T R A V I S S W A N S O N
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A Gift of Words
Two years ago, I lost my Costco card and I never got it replaced because I liked Travis and I having to go together.
In the beginning of our relationship, Trav taught me to drywall so I could do small patches with him and spot screws. Later in our relationship, I taught him photography so he could accompany and shoot alongside of me on jobs.
A year ago, we celebrated our one-year wedding anniversary by being side by side photographers at our dear friend’s wedding and then the next day driving out of town so Travis could finish a drywall job. Hound Dog and I walking around the house as it snowed, TMan working hard.
We loved to work. We loved to be side by side. So, we’d teach each other to combine the two.
Occasionally, one of us wouldn’t get a membership card replaced so we’d have to go together.
Around the same time, my business was growing much quicker than I had anticipated. I said something to Travis along the lines of, “You see what happens when you’re an active member of the community for so many years and people learn to trust your word and want to support you!”
Travis responded in his blunt, abrasive, full of love classic way, “Stop it. Your photography is good. It’s what you’re supposed to do and others see that. Don’t belittle it by saying things like that.”
Then he went on further, “And, I still believe that when you really want to connect with others you will share your words. That is where your impact and connection will be. But, that’s for you to decide if you’ll do it.”
He always believed in me. He always pushed me.
He always encouraged me to share words, even though I was often afraid.
Five years into our relationship we were having a conversation, our repetitive habit loop revolved around my fear he would leave me somehow. Family history. Past relationships. But, Travis committed to me from day one, he always told me that and then showed me through his actions. I finally told him in that talk that sometimes I would repeat in my head what I wanted to say to him over and over again, but I couldn’t get the words to come out.
He laughed with all his love and said, “Five years and you’re just telling me that!” with his crinkly eye smile.
I always had fear sharing words but it got so much easier and empowering to share them because of his absolute encouragement.
In 2017, we had been together for 8 years, but it felt like all the time and no time at all as we expanded next to one another and braided within each other. Our strengths and our flaws always pushed us further, deeper, wider. Always expanding. 2017 was a beautiful year for us. We eloped without telling many folks in May, Trav returned to his third attempt on Denali, and we planned a Montana wedding for September.
As I have shared in other writings, Trav showed his love in every action he took. Those were his short vows – ‘I will show you in action.’ He always told me he thought of me first and then himself. Every day he showed me this. And, I attempted to thank him for all the ways he loved and took care of me by giving him a gift of words. I wrote him a book to take on to Denali, with an entry for each day he would be on the mountain.
Trav and I went back and forth every year with a big goal. One year he would go big (often Denali) and I would be ultimate supporter. The next year we’d flip, I’d have a big goal and he would be ultimate supporter. For 2020 we had planned on a shared goal. This year, 2019, was ‘my year.’ I was training for my first 100-mile race but that full story is a story for a different day.
In the Spring, I ran my first ultra race in a few years after recovering from an incredible illness. I went and raced in Kentucky and I had three friends from all over the country come meet me for the weekend.
The night after the race we stayed up talking till 5am. Our main focus of conversation revolved around love. I professed over and over again the importance of opening ourselves to the belief and work of a real true deep ever expanding push you out of your comfort zones love. I talked about all the ways my life had grown because of Travis. All the ways I had. All the ways he had because of me. Sometimes, it was blunt and abrasive but it was always filled with love.
Travis and I learned to talk about e v e r y t h i n g. Our love, aloneness, appreciations, goals, desires, death, beauty in other people, wishes, travel, fantasies, money, where we wanted to go, how we wanted to grow, how we saw ourselves, we were often blunt about our own flaws and one another’s flaws, our strengths too, how we helped one another grow and become such better people. There was no conversation we wouldn’t have – no words we wouldn’t listen to. I attempted to tell my friends about this type of deep open selfless but taking and growing love.
So, I guess, what I am doing here by sharing these words, my gift of words to my Poppi Oso with you, is to carry on that 5am conversation. To encourage open words, open hearts, flaws + strengths, and, always, the ability to listen and then say back to the person you love what they are trying to say. I hear you. And, when you can, speak your own words back. And, if you struggle speaking them, write them down and hand them over.
Below are those words. I wrote these in a journal before Trav left on his trip, and then handed them over, he read them according to the day on the mountain. At first, he would respond back at the end of the entry. After a few days, he would just write notes on the side of my words. Trav was working hard on a big mountain, he didn’t write tons back, but he is classically straight to the point when he did write. I’ve included his words as well in italics and added a few images.
A gift of words to my
Golden Heart of Rage.
Poppi AKA Spouse 1,
Considering the fact that the last time you went to Denali – you read the Sexy Chocolate wrapper 100 times.
