U.P., Up, and Away

the view from our campsite on Lake Superior, Ontonagon Township, Michigan

Tom and I have been taking road trips together since 1971: fifty years in and we still love them. We went on another road trip from September 1 to October 2, 2021. This trip could be fairly summarized as: nine family members, three great lakes, two pleasant peninsulas, fourteen states, and 4,500 miles. Also, Tom and I went on six hikes where no one shared our trail;  we saw old growth trees including giant, healthy eastern hemlocks and hundred foot birches, and we learned to love the bluffs of the upper Mississippi and the river itself.  Our trip was balm to our societal-disintegrated and pandemic-battered minds, souls, and bodies. We mostly took short 3 to 5 mile hikes, punctuated with longer hikes (11+ miles at Sleeping Bear). Still, I was happy to see that my hiker’s leg muscles came back.

Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore

eastern hemlock, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, Michigan

I have other photos (see below) and stories: happy times visiting brothers and sisters-in-law and nieces and great-nieces; plus eating those delicious camp meals again–hummus, chips, carrots, local sausage, and Amy’s chili. Once we got to the Upper Peninsula, we left the poison ivy behind and found ferns, flowers, and fungus galore. On part of the journey, Tom and I traveled along the Great River Road along the Mississippi River. We had never heard of this road and, now, we have another part of the country to love. A young bald eagle soared near us as we stood on the bluffs above the Mississippi River at the Effigy Mounds National Monument.

dawn, Upper Mississippi River

Other Parts of the Journey Tom and I–fully vaccinated since March–both contracted the Delta variant, probably somewhere in the Upper Peninsula.  Also, three of our loved ones died. This trip, even with its aftermath of illness, death, and mourning was fabulous.  My major struggle lately has been trying to write the words about the ones who have gone away.

Randi Tom and I camped in Pike’s Peak State Park in Clayton County, Iowa for three nights. Yes, this Pike’s Peak was also named for Zebulon Pike who explored the upper Mississippi and the Rocky Mountains in the early 1800s. The park was an unexpectedly lovely oasis and one of the highlights of our trip.  On the first afternoon at Pike’s Peak, we pitched our tent and headed out for a walk. We headed to a lookout point high above the Mississippi. We took a hike to see (and to feel) the Bear Mound (a ceremonial burial site constructed by indigenous people of an earlier time) and to take a look at the Bridal Veil Falls. All of it: the forest and the sun and the clear air and the whiff of fall caught us up into a perfect afternoon.  Chinkapin oaks and hickories and butternuts had already been dropping their acorns and nuts. Hearty and vigorous squirrels crashed through fallen leaves with, it seemed, some delight. I had a strong vision of Randi (our daughter Sarah and son-in-law Mike’s dog) and how she would love this forest.  Randi, a beagle/basset, likes nothing more than smelling squirrels, barking much louder than her weight class.  I didn’t say chasing squirrels: Randi just loves smelling the squirrely trails; she doesn’t need the squirrels themselves. I thought of Randi at least twice on that walk and mentioned to Tom how Randi would love this high forest near the great river.  The next day an early morning text came from Sarah. Randi, who had been suffering with late stage kidney disease had died.  Through tears, I told Sarah about the prior day’s thoughts about Randi in the forest. The sun and air had been special–as it can be in a cathedral forest. Sarah and I agreed; maybe before Randi left this particular reality, we think maybe she stopped by to share our perfect afternoon.  What do I know? I am an old woman crying in a Panera as I write this.  One thing I am pretty sure of is that all dogs go to heaven.*

Randi visiting us December 2019

Randi visiting us December 2019

Will I didn’t know Will Bagley very well, but I did love and do love him. Will married my lifelong friend, Laura in 2003.** A few years after that, I was going to be conducting professional development workshops for adult English as a second language (ESL) teachers somewhere in the west–maybe Montana. I can’t remember.  What I do remember is that I had a stopover in Salt Lake City where Laura and Will lived.  They said they would pick me up at the airport and drive me down to Zion National Park. I was exhausted from my workshops and I slept part of the way.  We reached Springdale in the dark of the night and I woke in the morning surrounded by my old friend Laura, my new friend Will, and my red rock refuge for the first time in twenty years.  We three walked and talked and I bought a pair of socks at the Zion Lodge gift shop. I haven’t been able to throw away these worn-out holey socks because they remind me of friendship, love, and refuge.

