Mary Ann Franke

Profile Updated: April 12, 2021
Residing In: ESTES PARK, CO USA
Homepage: View Website
Occupation: Philosophy student
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After graduating from college in the East, I worked in Boston in the insurance business and then corporate consulting, slowly building my nest egg, though I wasn’t sure what for. By age 38, I still didn’t know, but I could afford to take some time off to recalibrate. I discovered that I loved the freedom of not having a job, and I never returned to full-time paid employment. I became a volunteer writer and editor for the National Park Service, first at Virgin Islands National Park for 7 winters, and then at Yellowstone for 17 summers.

Through my 20s, I thought that I wanted to be married eventually, but not yet. As the decades passed, I finally realized that “eventually” eventually means “never.” So here I am—no husband, no children, no regrets—at least not about that. I’ve been grateful to live in a time and place where I can do so on my own terms. Living simply enabled me to be financially independent, foreign travel my own indulgence.

I sold my Boston condo-basecamp in 1999, got rid of everything that wouldn’t fit in the back of my parents’ garage, bought my first car, was a nomad for a year until I bought a little house on big lot next to national forest in Sedona, Arizona, where I could walk around with twigs in my hair, talking to the birds. Got one dog, then another, and so I stopped traveling so much except to Yellowstone for the summer, where they began paying me to write about the birds and the bees and the grizzly bears, and to Mequon, where my parents were waning together with dementia. “What? You’re our daughter? Harry—did you know this woman is our daughter? That’s wonderful!”

Although I thought I was done with northern winters, when I was done with summers in Yellowstone, I moved to a small Colorado town next to Rocky Mountain National Park which provides a better year-round compromise for me climate-wise than Sedona would. The winters are longer and snowier than those in Whitefish Bay, but far sunnier, and the days don't get so short.

Despite not being the caregiver/maternal type, I found an unlikely late-life vocation as a hospice volunteer. I’ve reached an age where I’m good at it and can enjoy it, just being a presence for someone who may be befuddled or completely mute or repeats herself every two minutes. Perhaps it’s just whistling in the dark, but sometimes a whistle is all you’ve got. I know more and more about less and less, but as the end gets closer, I can see farther—my own life coming together,

School Story:

I know that Dale Gutzmann was liked by many students, but he lost me one afternoon in speech class. Most of my high school memories are a blur, but I vividly recall his asking us to take two slips of paper and write something good about another student in the class on one slip and and something bad about a student on the other. Without telling us what he was going to do with them, he collected the slips and read them aloud. Why? What was the point? To see how we behaved when embarrassed or ashamed? Perhaps after all these years someone else remembers this experience and can explain it to me. Most of the comments were silly, of course, but some were cruel. Only a portion of the class was singled out for good or bad comments, and the target was not expected to speak in response. I happened to be the target of one compliment (superficial) and one criticism—deep, and not helpful.

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Posted on: Apr 12, 2021 at 12:34 PM

The live-action portions of this video were all recorded on location in or around Estes Park and Tucson without the use of human or canine stunt doubles. Music credits: “Song for Sienna,” composed by Brian Crain (2015) and performed with YuJeong Lee; “Breathless, composed by Robert John "Mutt" Lange and performed by The Corrs (2000); “Turn, Turn, Turn,” music by Pete Seeger (1965) arranged and performed by David Lanz; and “Bailando,” composed and performed by Enrique Iglesias (2014).
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Mar 05, 2020 at 4:33 PM

When Tom left this world, he seems to have taken part of my own past with him. In junior and high school, I told him things that I told no one else. Despite our very different spiritual and political beliefs, I trusted him, that he would understand, that he was able to fit in whatever peculiar details I told him into whatever larger impression he had of me. After I presented a report in World History class freshman year, he did tell me that it was "full of platitudes." I wasn't exactly sure what "platitudes" meant then, but I figured it wasn't good and that he was probably right, and ever since I have tried to avoid them. Most of all, I remember him as the boy who painted his freckles green on St, Patrick’s Day.

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With my hiking buddies, Mocha and Chalupa, on Emigrant Peak, Montana.
Posted: Feb 07, 2014 at 11:39 AM
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Posted: Apr 12, 2021 at 12:34 PM

Breathing Space

The live-action portions of this video were all recorded on location in or around Estes Park and Tucson without the use of human or canine stunt doubles. Music credits: “Song for Sienna,” composed by Brian Crain (2015) and performed with YuJeong Lee; “Breathless, composed by Robert John "Mutt" Lange and performed by The Corrs (2000); “Turn, Turn, Turn,” music by Pete Seeger (1965) arranged and performed by David Lanz; and “Bailando,” composed and performed by Enrique Iglesias (2014).