And, considering the fact you always want me to speak up and share – I figured I could give you a gift of words.
To read throughout your journey.
To spread out the love I’ll write the day you’re on the mountain at the top of the page. I’ll write the next date at the bottom of the page.
So, when it says 3 at the top of the page – you read that entry on ‘Day 3 on Denali.’ Granted I know you’ll have big days and obviously don’t worry about this book on summit day.
But, I want you to know you’re loved + thought about each day that you’re gone. And, I am excited for your adventures. <3
I’ll put the next dates entry at the bottom of the entry so you know when you’ll get another one.
I skipped Day 1 bc I figured you’d be busy. I love sitting here and envisioning your adventure. We got married two days ago – a Tuesday. <3
And even though we didn’t have vows – I promise to work on talking more and sharing more. So, consider these words an action on that promise.
Funny – how different we are after 8 years together. Fun to evolve + change + push together.
Well, I’m sitting at the courthouse now waiting for your trailer license. So exciting!!!
Last night you woke us up with your fart.
“I like going through memories with you.” – You
I still love the memory from Granite, when we got back up Froze to Death Plateau and you made me eat a Gu + drink some lemonade and all the mtn goats were around. Sun was lowering before the storm came in and we had to run.
I love that memory.
A breaking of boundaries + limits.
Perceived boundaries + limits.
I love that moment – you looking after me and not getting upset.
And, then, we ran across Froze to Death as the storm rolled in.
I also loved the break we took in the last bit of light before heading down into the darkness.
So many wonderful adventures.
I guess I learned to let go of limits and to trust you on that trip.
I also learned the importance of fueling and pace. :)
I still want to go back and do Granite fast with you – even though I will cry again.
Thank you for taking me on adventures.
Day 3 on the mtn.
I know when traveling with anyone else it is easy to get annoyed because their internal metronome is different than ours. They see and speak and pace differently than us.
But, I invite you to appreciate and be grateful for being exactly where you are.
Sometimes, on runs, I’ll try to be really really really present – and breathe – and slow down. And be grateful for the moment.
I am thinking of so many of your moments.
Snuggled in your tent, sleeping bag, down booties on your feet. A great white expanse outside. I bet it is beautiful, and cold, and hard.
I am working on celebrating your moments.
I hope you are too!!
We are good at home and I am sure I am getting plenty of Catsby + Charlotte snuggles in.
We will be so excited to see you but we are excited and celebrate your adventure.
So be present and breathe and really build a relationship with Denali.
I know you’ll see the world from the summit, whenever the time is right.
Someday you can take me there to see the mtn. And, we’ll go to Nepal so we can see Everest + K2.
But what I really wanted to say – is you always have our full support. So slow down a little, breathe, and celebrate the ordinary mundane moments up there too because it is all part of the journey.
I love you oh so much!
God, it seems more + more impressive that we had sex 3 times a day for 3 months straight when we first got together.
We are champs!!!
You always want me to voice an opinion on our future – in a supportive – you just want my input way.
But, the thing is, as long as I get to curl up next to you, and wake up to Catsby’s drool, and come home to Hound Dog’s bark – I’m happy.
We could pretty much live anywhere or in anything.
I am so excited for the Speedson Chalet though. I love the property and the house plans.
I love the fridge in the closet – so no hound dog can get in there. And the fireplace in the master bedroom so we can have the occasional celebratory 3 times a day Day again. :)
Thank you for always building a future and a home for Char, Catsby, + I.
Thank you for working so hard every day to take care of us.
We appreciate your shoulders, and hands, and heart.
Your dirty shoes and shirts and hands.
Working for us.
I can’t wait till you’re home and I can give you a shower.
I still have the scar on my forehead from whacking my head into the tile.
It feels so good to give so much of the energy I gave the museum to you.
I am going to work on not putting happiness on the other side of some event.
Know even though I miss you dearly I am happy and I won’t wait to be happy till you get home.
Although I will be EXTRA happy then.
Almost one whole week on the mountain and shitting in a tube! So fun!!
Maybe it’s close to June now. I’m almost 32. We met when we were 23.
“It’s addition through subtraction.”
We ran S.Cottonwood yesterday – slow – ok I needed to walk. And I told you the above quote.
“It’s addition through subtraction.” By removing the excess (anxiety, worry, self doubt) you’re able to expand more.
I guess that’s what I fear right now – I don’t want to dull out. But maybe I can be sharper by cutting the fat.
I’m just not sure how to process or react always with a changed perspective.
I wonder what perspectives you gain up there.
Remember when you came home and I was writing on the computer? You were all like – “You writing to me before I leave?” HA!
I wasn’t writing you on the computer but I did already start this real journal! :)
You are loved.