Paraphrasing Wilbur from Charlotte’s Web: It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Will was both.

desert socks from Zion National Park

Tom and I got back to Arlington on October 2.  In Arlington we tested positive for Covid-19, which was no surprise.  In the latter half of September, I had felt like I had the flu with a little cough and aches and chills. At first, it was a little difficult to tell what I had because we were tent camping and a few aches and chills go with the territory. Tom followed with similar symptoms. A couple of day after we got home, we got the call that my brother Dan had died of Alzheimer’s disease.

Dan I have a lifetime of memories of Dan: from early years in Detroit and Milford to the middle years in Ann Arbor, Dodge City, Kansas and Lemoyne, Pennslyvania to the later years on our Deep Creek family reunion weekends. For all his brilliance–and he shone brightly with style and grace and rock and roll songs or poetry ever on his lips–it is Dan’s kindness I remember most. Circa 1970, when Dan and his wife Jeanne lived in Ypsilanti they watched over the baby sister–me–eight miles away in Ann Arbor. They hosted my 21st birthday party in their small apartment. A few years later, Dan and Jeanne’s home in Dodge City was my beacon as I crisscrossed the country between Michigan and the Intermountain West. I could go on, but I I don’t know if I can trust my own words to do justice to this good brother. A couple of months ago, on this blog, I dedicated Dylan Thomas’ Fern Hill to Dan. While not exactly a prince of our apple town, he was the fair-haired and bold youth with the golden ’36 Ford with the corvette engine.  Enough. Let Wordsworth’s Tintern Abbey say the words.

These beauteous forms,
Through a long absence, have not been to me
As is a landscape to a blind man’s eye:
But oft, in lonely rooms, and ‘mid the din
Of towns and cities, I have owed to them,
In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,
Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart;
And passing even into my purer mind
With tranquil restoration:—feelings too
Of unremembered pleasure: such, perhaps,
As have no slight or trivial influence
On that best portion of a good man’s life,
His little, nameless, unremembered, acts
Of kindness and of love. Nor less, I trust,
To them I may have owed another gift,
Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood,
In which the burthen of the mystery,
In which the heavy and the weary weight
Of all this unintelligible world,
Is lightened:—that serene and blessed mood,
In which the affections gently lead us on,—
Until, the breath of this corporeal frame
And even the motion of our human blood
Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
In body, and become a living soul:
While with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things.

 

*Maybe you caught it: I wasn’t quite able to write all of Randi’s verbs in past tense. Not yet.

**Laura is not exactly a “lifelong” but since our teaching fellow days beginning in 1973; close enough.


Lake Superior, Ontonagon, Michigan

Lake Superior, Ontonagon, Michigan

in the Upper Peninsula

in the Upper Peninsula

yellow patches (Amanita flaoconia?) near Cascade Falls, Ottawa National Forest

yellow patches (Amanita flaoconia?) near Cascade Falls, Ottawa National Forest

asters, Wyalusing State Park, Wisconsin

 

Summer 2021, Part 2: Photos

This summer–like all the other summers I’ve known–seems beautiful.* Even with the loss, the sickness, the uncertainty, the worry, the fires, the floods, the wars, and all the rest of it, I am trying (fitfully, I admit) to see some good in this world. I do see it in my stalwart family and friends and in the sky, plants, and animals. I don’t have much to say, at least much that is new, but I hope you enjoy the photos.

Bartholdi Fountain, Bartholdi Park, Washington, D.C.
milkweed longhorn beetle (genus Tetraopes) Mt. Cuba Center, Hockessin, Delaware
garden–inside and outside of our condo
Regional Garden, U.S. Botanic Gardens, Washington, D.C.
bee on pickerel weed, Regional Garden, U.S. Botanic Gardens, Washington, D.C.
New York ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis), Hillside Park, Arlington, Virginia
bishop’s hat (Epimedium brachyrrhizum), Mary Livingston Ripley Garden
tawny (?) skipper on unidentified flower
wingstem (Verbesina alternifolia), Hillside Park, Arlington, Virginia

*Sometimes I find it difficult to be hopeful without sounding like some superannuated, prissy Pollyanna. I really don’t think I am a Pollyanna; I think I am more of an inveterate idealist. Whatever I might be, I still find myself sad and angry quite often. For example, yesterday I discovered that someone had ripped out the two pink fuzzybean plants off a trellis in Hillside Park. I had transplanted these plants from Arlington’s native plant nursery last fall. I watched the plants as they came up in late spring and cheered them on as they grew up the trellis and spread wider and wider flinging out their green leaves to the wider world. Did someone think they were getting rid of noxious weeds? Was some person or persons just wreaking a little casual cruelty on the park? I don’t know, of course, but I was sad and angry. It was a petty little anger amid the current sorrows of the world and of humankind. However, the hopeful part of me is wondering now whether the plants will grow back from their roots in another season. I wish them well.

