Friday, November 25, 2016

minus one

I mentioned Sherri Papini in this post about the women missing and murdered while out running.

Sherri has been found alive, and while details are few and speculation is rampant (why would kidnappers release her?  Was she really captured? Why hasn't more information been released about the alleged captors?), at least she is home with her family.  Her name won't join the sad long list.

Meanwhile the people who loved the other women are still missing them.  I think of Karina Vetrano every time I run, and I look at other people in the woods just a little more suspiciously.  I hate that.

Sunday, November 20, 2016


Until I bought this house, I thought I didn't like to be home.

I've owned two other houses, but this is the first one that has only my name on the mortgage.  The other two houses were twice as large as the one I have now.  They both had two stories and neighbors close by.  They had green lawns and city water. 

Now I live in a 1000 square foot house.  I have a well that is shared with the next house over, which is the second home of some seldom seen Canadians.  My utilities run on propane.  I live on a gravel road.  My yard is a forest. 

There wasn't anything wrong with my other houses.  In fact, when I left one of them, it had several offers and sold in three days for $100,000 more than I paid for it two years earlier.  But they didn't feel like home.  My furniture looked temporary in the elegant rooms.  There were boxes that never got unpacked. Although I kept one house after my marriage ended, I never wanted to be there.

I constantly planned trips.  I went on every fire assignment I could.  I escaped on the weekends, putting off lawn mowing and repairs.

The moment I walked into my current house, I knew it was different.  It was just a small ranch house on a half acre.  But I loved it immediately.  It seemed like it was made for me.

Pieces of my life hang on the walls: a painting of a female snowboarder, a wall hanging from Nepal, a photo of a fire lookout.  A hot tub that I helped install is outside the back door.  There is usually a black cat on the couch.  Deer and turkeys wander through the yard.

Last week I went to a gated community to assess helicopter landing areas.  Million dollar houses sat on large lots.  They were beautiful, but I wasn't envious.  I already have my place of refuge.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Stop it.

Karina Vetrano. Vanessa Marcotte.  Ally Brueger.  Do you know these names?

They were all young women who were killed between July 30 and August 7 of this year while out running in broad daylight near theirs or relative's homes. They were murdered in different states. None of their killers have been found.
Ally Brueger.  She ran 10 miles a day.  She was shot in the back. Police say she may have known her killer.
This, sadly, is not really noteworthy.  If you start researching, you will find many more of these stories.  Sherry Arnold. Sarah Hart (she was pregnant). Melissa Millan. Lauren Bump. Judith Milan. If you keep looking, more and more names surface. Melissa Millan's case is still unsolved.  And Sherri Papini vanished on November 2 while running in California and has yet to be found.
Vanessa Marcotte.  She was a Google employee who was killed a half mile from her mother's house.  Her killer tried to burn the body. All photos in this post were obtained from news sites.
You would think people would be united in outrage and sadness at the deaths of these women.  Probably most are, and yet, when you visit news sites with their stories, the victim blaming begins immediately.

"Women shouldn't run alone," commenters, mostly men, proclaim.  Others declare that we should carry unwieldy knives or guns. We shouldn't wear ponytails either, they say, because an attacker could grab our hair.  Several indicate that Karina Vetrano brought it on herself because she wrote blog entries with selfies, so was obviously an "attention seeker." One man types that she shouldn't have worn "tight clothes" while running.  These people seem to be saying that this woman, who fought her attacker so ferociously that her teeth were knocked out and her neck nearly broken, caused her horrible death by wearing shorts and by posting pictures of herself.
This is a still from a surveillance camera video that captured Karina Vetrano in the last moments of her life.

Are we, as women, supposed to be relegated to running in packs, sticking to the treadmill, wearing baggy sweats (as if this matters to a predator) or not venturing outside alone? Isn't saying this implying that, well, men will always prey on women, we can't change that, in fact we accept it, so women just need to change their behavior?

To begin with, we need to stop blaming the victim. It feels like they are being blamed, in part, for being female. When Joe Keller, a good looking teenager, vanished during a solo run in Colorado, abduction became a theory. I read many accounts of his story, wanting him to be found. Despite Joe being a young, attractive male running in only a pair of shorts, I couldn't find a single commenter who stated that he shouldn't have run alone, or should have had more clothes on (Joe was eventually found, a victim of an accidental fall from a cliff).

I've been a runner for years.  Being on my university cross country team, and then having to run in lockstep with other people on fire crews for "group PT," I appreciate running alone.  You can run the pace you want. There's no need for small talk. You can think your own thoughts.

Of course, everyone needs to be sensible, women and men. We have a term in firefighting, Situational Awareness. It means to always consider your surroundings, not only what is happening now but what might happen in the future. Don't zone out. I don't wear ear buds, because I want to hear what's going on around me. If I see sketchy people or cars, I turn around. I've been known to sprint to get away from something or someone that looked odd.

I don't know how to fix what's happening. I don't know how to stop men from preying on women. But to blame Karina and the others for their deaths is terribly wrong. It needs to stop.
Karina Vetrano. She was a world traveler and had a masters degree in speech pathology.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

here comes the sun

The temperature was in the 30s at the trailhead.  And because we were going to be gaining elevation, the warmest it would probably be was somewhere around 50 in the afternoon.  In the height of summer, I might have hesitated if I saw that forecast. I might consider a gym day. 

But this was November, and we just had the wettest October on record.  Rainfall totals were anywhere from 6 to 12 inches around the valley.  The October average for the last 30 years is around 0.7!  There were only 3 days without measurable precipitation.  There were a lot of gym days.  When I ran outside, I knew my shoes would soon be perched on a boot dryer.

So yesterday was a hiking day, even though we knew there would be snow at the higher elevations and probably a cold wind at the top of the mountain.  Soon passing a large church group, we charged up the trail, which is sometimes known as one of America's most dangerous hiking trails, due to bears having a preference for the area.  However, since the church group was slower and probably sweeter than us, we figured we would be fine (Grizzly country humor).
 The trail turned snowy after a saddle, but we had a glimpse of our fire lookout destination, and pressed on.
The lookout is staffed in the summer.  A Park Service tower, it has sweeping views of the west side of Glacier Park and into the North Fork of the Flathead River.  Now boarded up for winter, it waits patiently for July, when the shutters will be opened and it will be back in business.
 You never really know what you'll get in the mountains.  There could be an early winter, or warm days late into the fall.  After a month of rain, this day was a gift, and a reminder not to take anything for granted, even sunshine and trails that lead to the sky.