So here I sit in my studio at Ucross, 12 hours after having woken up this morning in New York City. One of the more drastic changes of scenery I’ve experienced.

I really don’t know how I managed to function this morning (or continue to function now, for that matter) after a whopping 4½ hours of sleep. Darien and I went to bed around midnight last night, after having finished watching series 4 of Doctor Who, one of our televisory obsessions. My alarm went off at 4:30, and I magically managed to get out of bed, shower, get dressed, and have my luggage all in order by 5:30 – all without having crawled back into bed, or fallen asleep standing up.

The flight from LaGuardia to Denver was, I would imagine, uneventful – I’m not a reliable source, as I immediately fell asleep as soon as we took off at 7:30. I was only awake for the last 20 minutes or so of the 4-hour flight, during which time I was more than a little disoriented.

We landed a few minutes ahead of schedule, which was a pleasant surprise. But, any time we may have gained was lost when the jetway refused to budge at our gate, and we were stuck on the plane for another half hour while first we waited for the maintenance men to arrive and fix it, and then taxied to another gate when it became clear that the jetway wasn’t going to budge. By this time, of course, several passengers had already missed their flights (my seatmate missed his connection to LA). I, of course, was in a silent panic – my connection to Sheridan boarded at 10:30, and it was already 10:00!

It was 10:10 by the time I got off of the plane, and I had 20 minutes to make it from Concourse B to Concourse A, which requires a lot of walking, a shuttle train, and a lot more walking. By some miracle, I was only 3 minutes late for the first boarding call, by which time I was, of course, the last one to get on the plane – the flight had a whopping 13 passengers aboard. I heard my name being called over the PA just as I reached Concourse A, and run-walked as fast as I could without breaking into a dead sprint (I always imagine being tackled by security should I start running in an airport – the sort of helpfulness I’ve come to expect while traveling).

The flight to Sheridan, as expected, was in a tiny plane with propellers – not my favorite of experiences, but one that I’m willing to endure. As I stepped onto the plane, I couldn’t help but notice the dominant smell – manure – and couldn’t help but wonder if it was the plane itself, or if it was the ranchers sitting in the back seat. A little from Column A…?

This is my first trip west of the Mississippi (save for a brief trip into Iowa many, many years ago – and Iowa doesn’t really count), so I spent a considerable amount of time staring out the window at the foreign terrain. All rivers and roads. Rivers branching and branching back toward their sources – water from…where? Meandering roads cutting across open land, seeming to go nowhere. Roads completely unlike the rigid grid of upper Manhattan. And bearing little resemblance to the straight-line roads of rural Illinois: an intersection every mile, marking off one mile by one mile squares of land.

And haze. Not that haze is unusual – natural humidity, air pollution – it’s to be expected. But there was a second horizon – a knife-edge line separating blue, blue, cloudless sky from mauve haze. Looking down was like scrolling through Google Earth on a dirty computer screen, without the zoom function. (Any ‘zooming’ would likely be lethal in this case.)

And then the mountains appeared. Big, beautiful….mountainous….

I was greeted at the Sheridan County Airport by Kate, one of the Ucross Groundskeepers, who kindly shuttled me to the grocery store before driving me to the colony (a Celiac sufferer must always be prepared when they’re not in complete control over meals, and especially when traveling). Kate gave me an overview of the grounds, and handed me over to Ruthie, the Residency Coordinator, who gave me the grand tour.

My studio is gorgeous – a cabin off of the Rock Studios, feet from a handful of creeks, and with a gorgeous view of mountains. And my living quarters are also quite well-appointed. It’s all rather more and rather larger than I had expected, and I look forward to exploring the grounds more in the coming days and weeks. I’ve already taken a few photos, which I’ll upload soon.

The day so far has consisted of unpacking my suitcase, walking over to my studio (eyes peeled for rattlesnakes – yikes!), exploring the studio, and taking a few photos. Mostly, I’m getting a feel for the space, and relaxing from a long, long, long day of travel. I managed to play through what I have written of “Take All My Loves” for the ISU Concert Choir, but today is a relaxing day, not a working day.