Summer 2021

Shenandoah National Park, August 2021

I tried to write a post before the summer solstice in June, but that didn’t work out. By July 4th, I wasn’t even thinking of writing anything. Because Labor Day is coming up in a little over three weeks, I am shaking the dust off my mind and heart and trying again.

Please don’t get me wrong. Things are okay for me. This summer Tom and I met up with family members and ate lunch in Milford, Michigan, my hometown. I walked in sunny meadows and shady forests with Tom and with friends. I heard frogs, barred owls, and other birds. Day after day, I have listened to Tom play Mozart sonatas on the piano. I saw the dragonflies by little ponds, but they moved too fast for me to photograph. Many of the native plants Tom and I planted last year in Hillside Park are thriving (blue mist flowers, New York Ironweed, golden ragwort, blazing star, forest stonecrop, and pink fuzzy bean). We ate lunch at the Bayou Bakery today and Tom is making paella for dinner.

blue mist flower (Conoclinium coelestinum) at Hillside Park, Arlington, Virginia

Still, I am older than I was before the Trump administration befell us and the pandemic began. I miss my brothers and my mother and father. I tell myself to live for the day and to be grateful while I spend more than enough time in reverie of earlier days–of sun on the lake where I grew up, and on the snow, and on the ponderosa needles at the North Rim.

For the last few days, I have been thinking about Dylan Thomas. Although Thomas is not one of my favorite poets, I have always liked him well enough. Today, I remember one who loves poetry and, I do believe, may have once declaimed “Fern Hill” for me. Today, I send the poem back to you, my dear one.

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
     The night above the dingle starry,
          Time let me hail and climb
     Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
          Trail with daisies and barley
     Down the rivers of the windfall light.

And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
     In the sun that is young once only,
          Time let me play and be
     Golden in the mercy of his means,
And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,
          And the sabbath rang slowly
     In the pebbles of the holy streams.

All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay
Fields high as the house, the tunes from the chimneys, it was air
     And playing, lovely and watery
          And fire green as grass.
     And nightly under the simple stars
As I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away,
All the moon long I heard, blessed among stables, the nightjars
     Flying with the ricks, and the horses
          Flashing into the dark.

And then to awake, and the farm, like a wanderer white
With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder: it was all
     Shining, it was Adam and maiden,
          The sky gathered again
     And the sun grew round that very day.
So it must have been after the birth of the simple light
In the first, spinning place, the spellbound horses walking warm
     Out of the whinnying green stable
          On to the fields of praise.

And honoured among foxes and pheasants by the gay house
Under the new made clouds and happy as the heart was long,
     In the sun born over and over,
          I ran my heedless ways,
     My wishes raced through the house high hay
And nothing I cared, at my sky blue trades, that time allows
In all his tuneful turning so few and such morning songs
     Before the children green and golden
          Follow him out of grace,

Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
     In the moon that is always rising,
          Nor that riding to sleep
     I should hear him fly with the high fields
And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
          Time held me green and dying
     Though I sang in my chains like the sea.

Spring 2021

spring near the Arts and Industries Building, National Mall, Washington, D.C.

I started writing a post in early April–it is still in my drafts file–but I got annoyed by WordPress’ new publishing format and let my words and photos dangle in the airless vault of the Internet. Even though “technology” was featured in two of my most recent job titles, I am somewhat of a Luddite. However, I do think that as programs, platforms, applications, and what-all become more streamlined and standardized, it is possible that creative work can become overly lockstep. Enough of my carping excuses for my procrastination: I want to write about spring before Memorial Day!