You are thought about. Constantly.
I should work on some goals for while you’re gone:
- Get a desk
- Set up a business account
- Set up online picture store
- Figure out fluid week of training
I should make a list of where I want to explore too.
I have Logan + Lauren’s Wedding to shoot June 9th. Our 1 month anniversary!
Now I am in the tub. Naked. :)
We ran Baldy separately yesterday and you did great!
I really appreciated your kind + thoughtful words.
I was thinking of a fun race goal.
And, how you might not be interested in Tushars 100K. Well we could do a shorter distance but I was also thinking you could do The Ridge Run.
I really think you’d do fantastic at it – basically I think any race w/ hard terrain you’d be incredible at.
Denali is the A Goal this year.
BUT I am still fucking pumped about The Rut 28k.
I know you’ll fly there too and not get scared like pussy runners. (Me.) :)
Not that I want to talk about too much other stuff – I think it is really great for you to be present on Denali.
When I was on SAR I would pick one thing to be grateful to have seen that I wouldn’t have seen if I didn’t go on the call.
I still remember the sunrise over Bear Canyon when we were on the four wheelers.
And, I remember the moon when we were racing up to the saddle of Sacajawea.
What are you grateful for that you get to see on Denali?
What are you grateful to experience?
You told me you’re gonna re-read “Kiss or Kill” by Twight while you’re on the mountain – so I’m gonna re-read it while you’re gone too.
I like those little connections.
Over a week on the mountain!
I hope the tacos are good! :)
With my runners – I’ll have them think about their Giants.
Because, as you and I have discussed, all the distances we’re able to go, our inventions, our strength, our reach, is all attributed to the people who came before us. We are able to reach farther because we are standing on the shoulders of Giants.
I looked up to Jackie Jorner Kersee (a runner) when I was a kid, and my dad, and even Ashley going for 100 miles was a huge impact on my lens to the world.
Who are your Giants?
Who has influenced + inspired you + shown you that you can go farther?
Why do they inspire you?
What characteristics + strengths do they have that you look up to?
I love to think about Giants. Sometimes I like to bring them on races with me – they look after me with their experience.
Who would you bring on Denali with you?
I’m still in the tub.
You could sort of be a Giant to me – always pushing me out of comfort zones. But you’re more a confidant, companion, great love.
I am grateful for all the ways you push me to simultaneously be strong, and brave, and rage BUT also to soften, and be open, and trust.
My Golden Heart of Rage.
Light + Dark.
So, I know this poem probably isn’t 100% your jam but I. am. loving. it.
Think about it from the perspective of working on fulfillment now instead of if x or y or z happens.
Something I am working on.
As you set out for Ithaka
hope your road is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
angry Poseidon – don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit + your body.
wild Poseidon – you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.
Keep Ithaka always on your mind.
Arriving there is what you’re destined for.
But don’t hurry the journey at all.
Better it lasts for years.
So you’re old by the time you
reach the island
wealthy with all you’ve gained on
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you wouldn’t have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t
have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so
full of experience,
you’ll have understood by then what
these Ithakas mean.
I feel like it is the “Beyond the Mountain” poem written oh so long ago.
I can’t wait to hear more about your journey. Pretty special all that Denali has given you. All the perspectives, training, adventures, years. Altitude, Baldy, Hollowtop, Tetons, driving across Canada, time on the mtn. Years of exploring new places and new selves.
I’ll have my athletes think about their “Power People” in the middle of their training. Who are the people who limitlessly support you? Who gives you energy? Who is in your corner cheering you on and aches to see you succeed?
These are the people flinging their energy at you. Take this, use it.
I know you are not keen on “atta boy’s” but I believe there are more people then you’d think sending their energy to you.
In the months preceding you leaving on a big trip – I work on strengthening your “Golden Orb.” And, then, when you leave – I place the golden orb around you to protect you and keep you safe. I gather up all this energy and I visualize a golden orb encompassing you on the mountain.
I know it can be easy to feel alone or invisible but one thing I’ve learned from training + racing is, a lot more people are paying attention to you than you think.
And, strength is contagious.
I guarantee there are lots of folks cheering you on from all over.
Who are your Power People?
Who is sending you love?
I hope you can feel my love.
“It’s addition through subtraction.”
Expanding by taking off the excess.
Last weekend I was trying to say, “I don’t think I’ll get nervous for any races any longer.”
But, I didn’t do a very good job at it. What I was trying to say is I feel like part of my edge has been being hyped up + caring a lot. I know that.
What I am trying to figure out. What I fear. What I am unsure of.
Am I dulled out now? I don’t have the same intensity I once did.
