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The incredible beauty of the Rocky Mountains on a crisp fall day, hiking with my best friend, surrounded by landscape shots at every turn that were both mesmerizing and irresistible – my camera was forever in front of my face! – and the peace, calm and stillness of this amazing place has implanted a powerful urge to return there again and again, to experience ever more of this magnificent natural arena.

I am forever changed by what I encountered there.

SWARM Definition: Move somewhere in large numbers. Synonyms: flock, crowd, throng, surge, stream.

This describes the atmosphere in Hilton Coliseum after Iowa State beat inner state rival Iowa last December in a thrilling display of Cyclone domination! Students rushed the floor and arms swayed to and fro in time with Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline.

Victory was indeed sweet and seeing all the fans rushing the floor at the buzzer was a perfect way to seal the deal!

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A sunny afternoon, blue skies overheard. Glorious weather. Reconnecting with my son after several months apart, getting to know his new lady love. Enjoying the wildflowers that gently swayed in the breeze. The rush and warmth of a mellow glass of wine feeding the exuberance of running through tall grasses. The sense of calm. Feeling relaxed. Freedom and joy, laughter and delight.

Elements, all, in creating a defining moment, a fond memory, a good time to remember and cherish. These are things that always make me smile.

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Right now – in the middle of November – thanks to the polar vortex or whatever the heck it is that’s wreaking havoc on not just our beloved Midwest but throughout all of the country, there is snow on the ground.

Granted, there isn’t as much here where I live in central Iowa as what they are experiencing elsewhere in the state or farther north but the white stuff is here and with frigid temps like this, it’s probably not going anywhere anytime soon.

Snow is, however, a vital ingredient if one wishes to enjoy riding snowmobiles. That and warm attire, a full tank of gas, a smoothly operating machine and, ideally, sunny skies, no wind and winter temperatures in the 20s. At least, that’s the recollection of my teenage years when Dad, for a few years, became first a Sno Prince and then a Mercury snowmobile dealer.

On a trip to visit our cousins north of Minneapolis, most likely during the Christmas holidays, I saw the bright headlights, zipping through the roadside ditches, of several of these newfangled contraptions that I’d only just recently heard of – a moment that I can still vividly recall. I was intrigued so when Dad announced some time later that he was going to start selling snowmobiles, I was wild with anticipation.

The night Dad pulled into the driveway with the long trailer loaded with new sleds, we girls were already in our jammies. Snow was lightly falling and despite the hour, the air was still and relatively warm. Sensing our excitement, Dad unloaded one of the sleds and prepped it for take-off. Wearing only my PJs and slippers on my feet, I took it for a spin in the field north of our house. ‘Yee-HAW!’ I squealed with delight at the speed, the smooth ride and the exhilaration of motion in play. This was FUN and I wanted more!

Over the next couple of winters, I rode the school bus along country roads and pictured myself riding on imaginary snowmobile trails through the ditches and corn fields as we stopped to pick up and deliver students before and after the school day. I bought my first (red!) snowmobile suit, boots and gloves at the local Big Bear farm store and sewed on patches that I bought from a vendor catalog: Don’t Eat Yellow Snow and I [Heart] Sno Prince. We were always pestering Dad to take us snowmobiling at night and I remember one particular evening he said he would if the local weather forecast showed the temperature was above zero. It was and we went!

My sisters Kelly and Lorie were my primary partners in crime although all of us six girls enjoyed the sport. Kelly, especially, shared my enthusiasm – so much so that she gushed about it in a diary entry. Kelly has a fantastic sense of humor, is very creative and has always been quite good at tinkering with things and figuring out how they work. She is, however, a terrible speller. ‘We had so much fun today on the snomoblees!’ she wrote. Being the dutiful older sister, I teased her mercilessly about her error but today her choice of spelling still makes me smile.

I enjoyed pulling my sisters behind our trusty Sno Prince on those slick plastic, saucer sleds. As my sister Nanette righted herself after falling off (following a sharp turn on my part!), she pulled on her stocking cap and just as she attempted to rotate it so she could see out of the eye holes, I gunned it. She had no choice but to grab onto the sled with both hands, hanging on for dear life, and it still makes me laugh to recall looking back and watching her trying to stay on the sled but not able to see! As she would say, funneling her best SNL voiceover, ‘good times, good times’.

Our neighbors down the road, the Robbins, also had snowmobiles and we sometimes got together to ride. One particularly boring Saturday, I sat at the window yearning to see their sled coming up over the hill. The wind was blowing drifts across the road and suddenly – I couldn’t believe it! – there was Brad riding his sled. And he was headed for our place for an afternoon of snowmobile fun. Dad sometimes took us riding to their house as well and I remember one warm and pleasurable evening there when they served us toast and hot cocoa.

Today, if we owned an acreage I would not hesitate to reenter the world of snowmobiling. The sleds these days are pretty slick, streamlined, equipped with plenty of storage and heated seats, steering bars and runners for your feet. They come, I’m sure, with a pretty hefty price tag and some winters see little snow, making these expensive beasts unusable for much of the season. No matter. If we had the space and the time (always the time, isn’t it?), I’d have one again in a heartbeat. Because, for this gal, it’s hard to beat winter fun on a snomoblee!

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While this ‘shot’ might lead one to believe I’ve worked to accomplish a tight cluster of marks at the shooting range, I view this instead as an achievement of another sort entirely.

Not so long ago I would have easily dismissed any notion that I might ever find myself handling, let alone shooting or owning a firearm. However, when my husband began researching and shopping around for a handgun a few years ago, I asked – on a whim – to hold one to see what it felt like in my hands. It was a huge sucker – a.50 caliber monster, that made me look and feel foolishly like Dirty Harriet but I was intrigued. When Bill and his brother enrolled in a class in order to get their permits to carry, I signed up as well.

Not long after that, I purchased a .22 caliber Browning beauty and we shot a few times – even joined the local Ikes that first year – although it’s been several months now since we have fired our pieces. Time is always a problem and while we enjoy target shooting it often takes a backseat to other interests. No matter. The important thing for me is that I stepped outside of my comfort zone and participated in something I would have written off before without having made any real attempt to understand or learn what it was all about. I’m no NRA, gun-toting, enthusiast (another discussion entirely but thank you – no); however, I do pride myself on trying something new and opening myself up to new possibilities!

I read somewhere once that to be a good writer it is helpful – encouraged even – to read as much as you can. Reading increases your vocabulary and sharpens critical thinking which are certainly useful tools for expressing oneself via the written word.

And so while I just haven’t felt like blogging much the last couple of days (NO idea where that came from) I’m going to stock up on a few brain cells by way of the engrossing Into Thin Air, quite apropos given the wintry blast that’s shaken up the heartland this mid-November weekend. Feet up, warm cup o’chai close at hand, a crock pot of chili simmering away for the evening meal and I’m good.

Inspiration: my vessel awaits!

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