Monthly Archives: July 2012

Getting There

By: Clare

Warm summer sunlight soaked into the pavement a few feet in front of my feet, while I happily sat in the shadows, trying to keep cool while I waited. I watched from the old brick train station as my fellow passengers milled about. I am an avid people watcher; it keeps me busy. There are so many people on this earth, with so many complexities, that your guaranteed almost infinite entertainment.

My mother sat next to me, calm and collected.

One grim-faced woman walks back and forth, obviously ready to be on her way. Her poor red rolling suitcase is getting a serious workout, being forcefully dragged about as the woman waits. Five feet away stands her polar opposite: a tall, slender woman making polite conversation with the three men surrounding her. She’s in no hurry, and even from ten feet away I can see the wrinkles around her eyes caused from years of smiles. And right next to me stands this ordinary man, who for some reason I find is a person who has a story behind him. Or maybe I’m just imagining. After all, I’m anxious to get on the train, too.

I’m on my way to Chicago, at the request of my eldest sister Kate. In Chicago, waits my eleven-year-old niece, Brigid. I hadn’t seen Brigid since she was about eight years old, so I was excited, and at the same time quite nervous, to see her.

I had arrived at the train station an hour earlier than my train was schedule to arrive, where, my mother and I were told that the train was going to be four hours later. ” Sorry, you’ll have to come back later!”, they said. Thanks. Four hours later, there I was. I was traveling alone on the train, and because I was fifteen ( a minor), Amtrak had several regulations and precautions they take about that. The train finally rumbled into the station, and I was personally led to a seat, plopped down right next to a girl who looked my age. Oh, goodness. Dear Lord, you know I’m not good at making conversation with people my age who I do not know at all. I should have just sat down and asked, “Hey, so what’s your name?”, in a peppy, I’m-so-excited-to-get-know-you voice. Instead, I cautiously set my bag down, and carefully unzipped the first compartment of the bag to get out my book. So. I had my historical fiction book in hand, and she had her phone. Alright. I’ll just read and you can text away. For five hours. This plan didn’t work out too well, because my book held me for about three minutes, and then I needed something else to do. So back to people-watching I went. A little girl clutching a teddy bear walked by, with teenager in black, black, black right behind her. The anxious lady from the station storms past. Hey, lady, you’re on the train now, chill out! The train passes through a tunnel, and suddenly day turns to night. While traveling for a few seconds in the dark I think of how unfair it was that I got the aisle seat and she’s got the window, and all she does is stare at her phone. Darn.

It takes me several more long minutes to muster up the courage to say something. Who knows what it was, but after a while I found that I could comfortably talk to this girl, and she wasn’t nearly as intimidating as I thought she was. I learned her name was Sammy, and she was coming home from a month in Colorado that she had spent in a tiny little town with her grandmother, and great-grandmother. Sounded miserable to me. She had been riding the train since 6 o’clock the night before, and was happy to finally have someone her age to talk to. She told me stories of her adventures in Colorado, and back home, and I soon realized that the girl I was sitting next to was a bit of a druggy, who’s idea of good clean fun was going out on the town to smoke and drink and study graffiti. I decided we would be friends none the less. After five long hours of sitting in a chair that only got less comfortable as the time went on, a train attendant came to lead me through winding mini hallways and passageways down to a room meant for the staff. There I waited and watched as the train barreled into Chicago. Two train workers who were obviously pretty high up the train worker ladder sat with me, and I listened to them talk dirt about their fellow workers.

Then finally, we were there! I was the first one off the train, and immediately picked out my tall, and extremely pregnant sister out of the crowd, waiting for me with Brigid in tow.  We walked through the magnificent Union Station,  marveling at the high ceilings and expansive rooms.

Yes, indeed, this trip was definitely worth it.

Directional Differences and Slattery Sister Camping

Last Friday I was picked up from my job stocking shelves (with all the newest seaweed products!) at the local food co-op by a very chipper Mary.  After purchasing coffee (me) and ice cream bars (Mary), we hit the road, headed out to Baraboo, WI.  What was in Baraboo, you ask?  Well, somewhere around there was a lake and somewhere around there was a campsite for the people signed up to run the Dances with Dirt Devil’s Lake Half Marathon.  among these crazy 600 people, Mary and Colleen Slattery were two.

It all began approximately 10 days before the day of the race.  While out on a run, Mary suggested that we run this race, one she’d been hoping to do for years.  I agreed in a heartbeat (which is very fast when you are running).  The fact that Mary hadn’t really trained at all and that I’m actually training for 6k races in college wasn’t a big deal.  Or that we’d have to camp out the night before in some field and wake up at 6 am for a 7 am race.  And oh, have I mentioned that we hate camping?  There’s just something about the bugs and the first and the lack of running water and the cold, hard ground that neither of us enjoy.  Hunh, I wonder what.
Anyway, Mary and I were feeling pretty good about everything as we drove through a golden Friday afternoon and into the unknown.  The feeling didn’t last.  Mary is in many ways, my opposite, especially when it comes to planning.  I’d decided to leave the navigating and camping part of the trip up to Mary.  And well, we did get there.  But, only, oh, and hour or two after we’d hoped.  MapQuest’s directions worked while we were on the interstate, but when we hit a round-about, things got interesting.  The next three were just as entertaining.  In each one, things went like this:

Me: “Okay, Mary, we need to get off there-”

Mary: *promptly drives into closest possible road opening*

Me: “Agh, no! Not here! Okay, okay, let’s just go back in again.”