I might have shaded the truth a bit (above) about the reason/s for my procrastination. What is slowing me down is that I keep thinking about the almost 600,000 people who have died of Covid-19 in the United States and the millions more around the world, and about those who loved and cared for them. Also, I live 4.5 miles away (by foot) from the U.S. Capitol and I was under curfew on January 6, 2021. That spooked me and saddened me. Before the Inauguration, Tom saw an armed gunboat patrolling the Potomac River near Georgetown. When the celebratory fireworks began on Inauguration night, I worried that our country and its institutions were under attack again. I continue to be gobsmacked by lies, disrespect, viciousness, and what-all. Also, I feel somewhat discomfited about how lucky I have been through all this mess and about the–mostly–good spring I have had.

cherry tree, Arlington, Virginia
tulips in Rosslyn
golden ragwort

Some Paragraphs

  • I have been wanting to tell you this for awhile: For months, I got through each day by getting the next day’s coffee ready ridiculously early, like at 1 p.m. I wasn’t sure I had the emotional energy to get the coffee machine ready before bed, let alone the next morning. Not a solution to any problem, but, and this is the truth now, having the coffee ready to go helped me feel ready for whatever might be coming the next day.
  • I don’t usually pray, but I do try to send good thoughts and love to our children and their families every night. Some nights, I fall asleep before I finish my good thoughts.
  • It has been almost nine weeks since our second vaccinations. Tom and I have been lucky to see and hug many family members and friends. We have been to Shenandoah National Park, Williamsburg, Pittsburgh, and Shaker Heights, Ohio. We have more jaunts in the works. Now, we are staying fairly close to home. Later, we don’t know where we will go. We are still waiting to find out which way the wind is blowing.
Shenandoah National Park
  • We have had a beautiful spring here. I think we always have beautiful springs wherever we are, but this season has been another one. On April 26 on Theodore Roosevelt Island I noted these flora and fauna: Carolina wren with oak catkin in mouth, another C wren?, another wren or warbler???, mallards, heard red-winged blackbird, several birds I couldn’t identify, turkey vultures, robins, sparrows, lots of minnows from bridge by the marsh, cabbage butterflies, other butterflies–slight possibility of a zebra swallowtail?, pawpaws-no flowers, tall meadow rue, lots of garlic mustard, Virginia waterleaf, Hartford fern?, horsetails. As usual, I had a few questions about what I observed. I can report that I have now seen some blooming pawpaws and that the tall meadow rue is going into flower. Note: All these nature words aren’t just small items on a useless list; they keep me close to the ground where–even in difficult times–I feel safe.
Virginia waterleaf, Theodore Roosevelt Island
trees and sun, Theodore Roosevelt Island

Spring did come after that difficult winter and now summer is about to follow. The 17-year cicadas are tuning up around here and the roses are coming out. I hope to see some of you soon. So long (as my Dad would say) and best wishes.

Winter 2021

I started this article a week ago during Arlington’s small bout of snow and ice.  I couldn’t seem to figure out how to effectively reconcile my homebound (from weather and pandemic) current self with younger versions of me who always loved to be out in the snow and ice. I didn’t want to have to find the words for all those winter feelings I didn’t feel this year. (See Winter: January 1, 2019 for some of my words about winter). Today, I realize that I don’t need to dig for those words and feelings anymore. I have received my first Covid-19 vaccination, I have walked five miles today, buds are plumping up on the witch hazel in Hillside Park, and spring is coming soon.  Before spring arrives in earnest, I want to share some words and photos about my favorite refuge during this winter of our pandemic and social disunion.

witch hazel, Hillside Park, Arlington, Virginia

This winter, I have been walking often on Theodore Roosevelt Island, which is 0.8 miles from our condo.  It’s not the ponderosas on the North Rim or the slickrock in Canyonlands, but I do love this tiny little bit of the national park system, just as I love the other parks.

While TR Island is only 88.5 acres, heavily visited (over 160,000 people visit yearly), and cheek by jowl with our hyper-urban Rosslyn, Arlington neighborhood, when I am on the island I find respite from this distressing time. I would have thought that walking here on this island–a little over a stone’s throw across the water from the Kennedy Center–would be much different from walking on the North Rim or in Canyonlands, but, somehow, it feels much the same. I glimpse a red-bellied woodpecker, I see the mallards paddle around the marsh, and I marvel at the fungus on the stump. I want to hug the beech trees. The underbrush all mixed together with water, snow, and leaves reminds me of the lakes of my childhood. I find solitude on the island’s Upland Trail. Seeing the Paul Manship statue of Theodore Roosevelt lifts my spirits.  None of the U.S. presidents have been without flaws, but, still, on every trip to the island, seeing the statue, of Theodore Roosevelt, who signed the Antiquities Act of 1906, eased some of my pain related to the presidency of Donald Trump. Time after time in these last months, while my mind and heart were filled with worry and sadness, my feet headed toward the island where my body, mind, and heart revived.

