• Mo MacPhail

"Crazy Woman Creek"

I recently took a cross country trip with the family out west. We traveled through many states and took in spectacular views and vistas. It was indeed, a breathtaking experience. On our way home, as we moved through Wyoming's land, we crossed a body of water called, "Crazy Woman Creek."

"Hey mom!" my oldest son yelled from the back seat. "We're going over your kind of water."

Laughter followed, and I smiled with pride that my family thinks I'm a little crazy. In fact, I consider it one of my merit badges in life. I also believe everyone should carve out their own proverbial path to Crazy Woman Creek, and visit it from time to time.

Crossing over this water also brought forth the following memory that I hope illustrates my pride and prejudice, embracing Wyoming's, Crazy Woman Creek.


There was a moment in time when I worked at a little ski shop on the road to Killington Mountain, Vermont. The ski shop employed a fantastic crew of characters, one of whom I remain good friends with. Her name is Dorothy, but at our house, we call her Aunt Dot.

Aunt Dot was the one who hired me that fateful day almost thirty years ago. I don't think she wanted to hire me first, but saw through to my soul and gave me a chance. A chance that, in the end, worked well for all. Our friendship began, and gratefully continues to this day.

One particular day at the shop close to the mountain, we sat around the counter talking. It was a slow shopping day. No one was in the store, and Aunt Dot's sister came in to say hello. They spoke of a friend who had recently come for a visit and how they would miss her now that she had gone home. Her sister said the friend loved Vermont and the mountains so much, and was so excited to be with her people and was so filled up one evening, that she just needed to dance.

"I just need to dance right now, do you guys mind?" Her friend asked while at dinner.

Aunt Dot's sister continued and moved with her own body, to illustrate how her friend proceeded to get up out of her chair and do a slow hop, along with slow-flowing arms, and legs.

The interpretive dance and story went on, and I translated internally that her friend danced quite literally to a different drummer.

My inner eye roll as the story finished was only with a visible with an outer raised eyebrow. What stood out for me most, however, at this retelling of the inspired, spirited, and downright weird dance, was Aunt Dot's and her sister's non-reaction/reaction. In fact, they ended with the words, "That's great!"

Creasing my eyebrows, I asked them, well not really asked, but exclaimed, "That's crazy! Your friend is crazy!?

The thought of just letting the spirit move you whenever it seemed fit, was something that would land one on the funny farm as my mom liked to call it. I looked at my friend Dorothy and her sister, confused and pleadingly so that someone might explain how this could be something a 'normal' person would or could do. I waited for validation in their response to confirm my conviction that their friend was indeed a crazy woman.

There was a moment of quiet as we all looked at each other. I searched eyes for meaning, waiting for the sense to come out of them in words. Them, looking at me, mostly curious, I suppose, wondering why this seemed so unusual and hard for me to understand.

Then Aunt Dot and her sister shared a knowing glance, and her sister said good-bye and left to go skiing.

I feel I must mention here that Aunt Dot is a little bit older than me, and when you are in your 20's the not so large gap in age is often widened with lack of experience. I lacked a good deal of much-needed experience but gravitated to those who had the skill of turning their experiences into wisdom, something Aunt Dot did well and still practices this magic to this day.

In her patience and wisdom, Dorothy turned to me, knowing that I was still waiting for her to explain her crazy friend's actions.

"She's crazy, right!?" I asked, almost pleadingly. I needed a solid yes here. Why all the hesitation and stillness in my frantic head-spinning needing to know that their friend was certifiable? I wanted her to agree with me!

"Not at all." Aunt Dot said simply, wiping down the glass countertop, getting on with the day.

"C'mon! Can you see it!?" I said. "This person, all of a sudden, breaking out in a dance you would see from someone tripping out to at a Grateful Dead concert, only perfectly sober!? That is just simply crazy!"

There was no steering me away from my rightness on this, and Aunt Dot knew it. But she did offer me a stern look and said quietly but firmly back, "You're wrong. You'll see. As life goes on, sometimes you just have to dance. My friend knows this, and my hope is that you, my friend, will know it one day too. Now, can you go upstairs and pull down a box of T-Shirts? We are running low here."

"Sure," I said and made my way up the stairs to do my job.

We went about our day that day selling goods at the ski shop near the mountain. She accepted my stubborn ignorance of the spirit's ways and her apparent shared craziness with her dancing friend.

Through the years, though, I have gratefully caught up with my kind of crazy, and Aunt Dot. I can happily report that I now enjoy a spontaneous dance or two from time to time, letting the spirit move me, and even take pleasure in the same familiar creased brow looks from younger and older folks alike, still finding their way to Crazy Woman Creek. I hope they make it. I hope we all make it.

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