Multiply this by four and you get a headache.

After stopping for directions twice, Mary and I finally managed to get to Devil’s Lake, where we were informed that we still weren’t where we needed to be.  By this point I was seriously frustrated.  I do not like being lost, but most of all I hate wasting time and inefficiency.  The solution to the problem (actually looking up where things are) was so easy that it drove me crazy.  Mary’s response: “It’s an adventure!”  As we got back into the car to drive to our final destination, my crabby comment was: “I really, really hope that your future husband likes adventures.”

It was nearing sunset when we got to the campsite, but the weather was still hot and muggy.  The field was strewn about with runners and tents, spandex and expensive running shoes abounded.  My beat-up Pumas were no match for the Asics and Brooks everywhere.  After getting out bib numbers and t-shirts, Mary and I set about constructing our tent.  Mary went straight at it:

While I decided to read the directions.  (Personality difference again)

I thoroughly approved of our hammer to pound the stakes into the ground-an old exercise weight.  Doesn’t everyone have one in their car?

When we were done, we had constructed a mighty fine looking tent, for two avid camping haters.  And as we settled down for the night, I realized that there’s more than one way to skin a cat, or to drive to Baraboo and set up a campsite in preparation for a 13.1 mile race.  Mary and I may not agree on organization and planning, but we sure do agree on one thing: the race we ran the next day was pure torture.  But that story is yet to come…

Mary and Martha (Stewart)

by Mary

There’s no sense in denying it. I, Mary Slattery, am quite the Martha Stewart fan. Yes I know, she’s a strange figure to admire, especially when you take into account that some of my favorite female role models are Mother Teresa, St. Joan of Arc, and and Immaculee. But hey, I’ve got the confidence to admit that I’m a sucker for Martha, and whenever I can get my hands on a copy of her latest glossy magazine publication I’m plenty happy to study it.

Recently, my cousin Cale found me reading the latest copy of Martha Stewart Living on my front porch, and took a picture to document my weakness.

This humored me into imagining the parallel, or lack thereof, in our daily lives.

Every copy of Martha Stewart Living documents the life of Martha via a monthly calendar. An example of this would be: June 12th, Martha goes horseback riding! Imagining Martha riding makes me think of a sleek, well mannered mount and Martha decked out in Ralph Lauren and leisurely riding along a gentle shoreline. Here I am on June 12th. Needless to say, no figmented Martha effects are applicable here.

This photo was taken mid-morning before heading out to check on a beef herd’s mineral supply at Devil’s Hole Ranch, which my brother Gabe and sister-in-law Aurora oversee. As you can see, I’m not the only horse enthusiast in the family. Horseback riding, paired with ranching duties and hills and valleys, is a far cry from leisurely, clean polos, or the beach.

Every edition of Martha’s also contains a generous amount of cleaning days. From dusting off tupperware lids to cleaning out linen closets, Ms. Stewart does it all. Me too, I guess. Like Martha, in the midst of June, I had many cleaning days. But unlike Martha, dusting and sprucing were low priority. You see, somehow I got roped into a cleaning project from hell (or at least purgatory). An extended family member had just closed on an apartment which unfortunately had a one bedroom efficiency that had been abandoned two months prior by an unstable Vietnam Vet. The man left everything he owned and boarded a Greyhound. This meant I had to remove all of his possessions from his filthy lair. This also meant I had to tackle the chore of cleaning years worth of grime off surfaces, as well as food that had been sitting in the sink and fridge for sixty odd days. I chose laughter and music as the means to better this endeavor, but you can bet I would rather have been dusting and folding sheets with Martha.

Of course, Martha’s iconic abilities include being a gardening diva. In the summer months, her calendar is chock full of gardening days. Mine too! In Martha’s picture’s, she is often bustling about a green paradise in effortlessly clean and comfortable button down shirts and relaxed khakis. Once again, like Martha, I can often be found in my garden- or Dad’s fields. However, there really aren’t any pictures depicting images of a collected and stylish me.

Unlike my mentor Martha, on the field I’m a wreck in filthy clothes that are beat up and sweaty as I pull pea vines, weeding thirsty beets, or dodging clods of flying dirt and sarcastic rhetoric while weeding with disenchanted siblings who have less interest in horticulture or labor than myself.

After documenting the parallels between Martha and myself, I must say I’ve come around to seeing the vast difference in our lives. Cale is right. Oh well- I can still read her magazine, and enjoy the fact that everybody can be a bit of a Martha Stewart- even if they wear Wranglers and have mad dirt dodging skills.