I keep meaning to go to the island early in the day with my binoculars. I want to sit on a bench on the boardwalk and listen to and watch the birds. I think I will go next week. Soon enough, I will be hearing the frogs.

 

sycamore along the river

mallards, theodore Roosevelt Island

forest floor, Theodore Roosevelt Island

stump and fungus, Theodore Roosevelt Island

beech leaf, Theodore Roosevelt Island

leaves and log with snow, Theodore Roosevelt Island

marsh, Theodore Roosevelt Island`

Theodore Roosevelt statue, Theodore Roosevelt Island


I hope you are vaccinated or will be soon. I hope you will be able to visit loved ones soon. I hope spring will come soon for us all.

 

 

 

Going to Zion

View from the Watchman Trail

View of West Temple from the Watchman Trail

On this last day of 2020–this annus horribilis that we have struggled through–I find myself looking backward.  I do not want this year to end without celebrating the occasion of my finding my way to Zion National Park fifty years ago.  Those of you who have been reading this blog for the last nine years may recall that I make fairly regular references to Zion in my posts (see, for example, Staircase to Heaven,Part 5: Words).  Many who know me personally know my abiding love for this place. I love Zion, not only because of its adjective-defying beauty, but because of the peaceful, happy, and worry-free season it afforded me in the spring and summer of 1970.  I could use another such season now, but I think the memories will be almost enough.

Why I went to Zion and how I got there*

In the spring of 1970 I signed on for summer work in Zion National Park in Southwestern Utah. This was fifty years ago, and Zion was not the trendy park it is now; it was more like the back of beyond. I was tired of my local summer job at Camp Dearborn in Milford, Michigan. Also, I had been fired up about environmental issues and the west by, among others, my young zoology lab instructor from Teton Country Wyoming. I had never been farther west than the eastern shore of Lake Michigan and I knew nothing about Utah. So, I went to the undergrad library at my college and I found and then was mesmerized by Wallace Stegner’s Mormon Country. Before I knew it, I was spending the summer in Zion Canyon. I can say that summer and (mostly)** ever since, just being in Zion makes me happy and as close to content as I have been so far in this life.

In April 1970 I flew from Detroit to Omaha, Nebraska. I somehow found my way to the train station where I boarded a train bound for Las Vegas. I was decked out in, I think this is true, a suit and a raincoat and, as enjoined by my mother, I had an iron grip on my purse. I immediately met another girl, Pat, similarly attired and gripping her purse. Pat went to my college and was also heading out west to spend the summer working in Zion National Park. As it turned out, she hailed from Walled Lake, a little town seven miles from Milford. This must have been the summer for small town mid-western girls to head out into the wilderness.

I hired on as–what was called then–a salad girl and Pat hired on as a cashier at Zion Inn, inside Zion National Park. Our train ride was free because the company that employed us, Utah Parks Company, was a subsidiary company of the Union Pacific Railroad Company. Of course, I never forgot the ride. The trip was long, cold (we had only our raincoats as covers), and somewhat sparse in meals (they were pricey for our budgets, but I still remember the dining car). Otherwise, the ride was transformational. All that land I had been reading about and watching on Bonanza was becoming real.

After a while, maybe a day and a half, I can’t remember, we ended up in Las Vegas. I am chagrined to notice that I am forgetting some of the particulars, but I think we found the bus that was to take us to Cedar City, Utah, where we would be met by a man with the unlikely name of LeMar Snyder. (Note: This only seemed like an unlikely name until I became familiar with a traditional Mormon naming convention—they seemed to like adding prefixes to both male and female names. Tom told me that families sometimes took part of the father’s name and part of the mother’s name and to make up the new name. I don’t know the provenance of LeMar’s name). However it happened, Pat and I did come to find LeMar, a big comfortable sort of man, who drove us to Zion where we were going to work at the inn, now gone these many years (Not really gone, the wood-and-sandstone building is now used by the U.S. Park Service). I don’t know what I was expecting, but Zion in all ways surpassed my preconceptions.

