lives that are more than a bit unusual and different, and our type of work often attracts the more independent and even rather unsocial sorts of employees. The remaining spouses tended to work full time park staff jobs, or volunteered at the various Visitor Centers. Folks out here in the wilderness find meaningful things to do to occupy their time ... the alternative is to probably slowly go nuts with cabin fever.
She tried for awhile doing some of the volunteer work, but she was by no means dedicated enough about it to show up every day. Merely showing up to help once in awhile, when she was especially bored, accomplished nothing particularly useful for anyone. She tried accompanying me out in the field for awhile but it was frankly annoying to both of us. She couldn't stop talking and chattering away incessantly out on the trail, which meant that I wasn't ever going to find any bears to study. Bears have extremely keen ears and black bears are especially people shy. She hated camping and roughing it, and never could learn even the most basic camping skills, like how to set a proper camp, and cooking over a small fire. Actually, she had basically no domestic or housekeeping skills at all worth mentioning, even at home in our cabin.
.... There is more of this story ...