By cutting off the excess. By cutting off the fat. Will this less intense person actually have more to give?
Will running/racing with a dulled out edge – actually make me sharper?
I’m not sure yet.
That was what I was trying to say. I appreciate you listening to me. I am trying to talk more. :)
I’ve appreciated all of our conversations.
Funny what a process it can be to open up. Hand over ones heart.
Grateful my Golden Heart of Rage has my heart.
I hope you’re liking this book so far! I shouldn’t have skipped any days early on but you live you learn. :)
If you are reading this before bed . . .
I love you.
Shockingly, I don’t know how long this Denali trip will take. So I’m just going to write to fill up this book.
You are thought of.
You are loved.
I’ve been day dreaming of some summer adventures for us.
We don’t have to do these all but a list to pick from:
- Tetons – Mt Moran
- Bear Basin to Spanish Creek Run
- Beaten Path Run
- Wind Rivers
- That Grand Canyon of Montana
I am just excited to take camper out for little weekend trips with you.
Sometimes, I have to immediately stop writing because you come back! :) <3
But, I love being around a lot so I can get lots of time with you.
Yesterday you came home + we got to have afternoon sex – hell yeah! <3
“Remember, there is nothing worth sharing, like the love that let’s us share our name.” – The Avett Brothers
I am so grateful to be married to you. Funny how 8 years folds and unfolds. Expands + Contracts.
I’m grateful you were patient and not so patient (locking me in the truck) with me for opening my heart.
I am so grateful to have an open heart to you. Sometimes I wish I could have opened up quicker but I know it all came in waves for a reason.
I love you oh so very much.
I’ll also have my runners think about – who do you want to inspire?
Because, when we try + open ourselves up we can’t help but impact others.
Who do you want to show that they can do more than they thought they could? Who do you want to see that they can overcome fear and listen to their own heart and go for something big?
Who do you want to inspire?
I, obviously, pick Eloise all the time. I want to show her simultaneously that she is already amazing and enough just with her sweet heart but also that she can overcome fear, work hard, and give a big fucking middle finger to the people who try to make her feel small.
Because, she is bigger and more amazing than all those mother fuckers.
Who do you want to inspire?
You have impacted me.
With your limitless support + encouragement + pushing.
You help me expand when I start to contract.
You help me overcome fear when I get scared.
You help me speak up when I want to be quiet.
You help me calm down when I start to get worked up.
You help me remember each moment is precious and we should enjoy it.
You help me reach a potential I didn’t even know I had – or maybe I did know but I was/am so terrified of it. You help me overcome that fear to really reach for that potential.
Maybe I’ll start skipping some days in case you’re on the mountain for a while.
Where do you want to go this summer?
Where do you wanna go this upcoming year?
Just like where we live, the places aren’t as important to me as just being and exploring with you.
What do you wanna see?
Remember how we talk about the first time we met?
I still remember that first moment in the Search and Rescue shack.
I remember your green + black fleece hoodie with the fire burns. I remember your orange beanie.
And your gray green blue eyes – depending on the day.
I love looking into those eyes.
There must be a reason the micro & macro world all look the same.
In the CHEESIEST way possible – I see the whole universe in your eyes.
That’s the thing right?
I feel like we have always loved one another. All the way back to the Big Bang. We were just two gaseous blobs floating around one another. (You can still be gaseous). But, I feel like we have always loved each other and always been connected.
I believe we always will be.
I remember that first moment we met.
But, I don’t remember which I loved first.
Your Golden Heart.
Or. Your Rage.
There are golden hearts out there.
And there is rage.
But to have both so delicately balanced within one person – is beautiful.
I know the waves of golden and the waves of rage each take their toll. I know they each take energy.
I promise to always cherish your golden heart.
I promise to always cherish your rage.
I have relived the moment you told me you loved me a thousand times.
Thank you for being patient for me to say those words back.
Remember when we were driving through Wyoming on our way home from the Uphill Athlete Seminar?
I listened to the podcast on the Big Bang Theory while you slept.
That stuff interests me for a million reasons but one.
All matter was instantly created.
In one moment.
This goes back to my thought that we have always known each other.
Everything was anything then.
And we change. evolve. grow.
But we started back then.
Thank you for being patient as I change. evolve. grow.
I love seeing the ways you change too.
I look forward to more big bangs.
You leave tomorrow morning on your adventure. Which is good because the sooner you leave, the sooner you get back!
I am getting ready to take Riggins + Char on a run and then go to the hell hole that is Costco and pick up your remaining snacks.
The last part of any race I always think of you. One because you’ve always believed in me and two because it gives me another gear of energy.