I had been going to parks all my life—municipal parks, state parks, national forests, and even Shenandoah National Park (my only national park before Zion)— but they had not prepared me for my first view of Zion Canyon. Inside the canyon, I was almost surrounded by red, grey, white, green, and black rock walls up to two thousand feet tall. An apparently inconsequential (to my eye) but restive river, the Virgin, flowed through the canyon. The narrow canyon was filled with grass, cottonwoods, many kinds of desert plants, birds and lizards, rocks and sand in an abundant jumble. On my first day off work, I walked from the inn, near the mouth of the canyon, to the end of the road about six miles to the Temple of Sinawava and back. I think this walk took me all day, and my jaw must have gotten tired because I was open-mouthed at the magnitude of everything as well as the unfamiliar beauty. I stayed in Zion from April to July, and I never got over the feeling of awe.

What I did there

My first actual Zion hike was on the short, moderate Watchman trail that started close to the campground near the inn. I had been on trails before at state and local parks in Michigan, but I didn’t know what to expect from a trail in a national park in the west. (Note: I checked online and the Zion National Park website claims that the Watchman hike is 2.7 miles round trip and climbs 368 feet.) I must have started out in the early afternoon after my morning shift. I was surprised how wide and well maintained the trail was. I think I was expecting a trail where moccasins could tread quietly and carefully single file—not a freeway for tourists to huff and puff up in expansive style. The trail followed the contours of a small side canyon— first heading east toward the cliffs and then back westward—for a view of the canyon floor and the little town of Springdale. After I got to that overlook point, finding the trail onward was more difficult. Here the trail was more like my single file ideal. In fact, sometimes I was a bit confused about where the trail was and where it was leading.

I took the trail upward and back eastward toward the cliffs and followed it as it continued around again onward skirting around the small side canyon. It seemed like (and maybe was) hours later my path stopped dead at the sheer cliff face of the Watchman itself. It was beginning to occur to me that I might possibly have made a wrong turn somewhere. I turned around and tried to retrace my steps. This was not so easy because there were faint trails crisscrossing everywhere. It had been dawning on me for some time that I might not be following human trails, but those of deer or other animals. Luckily, my general destination was clear: to wend my way back from where I had come along the canyon walls and scree. I did this and I finally found myself back at the overlook, where I now understood the human trail ended. I had been somewhat scared at my inadvertent bushwhacking to the sandstone ramparts of the Watchman, but I was also exhilarated at my small adventure. There was no time to waste in reflection for it was getting dark and I didn’t have a flashlight. Thinking back, I hope that I had been smart enough to have acquired a canteen by this point. I headed quickly down the now-wide trail. A bobcat crossed the trail very close in front of me trotting purposefully somewhere. Then and now, I read this as some sort of minor miracle or at least a benediction. I was a fool who had almost gotten into serious trouble, but, instead, some deep magic crossed my path.

The Watchman and the Virgin River

Any chance we got, Pat and I went hiking together. We hiked the Virgin Narrows, the Kolob Canyons, the West Rim Trail, and even Grafton***, the little ghost town below Zion that was featured in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Kolob Canyons, Zion National Park

Kolob Canyons, Zion National Park

Note: It is already December 31, 2020. and I want to finish this before the anniversary year ends. I have so many words already, but there is so much more I want to say about this season of grace. I will tell you a couple more stories and then be done for now.

Time passed and farewell

I needed to go back to Michigan before the end of the summer to be maid of honor for my friend Priscilla’s wedding. That was going to be exciting, but it was hard to leave Zion. For one thing, Pat and I were taking Senior Lifesaving at the Zion Lodge Pool but, luckily, the examination was scheduled for the day before I had to leave. If you’ve been to Zion Lodge in the last many years, you are probably saying what is she talking about, there’s no swimming pool in the canyon. Not now, but back in the 1970s there was a pool situated where the Zion Lodge lawn is now. The lifeguard at the lodge decided to offer a lifesaving class, so Pat and I would hitchhike the three miles from the inn to the lodge for instruction and to practice. The experience of swimming in Zion Canyon is worth recalling. We would swim round and round in the small pool surrounded on all sides by red Navajo sandstone cliffs and with the almost unbelievably blue skies—a dome of heaven—above.

It was already getting dark when Pat and I passed our swimming exams at the lodge. When we got back to the inn, we were whisked away somewhere outside for a going-away party for me. I remember three details about the food we ate. After I had asked for a well-done hamburger, one of my Mormon friends said he knew why I didn’t like rare meat. He said it’s because you are so civilized. Maybe yes and maybe no, but I appreciate the thought. In fact, the comment and the party highlight the civility and the hospitality that the people down there in Southern Utah showed to us and which I have never forgotten. We drank root beer—homemade for the party—and we ate Mrs. Cope’s spudnuts. She was a baker for Utah Parks Company and the mother of one of my friends. As Zion is to a municipal park, so Mrs. Cope’s spudnuts were to commercially produced donuts.

