The Sky Beyond
by Melissa Snider
Our move feels like a torn piece of paper. Written on one half is my childhood: smokestacks, sleepovers, and snow days, feeding ducks and dodging seagulls on Lake Ontario, black flies and birthdays in the Adirondacks. The other torn piece is my beyond and continues still: unending winters render summer a miracle, sky so blue you might fall in, the round smell of sage rubbed between fingers and on the back of my neck. Before we came to Wyoming, I didn’t know the sky could be so big. Now that I know, I’ve never been able to leave for long.
What to protest first, the loss of my entire social life and therefore my life, or that we were moving to a place where antelope outnumbered people? I bid tearful goodbyes to best friends. They promised to write. We sold our white house with green shutters. The moving truck came, and we filled it. Driving in August heat meant a stop at every Dairy Queen. We peeled our legs from seats to sit in air conditioning until we got goosebumps. Endless hours of “don’t cross this line” and “she’s looking at me” from the backseat should have made my parents reconsider, but undeterred, they drove west.
Twenty-five years later, mountain ranges that surround our valley are unchanged, but I’ve become a mother. Tonight my husband put our girls to bed while I walked the dog. To the west, boiling clouds were painted pink by the sun, set but still shining, behind the mountains. Wyoming peeled the top off my world, and I found this thin air is where I breathe best. I crave this loneliness, our cathedral of mountains, the blessing and threat of every unexpected storm.
AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: The author (left) and her sister Emily with their family’s moving truck, parked outside of their childhood home in Oswego, New York, 1991.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I loved this theme and sat down to map out all the “moves” in my life, real and metaphorical. I realized that most of who I am today is a result of the actual move my parents were crazy and brave enough to make in a matter of weeks when I was 11. It felt like the end of the world for me at the time, but was the best gift they could have given us. Three hundred words is so brief; I wasn’t sure how to express the enormity of my emotions for this rugged place. Soon I realized the sky, the first thing I smile at when returning from an East Coast visit, was the vehicle to capture my love for Wyoming.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Melissa Snider is an elementary school librarian and writer who has lived in Wyoming for 25 years. She has bachelor’s degrees in Creative Writing and Spanish from the University of Montana, and a master’s degree in Library and Information Science from Simmons College in Boston. She grew up partly on the shore of Lake Ontario in upstate New York, and partly in the shadow of the Tetons in Jackson Hole [Wyoming]. On days off, when not reading, writing, or folding laundry, Melissa seeks out family-friendly adventures in the mountains with her husband and two young daughters.