Buck Up

The next adventure might just be around the corner

We were walking, oh so slowly, toward a glacier in Alaska. For weeks, we had been planning this hike, and the weather was typical August weather: drizzly and cool, with a little nip of rotting leaves to scour our noses. We had the right gear, we were on a well-beaten path and I wore my official tour guide hat.

The hat, purchased in desperation when a lousy haircut was followed by an even worse perm, with highfalutin family members on a plane headed our way, is family lore. They call it the tour guide hat because no matter how hard they try, my group cannot lose me. It is red, black and blue fleece with cut-out flowers strewn across its beret top. It serves as both a conversation starter and stopper, depending on your adherence to function over fashion, an Alaskan living standard.

So, there we were, taking our long-awaited hike, me bounding along, excited for my California friend to hike on a glacier. She was a woman committed to fashion over function, with full makeup, new nails, spiffy new hiking shoes (which looked like soft driving shoes, but she assured me that the salesperson had assured her that they were up to the task of hiking), and a rain jacket that had been bedazzled to look like it had rain drops on it. I assured her the bedazzling would not be necessary, and it wasn’t.

Behind me, I heard her footsteps slow, which didn’t seem possible, because we moved with less momentum than the glacier we were approaching, and then I heard her cry out — loudly — like a skinned-knee 3-year-old who, in actuality, did need the nap they refused to take. My heart stopped. I ran back to her, and she was wiping a smear of mud off her hand.

“Are you OK?” I asked while checking her for blood and damage.

“I don’t think so.”

Oh no, oh no, oh no! There were people around, but we were still a long way from real help. I don’t panic in times like this. I wait until the situation is stabilized, with someone else in charge. Still, I panicked just a little.

“What happened, where does it hurt? Show me your pain!”

“I felt nervous, so I reached out to the cliff beside the trail, and now my hand is DIRTY!”

“Did you slip?” 

“NO,” she said, with tears streaming.

“Do you need a tissue?” (My tour guide hat came with a handy pack of extra gloves, an emergency blanket and other essentials. There would have to be something to wipe her hand with in there.)

“NO! I want to go back to the van. I didn’t think we’d be hiking where there was DIRT.”

OK, so that adventure ended, and the next day, we went on a very safe, enclosed cruise to see sea life and glaciers (without dirt). There was an actual badge-wearing tour guide, and the boat included a fully stocked bar (for her) and a hot chocolate station (for me).

She got seasick. So did my gorgeous 17-year-old daughter. The boat crew, all young men living their college adventures in Alaska, brought my daughter 7-Up, Gatorade, Jello, a new hat and a sweatshirt (complete with a phone number in the pocket) and, walking right past our greener-than-a-Grinch Californian friend, wrapped her in not one, but two heated blankets.

When my dear green friend asked for a blanket, the young man patted her on the elbow and said, “Oh, buck up.” And, of course, because a line like that cannot be brushed aside, that became our mantra for the trip. And the next adventure, and the one after that, too. “Oh, buck up.”

Life has taken me on some adventures. From Alaska to Montana, Fort Benton to L.A., alone in the woods, to alone on a stage with 10,000 people waiting for words of inspiration. I have gotten to buck up to eat the trail mix I spilled on the ground and buck up and do the presentation even though I had full-on food poisoning. I carry a snake bite kit for good reason, almost lost my husband to his “Fall With Jesus” (read “Seasoned,” available on Amazon, to live that story), and I have started, run, sold, laughed and cried, over business ventures. Buck up is a way of life around here, and even though I am often sick of the concept, I do it again, and again and again. Because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have a story to tell or the capacity to try the next adventure.

My California friend feels somewhat the same. We laugh about hiking in the dirt, which she has not done again and I do every morning, and reminisce about how scared she was and how very alive it made her feel the whole time she was with me in Alaska. That adventure helped her to know herself, and she has an Alaska-sized adventure story to tell at pool parties.

Adventure does that for you. It helps you to test your limits and to exceed them. It allows you to do things you would never ever do, but you do it anyway, just so you can mark it off your bucket list. Adventure fills your soul, adds to your photo gallery, and introduces you to new places, new faces, and new reasons for saying, “I did that, and I don’t have to do it again,” which is how I feel about whitewater rafting. Done and done, thank you very much.  

The beauty of adventure is that it comes in all shapes and sizes, with prices ranging from less than zero to millions more. It might be wearing the dress, or it might be jumping off a cliff. Adventure can be learning to play guitar, which I am doing again (because I’ve failed at that so many times, but this time is going to be it. I will play well enough to strum in public, by damn). It can be writing the book, telling the truth, running the race, or taking the test you’re afraid to take.

When we owned In Good Glazes, a ceramic studio here in town, we noticed that women over 60 were often scared, yes scared, to paint a cup. They were afraid to fail or do something they never did before. Some wouldn’t pick up a brush, spending their time critiquing the work of others, which was never really welcome. 

For those who would buck up, we had ways to make them feel better about the challenge (start with your initials on the bottom or blow paint bubbles), and when they would pick up their fired and glazed piece, their eyes would light up because they accomplished something new and seemingly impossible. They bucked up, and magic happened.

Watching them, I knew I didn’t want to be scared of everything as I aged. I wanted to bravely chase passion and one adventure and then the next. Sometimes, that is easier said than done, but I am seldom afraid to buck up and live an adventure. (Unless it is illegal, immoral, or could involve a dramatic fall like the one I wrote about in “Seasoned,” of course.)  

So, that is what I want you to do today, this summer, this life. Buck up. You deserve to feel the feeling of the crowd cheering, the cup sparkling, the readers reading your words or the joy of conquering the miles crunching beneath your feet. Your adventure can begin today. You can book the trip, make the call, say the words. You can, and I think you should, buck up because you deserve the photo, the story, the absolutely glorious feeling of leaning into an adventure and making it your story.      



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