At Antelope Canyon I was so exhausted those last three miles, my hip flexors so shot – I could barely pick up my legs on any sort of uphill. But, I thought,
“If I don’t give it everything I have Travis will kill me.”
Not in a negative/fearful way but just in a you hold me to a higher standard way. So I kept running, or when I had to, power hiking, as hard and as fast as I could.
When we raced Monument I knew I would be out of shape and it would be hard but I decided to NOT get frustrated when it got hard. When the sand got deep – I thought – well everyone has to run through deep sand. When I was unsure if I could keep running hard I decided to not get frustrated or give up because it was hard – I decided even if I was only in shape to give 80% of my normal effort, I would still give that.
For your final 2,000 ft – well I’m not going to touch on safety and the ability to turn around because you already know that – Ithaka is the journey. And this is YOUR journey. No one else’s.
But for your final 2K feet, IF this is the year (and it might not be) but if the mountain opens up to you (slowly – over the years – I understand Denali – I was the same).
If Denali welcomes you to her summit I know there is limitless strength, perseverance, and ability within you.
Don’t get frustrated when it gets hard – the difficulty is the gift. It is the best gift. You get to experience something new, see a special and magical place, and you get to work for it.
The challenge is the gift.
Remember to set yourself up for success.
Eat. Drink. Endurolyte tabs.
Take care of yourself so you can tap into a new level of focus + strength + appreciation.
I cannot wait to hear about those last 2,000 feet.
I LOVE YOU.
Oh man! ALL OF THESE WORDS.
I hope you are liking your gift.
“I was laying in bed one night and I thought, ‘I’ll just quit. To hell with it.’ And another little voice inside me said ‘Don’t quit. Save that tiny little ember of spark. And never give them that spark because as long as you have that spark, you can start the greatest fire again.’” – Bukowski
Today I went to get extra bonus goodies for your road trip + on the mtn.
I am doing your laundry right now. All the little preparations to get ready for an adventure.
I’m going to keep including some quotes since I feel like I have done an exceptional job writing my words + opinions. :)
“There is an Indian proverb that says that everyone is a house with four rooms, a physical, a mental, an emotional, and a spiritual. Most of us tend to live in one room most of the time but unless we go into every room every day, if only to keep it aired, we are not a complete person.” – Rumer Golden
I took Maury + Bobbi on their date yesterday. I guess that’s a great lesson working with seniors – life + love aren’t always pretty but they can always be real.
I will always live + love you – real. Not always pretty. Sometimes I’ll shit my pants or you’ll forget. But sometimes I’ll curl my hair and you’ll show up with flowers.
Fortunately, I can talk to animals or people with injuries – like my Grammie and her stroke, and Bobbi, so I’ll always be able to talk to you. Even if you forget.
19 mother fucking days on the mtn!
Charlotte + Riggins are barking their heads off in the yard.
But, you’re many days from them.
Future Travis! Oh the things you know the things you’ve seen, the things you know in the future!
I need to finish your laundry but I want to fill this book up with words and love.
Remember when we made out in the Element for HOURS? I wore that trashy – meow leopard bra? That was awesome.
I wore that black tshirt and those loose gray pants? Had to change after kissing for hours.
We kissed on the front porch.
“I will make this happen!” – Me
“So are you gonna kiss me now?” – Me too
I know I already said it but 8 years! So fucking awesome. This year will be our 9th BZN ICE Fest together! And, then we’ll have Pat’s 80th BDAY!
I am stoked on skiing this upcoming winter with you but let’s get some climbs in with Pat too.
I wanna do Champagne Sherbet still!
Seems like an interesting change of conversation from having to change my skivvies to ice climbing but that’s our lives.
We are certainly an awesome dirty shit show of greatness.
Have I told you I love you recently? I love you. :)
Well, this is the morning you head out. So I don’t think I’ll get every page filled but close.
I love you very much.
I hope you’re having a great adventure.
Over the last several months Trav had been telling the SAR boys and I that he felt like a big Search and Rescue call was coming up on Mt Cowen this year. He regularly espoused the quote, “If you fail to plan. You plan to fail.” He went to Cowen that Sunday to move in the mountains with other SAR members, celebrate a rare day off of work, and to discuss and plan out how they would handle a call at the remote Absaroka mountain.
And, then, as he climbed a route he had done many times, the mountain moved. Literally. A massive piece of the route, 15 feet across, came off. And, as JJ said, the mountain moved and it took our mountain of a man with it. Trav died in the fall. And, I have broken a thousand times in the weeks since then.