What I’m trying to say: I was entranced by the stories told by the older people I met at Zion. I met people whose own parents knew Butch Cassidy. There was my supervisor in the pantry, Mary, whose family—if I am remembering this right—had run cattle in what is now Bryce National Park. There was Chef Brown, who’d been a cook on the Union Pacific when doing that was really something. The people in Zion were hospitable in a way that seems uncommon these days. In that canyon and during that summer it was like I had fallen into an earlier time—a time my father would have understood. Plenty of the hospitable people that summer weren’t Mormons. Some were Jack Mormons, some were other locals, and some were outlanders drawn to this land. I want to sound grave and respectful here, but I think I might be babbling. Thank you for your part in my happiest summer (so far). Thank you for the spudnuts. Thank you, Zion.

A wish: May we all have more  beauty, peace, hospitality, grace, and deep magic in the new year. Thank you for listening and Happy New Year.

Zion Canyon

Zion Canyon

The Altar of Sacrifice, Zion Canyon

Virgin River beach

Virgin River beach

Zion near the East Entrance

Zion near the East Entrance

Entering Zion Wilderness, Coalpits Wash

Entering Zion Wilderness, Coalpits Wash

 



*(Some of these words are adapted from Losing It: Deconstructing a Life, unpublished work © Lynda Terrill, all rights reserved)

**The crowds almost everywhere in Zion these last years discomfit me.  An important element of being in Zion was the feeling of peace, quiet, and of being in a back of beyond sanctuary. I do not feel that much now.

*** I haven’t been back to Grafton since 1970.  I understand that the town may be a destination spot these days.  When Pat and I visited, it was an empty, overgrown actual ghost town.

Observations: Words and Photos

Note: Since I last posted on November 21, 2020, about 60,000 more Americans have died of the Covid-19 virus.  Despite the title of this article, I don’t have any words or photos able to deal with that.  I do, though, have the need to keep on– to crouch here close to the ground and reach upward–and to feel (much of the time) hopeful. So, here are the words and photos I do have.


Sentences

On Wednesday, I heard the Kings College Choir, Cambridge  rendition of  “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” including the words, “peace on earth and mercy mild.” Of course, I know the lines–I have been singing that song for over 60 years.  I can see myself in my bedroom back in Detroit singing carols alone in my bedroom. I don’t know why the words like peace, mercy, silent, holy, gloria, and the rest seemed so important to my earnest little self, but they did.  What struck my heart this time around were the words  “mercy mild.” In this year and in this time of year, I am wishing for mercy. The word sounded fine enough when I was a little girl and I didn’t understand it; now I believe mercy is what all we humans need. Mild, too–what a concept–for these dragon-ridden* times. Mild like the touch of a little dog’s leg reaching out to pat my arm. Mild like the rustle of oak leaves on a walk through the woods in Shenandoah. Mild like the sounds of children playing outside.

holiday CDs**

leaves, Shenandoah National Park

Tom and I having been spending a great deal of ( I might say, “too much”) time at home, but it has been okay.  We have Zoom meetings with our children and others. Tom plays bridge online once a week with friends. We’ve also started playing games at the kitchen table that we used to play at campground picnic tables: Upwards and Boggle.  On the table we have a tiny hydroponic garden, which gives off a full spectrum, but mild, light. Tom has always been an excellent cook, but now he is outdoing himself.  For example, last night he made Pati Jinich’s tacos bravos and Sam Sifton’s chile crisp green beans! All I can say is that when we can host guests again, we will be ready.

Zoom platform

garden and light, December 2020

tacos bravos and chile crisp green beans

Tom and I  watch more TV than usual, but we also read, volunteer, and exercise (most days, I take walks and/or do my weights and stretches, but maybe not today).

planting black chokeberry

I hope you have happy holidays, and a more merciful and mild new year.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

*”Dragon-ridden” just came to mind. Then, I realized the word came from a favorite poem from my favorite 20th century poet: “Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen” by W. B. Yeats. I recommend this poem in reference to Two Thousand and Twenty.

