I think October is my favorite month.
Its not just because its my birthday month, or the month when my annual Aloha veterinary conference might actually happen again.
Its because of this:
The brilliant colors surrounding our mountain home make me pause and catch my breath. I’m so fortunate to live in a part of the world where there are four distinct seasons. I grew up in British Columbia and the weather and the vibrant colors are very similar to western Montana, especially in the fall.
We have crisp evenings and frost on the ground in the mornings but lately the day has continued to open up with sunshine and warmth.
Warm enough to keep hitting the local golf course!
It was exactly 8 years ago after I closed my veterinary clinic here in town when Alistair and I got bit hard by the golf bug and we hiked around the local course lugging our clubs over our backs deciding that we wanted to really get better at the game we used to scoff at.
Its hard to imagine that is has been so long since my cute little clinic closed its doors for good. I’m not super nostalgic about it anymore, especially since so much good has come out of that life-changing decision.
Obviously, golf is one of those good things.
And my books! I never would have had the time to create my fantasy world with my fictional high school friends and the dragons who live nearby if I still had my clinic.
And now my position at Clark Fork Veterinary Clinic in Deer Lodge is another very good thing.
The drive in and out of Deer Lodge can be anywhere from an hour and ten to an hour and forty minutes given the road and weather conditions. I usually have a teensy bit of a lead foot, too, so once the snow and ice have gone its been closer to the shorter drive time.
I have paused on a couple of mornings, though. Certainly its getting darker when I leave around 6:30 each morning but the views that accompany me along the way are nothing short of breathtaking.
We had some cooler temps and precipitation a couple of weeks ago and the higher elevations got dusted with snow! Most of it is gone by now but with the rising sun that particular morning I actually stopped the truck for the photo shoot.
I did the same thing just a few mornings ago when the sky was just too pretty to ignore.
Hardly anyone else is on the road these mornings, save for a random school bus or the highway crew paving the road just after I turn off Highway 200 right now.
With it being Fall now I cruise to work with the sunrise and I drive home with the sunset.
I can’t complain.
I did said beautiful drive a lot the past few months. Its that whole “running-to-stand-still” thing I’ve referenced before (its an old U2 song that has always resonated with me.) We work hard so we can play hard.
When its play time I don’t want to be interrupted or distracted.
I want to hit the course and play 18 holes.
I want to sit in our Aloha hot tub and chillax with an adult bevvie in my hand, lit tiki torches and Hawaiian music playing softly in the background.
I want to veg out on the couch watching Supernatural, or figure skating, or Dancing With the Stars, wine in-hand, providing commentary to Jockey or the ferrets or Alistair if he’s home.
These are my coping mechanisms.
These are the things I need to help prevent compassion fatigue from veterinary work and Covid19 and the slew of unvaccinated people who deny science while waltzing into my husband’s clinic, exposing him and so many others who may or may not be vaccinated to this horrible Delta variant that is killing left, right and center, which hit home with the deaths of my cousin-in-law and my uncle within hours of each other, and my other cousin remains on a ventilator while the facts are there that nobody dies from the vaccine but you sure as shit can die from the virus and the majority of local Covid19 tests being done are coming back positive and local people ARE dying but we’re pretending they’re dying from CHF or a stroke but everyone knows they were on ventilators and I’m just tired of armchair scientists and pseudo-science right now
I need these hard-core play times when I know I have had a tough veterinary challenge. As long as I have been doing this I know myself well enough to totally let myself be present for the sad farewells and emotional appointments.
Like on Friday last week when I had to help a family’s dear old canine friend across the Rainbow Bridge.
The appointment was made days prior and the assistant who made the appointment said the owner was crying on the phone at that point, which made her cry, too. That, in turn, already had me tearing up days before the actual appointment.
I had a moment Friday morning with Cobalt, the other clinic kitty that was tender and sweet and peaceful. Almost like he knew what I had to do later that day.
And when it was time for the appointment, my super-sweet assistant (who knew the family… its how it goes down in rural small towns) told me the 3 adult children were there with the parents of the dog and that everyone was pretty busted up already.
With the beautiful fall weather we were able to sit outside on the clinic grass, in the back of the clinic, and talk about how things would go down.
How I would sedate the big dog with bone cancer eating away at his forelimb.
How it might take a bit longer than normal because a breeze had whipped up and we aren’t very far from a busy Interstate with noisy rigs and campers hauling ass to wherever they were going.
How I would let everything happen at the family’s pace and choice, that I had no hard and fast rules for euthanasias.
The owners and their adult children wept openly and shared stories of when they adopted their best friend and the other dogs he knows.
They showed me a short video of him awkwardly trying to jump and wag his tail with his buddy he saw that morning, who is one of the daughters’ dogs.
The dad fessed up, with a welcome smile, that they stopped at McDonald’s and got their old friend a Big Mac and fries on their way to the clinic.
And, eventually, I put their sedated dog to sleep when everyone was ready.
One of the things that was really profound for me for this particular farewell was that this is a family of little means. Maybe some wrong turns along the way, maybe some bad luck here and there. Regardless of choices made, this is a family without much of anything.
To them, their dog was everything.
It is poetically heartbreaking.
So that kind of broke me up kind of like its breaking me up a bit now.
Which is also how I decompress- I let it all out. (On top of the golf, the hot tub, the wine and the guilty pleasure that is Dancing With the Stars. )
The fun level of Fyfe Life is about to kick up a notch soon as Ivan and Fallon, the 2 cute ferrets we sometimes babysit are on their way here right now. They will join Barry, Andy and Maurice for a full week of goofiness and shenanigans and snuggles and that will put a smile on my face every moment I see them. More mechanisms to deal with life.
Work hard to play hard. Running to stand still. However you want to look at it I feel that I need to earn my little freedoms and moments, which allows me to enjoy them that much more.
I’m more than ready to enjoy everything October brings me and I hope to get in a few more rounds of swing therapy. Alistair is back on the front lines in North Dakota but we had a lot of great golf together and with friends when he was here and he managed to get out to our Painted Woods course yesterday and today after work.
I know winter is coming and it will bring its challenges along with it but for now I’m going to sit outside and wait for our ferret house-guests in the early evening brilliant sunshine.