Most days, I really don’t know what to do. Sometimes, I walk in the mountains with friends, or I pick huckleberries and cry, sometimes I run with just Char, sometimes I brave my kitchen table which has become a massive filing center for multiple businesses, paperwork, legalities, bureaucracy, sometimes I lay at the bottom of the shower Trav built me and I just cry, or I sit on the front porch and cry through the night with Charlotte and Waffles and I watch the lightening and I talk to Trav. I often run to lightening storms now. I’d like to tell you the lightening stories, but, again, those stories are for a different day.
Somedays, I feel gratitude to have had the chance to love Trav at all even though I wanted so much longer to be beside him. Somedays, I really can’t believe I don’t get to touch him.
Somedays, I am grateful when people tell me all the ways Trav positively impacted them and what they will do in the future because of the chance to know him. Other days, I want to yell that their lessons weren’t worth the cost. It’s just where I flow and unflow right now.
Writing about Trav helps me. Sharing him. I have always written but rarely shared. Well, I shared with him. I learned to give all my words to him. To speak up. And, to write to him. I wrote him letters and I made him little books. Or, I would just read him my writings or poems. I didn’t feel a need to share with others because sharing with him was what really mattered to me. But, Trav always encouraged me to share more with others.
I wrote his obituary in the only two hours I had that first week because I felt like it was my duty to represent, celebrate, and advocate for how deeply he has lived and loved. My duty as his love and his wife.
Same with the memorial words.
I wrote those before I re-found the above Denali Journal in his desk, I sat in our room at his office and read through two years ago words before going to the memorial. Those words so covered in love. I am so grateful I gave those to him. I didn’t see anyone or let anyone touch me the day of the memorial, I needed to give everything to Trav and to stand up and tell a part of his story. Finding the Denali Journal as I waited to go, felt serendipitous and gave me strength in the words I had chosen to share more openly. I am so grateful so much of what I wrote for his memorial is braided within this journal.
For our wedding, I wrote a set of vows to his golden heart and I wrote a set of vows to his rage. The rough draft of those vows are found above in our Denali Journal. I promised to ‘cherish, celebrate and advocate for his giving and golden heart.’
On a run this past Spring, Trav was having conflict with a few people, as there is conflict in all relationships. This is often how we grow and expand in communication or how we learn to let go. But, as a redhead I said, ‘If anything happens to you, I will burn these mother fuckers to the ground for you.’ Classic Firey Ginger and, also, keeping my vows to his rage and to protect him. Trav quietly asked me not to do that. He told me, people already mistook his passion for anger and it wasn’t how he wanted to be remembered. So, time and time again, I return to advocating for the limitless depth of love he carried. Because, the fire was always there but the heart even bigger.
As time apparently keeps moving but currently makes no sense to me. I am sure I will want to tell more and more parts of Trav’s story. For me, and we are all so different, I realized quickly on that I would always move with sadness and loss from missing my Poppi. That all actions, interactions, internal or external would remain braided with him. I will always miss him. It is now a part of a deeper layer of interacting with life for me. He always kept me curious, engaged, and so in love. He always held me accountable and pushed me farther than I thought possible. And, for some reason, words have always been a healer in my life. I just haven’t often shared them. For now, and each day is so different, I would like to keep sharing.
I had no idea how big Love could be till I met Trav. Like I had no fucking idea how much pain and heartache was sitting around waiting to be felt until I lost that Big Love. Trav has always helped me expand and feel more.
So, today, as I write these words I am grateful for the chance to have held and to have loved him. But, I am not sure what tomorrow will look like.
Memorial Words for Poppi Oso, Travis Swanson.
Monday, July 22, 2019.
By Blair Speed
I remember the very first moment I saw Travis. I walked through the doors of the SAR shack to the meeting room and there was Trav in the back corner, orange beanie, green and black fleece with the campfire holes, leaning back. Smiling big. We met volunteering with Gallatin Country SAR 10 years ago. On our second date, at The Pourhouse, I gave him a lap dance to the song Wagon Wheel. By our third date it was already decided that Catsby and I would move in with him. Trav was always a caretaker and a cat guy. He always had a golden heart.
A couple years into our relationship we were having an argument in the living room of the condo. I don’t remember what it was about. But, he picked me up, threw me over his shoulder, put me in the truck and told me, ‘I’m not going to let the speedometer go below 60mph so you can’t jump out, I am gonna blow every red light and every stop sign and we’re gonna drive until you really open up and talk to me. And, if we drive till we run out of gas and you still don’t talk, we’ll get out and walk back to Bozeman together.’ He always fought for us. He always wanted me to find my voice. We made it halfway up Bridger Canyon before I cracked and began to open up.
I consider this moment of my life the great Dam breaking within me.
And, it’s because of him.