**For an agnostic, I have a surprisingly large collection of winter holiday music!

November 21, 2020

Thursday morning, I thought of a title for my latest (this is it) post: Hope in the Time of Pandemic. At 9:30 A.M. while Arlington County staff and volunteers were restoring native habitat in a corner of a little park [Benjamin Banneker Park) formerly covered with invasive bamboo, this self-assured title sounded about right.

Benjamin Banneker Park, Arlington, Virginia

getting ready to plant, November 19, 2020

planting, Benjamin Banneker Park, Arlington, Virginia

A few hours later, I decided that my nod to Garcia Marquez was too flippant when more than 250,000 people have died in our country. So, I thought I would call this article Hope and I wished that word would be appropriate and accurate.

Then, Thursday afternoon the news came about the mess in certifying the Wayne County, Michigan presidential votes. I took this issue to heart; I was born in Wayne County.  I did not feel hopeful at all.  Now, I didn’t have a name for this piece I was trying to write.

And so it has gone these last months: I am hopeful; I despair. My mind, heart, and gut seesaw.

Friday and today, Saturday, November 21, I feel more balanced. I am seeing the hopeful signs again: in my family and friends, in nature, even (sometimes) in the news.

I realized, again, that I do better when I am close to the ground.  When I tuck in the native plants, cold soil invigorates my senses and my hope revives. The fall palette–heavy on yellows and browns–calms my soul.  In the evening, the early darkness comforts me. The concurrent bonus for this early darkness is that Tom and I watch beautiful dawns from our living room almost every morning.

Amsonia (bluestar), Freedom Park, Rossyln, Arlington

strawberry bush (Euonymus americanus), November 20, 2020

stonecrop I planted in Hillside Park in late summer

dawn from our window, Rosslyn, Virginia

dawn from our window, Rosslyn, Virginia

My condolences to the families and friends of those who have fallen ill and died. My thanks to all those helpers out there.  Like Mr. Rogers’ mother told him to do, I do look for the helpers and I see them out there all around.

Happy Thanksgiving.

 

 

 

Autumn 2020

Note: I dithered so long that the title of this article originally was “September 2020.”

I think of my mom and dad every day and–almost without exception–that makes me feel happy and as contented as I am able to feel these days. Autumn is a little bit different, though. Sometimes, in the fall, I really miss them and I feel sad. This feeling doesn’t usually last long, but this year it is worse.  No surprise there, I think.  I miss my brothers and their families. Tom and I see all of our children in Zoom meetings and–every couple weeks–most of them outside at a park. I pet the little dog, Randi, but I also want to hug the children. Tom and I–socially distanced/masked–see some of our friends, but I miss our dear ones far away.

I am fine enough, and I think I am lucky. I mostly try to be grateful.

I don’t want to leave you with the memory of my carping, so below are several photos I’ve collected in the clouds, mist, and sunshine of September and October. Love, Lynda


clouds, Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia

U.S. Capitol from Bartholdi Park, Washington, D.C.

Mathews Arm Campground, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

bee and flower after the rain

pearl crescent on white snakeroot

strawberry bush, Hillside Park, Arlington, Virginia

milkweed and milkweed bugs, Bluemont Park, Arlington, Virginia

eastern hemlocks, Cathedral State Park, West Virginia

August 2020: Music

double rainbow, July 28, 2020

July finally ended. Some days I felt light headed and a bit dizzy. I mostly thought it was  just my head and heart going wonky from the pandemic/Trump in the Black Hills and all the rest.  Or maybe it was the virus, but the doctor doesn’t think so.  She thinks I am having a little vertigo from an ear issue.  We did see the double rainbow in the sky from our condo when John Lewis was lying in state at the Capitol. The black-eyed Susans we planted at Hillside Park have been blooming up a storm, and the Potomac River rolls on by, so beauty is still around us.

black-eyed Susan

Even though I claim to be an agnostic,  I am always alert to signs from some other plane.  Here is the sign for today: I heard “Let it Be” twice  on the radio this morning and it comforted me. I hope it will do the same for you.

When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be
And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree
There will be an answer, let it be
For though they may be parted, there is still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
There will be an answer, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be
And when the night is cloudy there is still a light that shines on me
Shine until tomorrow, let it be
I wake up to the sound of music, Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, yeah, let it be
There will be an answer, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, yeah, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be
Lennon/McCartney

Potomac River and Theodore Roosevelt Island

Theodore Roosevelt Island and Potomac River