Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Introducing Ranger

Meet Ranger, everyone. He's a computer programmer turned state park ranger. He got sick of the rat race years ago, took early retirement, and changed his life dramatically. He turned a geology hobby into an online business. He's recently divorced, which was a sad, bitter process for him.

After doing all the safety checks and balances I do, and much "get to know you" talk, we decided to meet. We were texting late at night, when I should have been sleeping and he was admonishing me to do just that. I sent one last, flirty message: "Can I have a hug when we meet?"

My phone rang immediately.

"Stop it," he said. This confused me.

"Stop what?" Stop texting? What?

"Get out of my head!" He was laughing. That's good.

"What do you mean?"

"I was just sitting here wondering if it would be too forward of me to hug you when we meet. Then, I get your text. You're reading my mind."

And so it goes. We have many things in common, but we're also learning new things from each other. He's extremely sweet and giving. He spends his days off bumping along the remote roads, in search of interesting rocks and fossils to sell and to keep. He stops for litter of the plastic variety, to throw away properly later. On the long stretches of barren highway around here, he stops for stranded travelers, to give them water and make calls for help if they need it.

He tells me of the beauty of living in the park. At night, he sleeps with the window open to hear the coyote's song. I mentioned my love of wolves.

We decide on a date. He works weekends, so we have weekdays and evenings. Lunch and a short excursion, so I'm home in time to pick up my daughter from school. I take about three hours off of work for this.

One of the things we have in common is music. He has a massive music collection, including some rare and obscure pieces. We talked about this incessantly one night, and I felt I'd found a kindred musical spirit. His life has a soundtrack, too. There's a large part of his collection he's been unable to listen to during and since his divorce.

So, he comes to pick me up for our date. His truck has rocks in every corner. "Is one of your kids into science?" he asks. Yes, my daughter is. He hands me a rock and says, "Give this to her. It's a fossilized dinosaur bone." He points out the traits that tell him this. I'm fascinated and tuck it away for my daughter.

We pick up some burritos and root beer, then head out towards Utah. He shows me some photos he's taken from his apartment balcony, in the park. The view is incredible, and he's captured some amazing sunsets, clouds, and storms.

He has a spot he wants to show me. We listen to music on the way. He takes a turnoff onto a dirt road and we're flying through the backroads. Periodically, he stops and we jump out to step down a hill and look at rocks. He shows me rock formations and describes how they got there, especially if they are likely to me fossil-hunting spots. He snags dozens of rocks from the ground, telling me what they are and showing me their qualities. He's tickled by one particular spot, with lots of large, rounded, white stones.

"We're in the middle of a dinosaur toilet," he says, grinning. "These are fossilized dinosaur poo." His enthusiasm for all things geological is contagious. His knowledge is beyond impressive.

Then, we're back in the car and flying over the twists and turns he knows so well. Finally, the road gets rough and we're four-wheeling along a dry riverbed. Now and again, we see motorcycles, campers, and a few hikers. He waves at every single one of them. In the car, we're singing along with the music and getting to know a little more about each other.

Finally, he climbs a hill and finds a place to park. We're at the base of this formation:

We walked up the hill a little ways, to a long rock. If you look at the foreground of this picture, in the center you'll see a rock sitting at an angle. This is where we sat to eat our lunch. We're facing a valley, where we can see campers and the highway in the distance, but everything is completely silent. I mean not a stir. He has me sit still and listen. We chat and laugh, and eat our burritos and drink our root beer. When I say something funny, he laughs and puts his hand on my leg. Later, he'd apologize, worrying that he was being too forward. Uhm, no weren't.

I noticed he has lovely blue-gray eyes. He looks at me with such a sweetness and intensity that it's hard to maintain eye contact.

As we're driving out of the valley, he stops the car periodically to look at a rock the catches his eye. He always explains why it's unusual and what catches his attention. He pulls over at one point and says, "I'm going to show you something, but you can't tell anyone where it is. Okay?"

We get out of the car and start hiking up a hillside. I haven't hiked in ages, so I tried my best to keep up with him. It didn't take long for me to find myself in a precarious spot.

"Look up," he said.

I did, and found his hand held out to me. I grabbed hold and made it over the obstacle, to stand beside him. He did not release my hand, but kept me close on the trail. He stooped and started picking up small stones and handing them to me. They were lovely crystals - selenite. Here's a picture of one of the small pieces he found for me.

We moved further up the hill, until he exclaimed, "There's one!" A little digging later, he retrieved a large crystal shard. It's close to twice the size of the one pictured.

He brushed it off. "Here, that's for you. Keep it in a windowsill." I followed his advice, and it's beautiful.

On the way back down the hill, he offered me his arm for stability. "Just step in my footprints," he said. "And if you start to slip, grab my shoulder. I'll take care of you." And he did.

Our day was drawing to a close. He returned me to my car. He wrapped me up in an intense embrace, his arms holding me tight to him. He moved his hand to the back of my head, cradled me against his shoulder. I haven't felt so protected and warm in ages. I could hear him breathe deeply, inhaling my scent.

We moved apart, said our goodbyes. I kissed him on the cheek and got in my car. My door was still open when he came back. He reached past me and put a package on the seat beside me. "You forgot this in my car," and he turned to leave.

I looked at the package. I didn't recognize it. This wasn't something I left. I called to Ranger to come back. He hesitated, looking bashful, but came along anyway. I unwrapped it, to find a the sweetest little statue of two wolves, one tenderly licking the muzzle of the other. He'd remembered my wolves.

It should be noted here that I dated Fella for six months. He never remembered this kind of detail about what I said, and he never gave me anything. Not that I'm about the material things, but it's the thought that counts. And this has a lot of thought in it.

"Thank you," I said, truly touched. "This is beautiful."

I looked up at him, and he slid his hand along my cheek, cradling my face in his hand. His thumb stroked the angle of my cheekbone. "No, you're beautiful," he said, softly. "And never let anyone say otherwise." He smiled, and left.

About an hour later, I got a call. "I don't want to leave," he said. "When am I going to see you again?"

"Maybe I can come up to Moab next week," I said.

"NEXT WEEK?! No, that's too long. I can't stand that."

He came back two days later....but that's another blog!


Sassy Mama Bear said...

He does sound very very sweet.

Blogget Jones said...

Oh, he is. He wears his heart of his sleeve, I think. And he quickly is becoming an important part of my life. He makes me very, very happy.

:o) BJ