Occasionally, I would be mingling at a party or out to socialize and I’d ask someone, ‘Where’d Trav go?’ And, that’s when I would find out he had ran out for a SAR call without telling me. Soon after there would be a rushed call from him, apologizing for taking off abruptly, and telling me he loved me and that I needed to find a ride home. Trav and I talked, well, about everything, but when we talked about SAR, we talked about the deep sense to help others and details of challenging calls. Trav said to me, ‘For some reason I can just handle that stuff, I think it is my gift I can give to the world.’
And, it was one of them.
Besides caring for Char, Catsby, and I, SAR was Trav’s greatest sense of purpose.
And, it was all time volunteered.
The first time we did Granite Peak together, Trav told me, ‘It’s a really nice day hike.’ So, Trav, Joey Bear, and I climbed Granite and accidently climbed Tempest Peak as well in 23 hours and 12 ginger meltdowns. He supported me throughout. Never caring if we summitted, only that we challenged ourselves, spent time in the mountains, and felt loved.
At home we were opposites of our public selves. I was the quiet one and he was so talkative and silly and playful. Once, he was acting like a cat at the house and looked up at me, straight into my eyes, and just said, ‘No one would ever believe you.’
Trav wrote me love letters.
Every single thing he did was for me.
Trav and I made it a practice to go back and forth each year with a big goal. One year he would train and focus, often for Denali, and I had the chance to support and the next year we would flip flop. Back and forth consciously as pusher and supporter. Both enjoying both roles. Give. Take. Encourage. Grow. Endure. Love.
Trav and Joe did have the chance to finally stand on top on the continent. And, then, they aided in three separate crevasse rescues as they came down the mountain.
We talked so much, endlessly, about everything. We often spoke of how much we loved one another and how we couldn’t believe we had found each other. We’d talk about energy and love, how if energy can’t be created or destroyed, then we must have loved one another for thousands of lifetimes. In all sorts of different relationships our love grew. We talked about how maybe, some lifetimes, we didn’t find one another and that taught us a deep loneliness and empathy and then how to better connect, give, and love.
I have all sorts of notes from Trav, this one titled, “What do I Really Want,” from January 2018.
Life free of financial worry (that’s why he worked so hard)
Love Blair and myself
to the World + to Friends
Travel abroad + at home
Trav didn’t attempt to simplify the complex, instead he asked of himself and then encouraged others to see wider, feel deeper, say what needed to be said, work relentlessly, listen hard, and love harder to welcome the complexity in.
Trav was limitlessly multifaceted and multidimensional. He fit no fucking mold. He was filled with such a depth of love it produced it’s own weight, it’s own pull, and you could *feel* his love, we all could. And, he gave so much to the people in his life. But, he gave all the love, all of himself to me, from day one. And, then he taught me to trust, open up, find my voice, and give the same limitless love back to him. He was always encouraging me to expand. The chance to love Trav was the chance to experience the richest life, externally and internally, that I couldn’t even imagine before I met him.
Two years ago I had the chance to promise a few words to Trav. I promised to cherish, and to celebrate, and to advocate for his giving and golden heart. Then, this week, always, that is what I will do.
I love you, Poppi Oso.
I always have, I always will.
Travis Swanson Obituary
Thursday, July 18, 2019.
By Blair Speed
The mountain moved this past weekend and our love, Travis Swanson, did not survive.
Travis Mitchell Swanson was born on November 6, 1985 in Havre, Montana, with a golden heart and a propensity to buck the system. Raw, passionate, thoughtful, hardworking, strong, adventurous and filled with an unfathomable well of love. Always dependable, he was the man you called when things got tough. And, he was always there for you.
Trav loved to learn but hated school. His early years in Churchill, Montana, with his family were marked by his rebellious and independent spirit. Early mornings before high school, he would drive out to Weber Mandolin where he built his own mandolin to play. Many years later, his hound dog sang when he played. His formal education could not be found within any walls. He learned to play mandolin, guitar, saxophone; read every climbing and climbing history book. He taught himself to invest, to better understand the stock market, build his own companies. He studied search and rescue techniques and knowledge continuously, and how to move in the mountains safely. Recently, he was learning German and photography. He forewent a degree in search of experience.
Travis began working with his dad when he was 14 years old. What began as an art and expertise in drywall with his first company, Hollowtop Drywall, grew exponentially every year with his persistence to work days, nights and weekends, and a refusal to be bound by society’s standard of work ethic. Travis never knew a 40-hour workweek. His was much higher, and he felt lost when he wasn’t pushing work. In recent years, he created The Norse Company, expanding into properties, excavation equipment and work, and independent contracting.
Travis saved many good people on their worst days in the mountains as a longtime member of Gallatin County Search and Rescue, helicopter and alpine teams, and was a friend to Gallatin County Sheriff’s Department. He has carried people out on his own back, helped fly them to safety and returned those lost to their loved ones. Of course, he was also known to throw a dog on his back to get them to safety, too. He was the perpetual big guy teddy bear. Volunteering with search and rescue for 15 years gave Trav a deep sense of purpose and his friendships with his team brought him joy, laughter, love and men and women to move through the mountains with. If SAR helped you within the past 15 years, chances are high that Trav was on the call.
It’s hard to imagine how he had time to move in the mountains, but this is where he found his greatest joys, conversations and time within self. His goal was to climb The Grand Teton 1,000 times. He made it to 12 successful summits and many more attempts. He climbed countless local, American and international summits. It took three tries to learn the mountain, get a weather window, and make it up Denali, but Trav and Joe Wagner summited in 2017. The art of persistence, training, learning, communication and patience with the mountain.
Travis was big and strong and a beautiful natural athlete. Climbing, skiing, weightlifting, running, yoga and hiking fit into small pockets of time throughout his week. He built a large and beautiful home gym in his garage where he welcomed and trained friends with his wife, Blair Speed, and played death metal loud, biweekly. Sköl.
But, in the midst of this expansive life he built, Trav was the most gentle of giants. His kind and completely humble heart would be the last to tell you about any of his work or extraordinary experiences.
Like his sweet, short word proposal to Blair (finally), he was not a man of many words. He was too busy taking action. Every action he took, he thought of Blair first. From making her coffee and a fire every single morning, building her the house they lived in by hand, getting her friends to move next door, working on an early retirement, guiding her up mountains, looking up spots to travel the world, spoiling her and her family and friends—he always thought of her first and then their fur children, The Great Catsby and Miss Charlotte Ray. Travis and Blair spent 10 years building their lives and their loves together. They spent 10 years exploring the world and their own hearts together. Neither knew that a love could be so big, so sweet, grow infinitely each day, or what better people they would become alongside of and because of one another. Blair has always and will always love Poppi Oso.
Trav’s death on Sunday, July 14, 2019, on Mount Cowen is such a tremendous loss for our sweet Gallatin County Community, his family and his friends. Trav was recovered quickly and brought home by his Gallatin County Search and Rescue and Sheriff’s family in a challenging and an incredibly impressive effort. We are all thankful for their hard work and loving care to get him home.
Trav is survived by his wife and lover, Blair Speed, their children, The Great Catsby and Miss Charlotte Ray. His oh so sweet mother, Kelly Swanson, and father, Dan Swanson. His little sister, Amanda Dooley, and her husband, Dade Dooley.
Burn the Boat: A Celebration of Travis Swanson’s Life will be held at The Rialto, 10 W Main St, Bozeman, Montana 59715, on Monday, July 22, from 2-6 p.m. followed by a gathering at Dry Hills Distillery, 106 Village Center Lane, Bozeman, Montana 59718.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to help cover the cost of the services at blairspeedcreative.com/poppi-oso. Or, please consider making a donation to Gallatin County Search and Rescue in Travis Swanson’s name.
S C H E D U L E
SATURDAY, July 20th, 9:30-11am | Burn the Boat: A Workout for Travis Swanson | Altitude Athletics |705 Bridger Dr Suite C, Bozeman, MT 59715 | Join for a a workout to send this Viking of a man off in a way that would make him proud.
5-8pm - Outlaw Brewing Company | Beers and Stories | 2876 N 27th, Bozeman, MT 59718 | Mike Carisch, of Carisch Helicopters, dear friend of Trav and part of SAR, will fly his helicopter with flag flown at 8pm.
MONDAY, July 22nd, 2-6pm | Burn the Fucking Boat: A Celebration of Travis Swanson | The Rialto Theater | 10 W Main St, Bozeman, MT 59715
2-3pm- Live Music by Walcrik (Andrew Morehouse, Tim Baucom, Haley Ford, Meesh Metcalf) and drinks
3pm - Memorial Service, cocktail hour to follow
5:20pm - Exit Rialto onto Tracy Ave (Tracy Ave will be closed).
Central Helicopters fly North to South down Tracy Avenue.
Post Helicopters: A Bus Shuttle Service is available from The Rialto to Dry Hills Distillery and back to the Rialto at the end of the evening.
6-8pm | NIGHTCAP at Dry Hills Distillery | Drinks, Appetizers, Dessert, Conversation | 106 Village Center Lane, Bozeman, MT 59718
S U P P O R T
Meal Train | Sign up to cook a gluten-free meal for Blair
Memorial Expenses | Help us throw a Viking Party in honor of Travis
Travis Speciality T-shirt | T-shirts will be available for purchase at Spire Climbing Center
I N F O R M A T I O N
Ich liebe dich.