*(adapted from Losing It: Deconstructing a Life, unpublished work © Lynda Terrill, all rights reserved)
On Halloween I missed my self-imposed deadline for publishing a post in October. Fall is my favorite time of year and October is my favorite month. This time of year, I tend to think long and (vaguely) literary thoughts and I want to write. I want to write, but I give myself excuses why I haven’t written. Tom and I have been busy putting our new home together. Also, we recently traveled to Salt Lake City to visit dear friends from back in those Arizona and Utah days. Time is passing, and not as slowly as it did up there in the mountains. We feel a strong need to see those we love. We also recently traveled to Pittsburgh to see our son, Robert, and his family. Then it was on to Shaker Heights to visit with two of my brothers and our dear sisters-in-law. More excuses: Plus, it was mostly too hot here to feel like fall. Plus, I spent too much time reading the political news, signing petitions to save Bears Ears, and worrying about the future of our democracy as our laws, our ethics, and our social contract shred before our eyes. So, the good ideas came and went while I couldn’t settle enough to write coherent paragraphs that seemed true. I think I can string some sentences together, though. I think I took some okay photos, so I am adding them below, too.
Usually, I am content to have memories of my parents just flit in out of my consciousness. In my mind, there is my mom, teaching me how to make the pie dough. There’s my dad, tying the laces of my ice skates. Different scenes come and go and they are almost all happy. However, when the days shorten and we head toward winter and the holidays, I am the youngest again, the baby sister, and I need my mother and father and the others who have gone.
I work on living in the present. I am better at it than I used to be. For many years I was angry that I couldn’t protect my children from the sadness and pain of life. I had a bad case of hubris. Now, I understand my limitations more. To those I love, I just say–in my mind–“I love you and I wish you well.”
Like my brother, Roger, gone these six years now, I feel lucky: lucky in my husband, lucky in my children, lucky in my friends. Also: the trees, the flowers, the aquatic macroinvertebrates, North Rim, and cold nights camping not alone.
To calm me down from the news, I am trying to get back into my deep breathing. Sometimes Tom and I walk ten miles a day.
When I was 17, I thought we could end war. I thought that we would feed the hungry children. I thought we could come together right then. I thought we would work together to save our planet. Oddly, even now, even here–a 2.7 mile walk from my condo to The White House–I remain hopeful.
You may see this old woman at the marches or maybe we will meet on the ramparts one day, but I still believe in my deep core that the glass is half-full. Happy Fall.
We live in Arlington,
We live in Arlington,
Right next to Washington, DC!
These lines come from a little song that our children learned when they were (at various times) in about second grade in Arlington Public Schools. Our oldest child, Sarah, started public school Montessori at Hoffman-Boston School in 1978. Our youngest child, Billy, graduated from Yorktown High School in 2005. So, you can see we spent a goodly amount of time in Arlington. There was a stint in Denver in the early 1980s and then in 2006 Tom and I moved to Charlottesville. There we gardened, we walked everywhere in town, we drove those back roads (Old Plank Road, Poorhouse Road, Hebron Church Road…), we listened to music, and we loved our neighbors. During this era, we did another stint in Denver and we also traveled many roads (55,000 miles’ worth) in our camper.
Now we have come back here, right next to Washington, DC. We plan on more road trips, from our new/old base of Arlington. Here, too, we will garden, we will walk, and we will listen to the music (Jazz last weekend). We will go to Shakespeare, lectures, museums, and hang out with our children and friends, whom we love.
Below are some of the things I like about Arlington.
Actually, I am struggling with this writing. I want to tell you about how Sarah and Robert’s elementary school (Drew Model School) was so big into process and project-based learning. I used to tell folk stories to the children and go on nature walks with them. I remember how Billy loved to wear the monarch butterfly suit at Long Branch Nature Center. Also, I think about how years later, my friend and fellow teacher Donna and I would walk along the stream at Long Branch with the immigrant parents and their children. Dusk came and the bats started flying. I remember one of our teachers’ assistants, Dan. He was a young Vietnamese man and he would swing with the kids–like the child he almost was. When I think of those evenings, I want to cry for the loveliness of it.
For the first several years in Arlington we didn’t have much money. However, even at the beginning, in 1978, we did have money for Brenner’s Bakery doughnuts (sadly defunct these many years) down the street. Later on, mostly in the 1980s, kindly women would cluck over our children at Korean, Vietnamese, and Salvadoran restaurants and serve us delicious meals for a little bit of money. Many years later–in the late 1990s–my adult students from Bosnia, El Salvador, and Vietnam made food for Sarah and Mike’s wedding feast.*
I think I am working up to a more focused comment. I loved and I do love the diversity of Arlington. At the Arlington Education and Employment Program (REEP), I taught adult immigrants and refugees from over 80 countries. Even now, when Arlington is much trendier than in the old days, I look out from my Starbucks table and see people from everywhere walk by on Clarendon Boulevard.
We live close to Washington, DC. Since Tom and I moved back here a little over a month ago, we have been jogging: Jogging past the Netherlands Carillon, past Arlington Cemetery, and along the Potomac River. Sometimes we cross the Memorial Bridge–trotting straight towards the Lincoln Memorial, left past the Kennedy Center, on to Georgetown, and over the Key Bridge back home. What can I say? I have a degree in political science and another in American Studies: I love being here.
Not even getting into the rest of the natural, cultural, and historical opportunities, but we love the Smithsonian Institution. We have been visiting the museums, the zoo, the gardens and the Folklife Festival non-stop for almost 40 years and we never get tired of it, and the price is still right.
After 9/11, we saw the Pentagon burning. You have probably figured that I am not a big military type, but this was my home. I cried for days. Later when Tom and I joined Arlington’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), every one of our instructors from the Arlington County Fire Department had been at the Pentagon after the attack. I am honored to have learned from these (and I never use this word lightly) heroes.
Enough! I love Milford, MI and Lake Superior; those red rocks and wild mountains of the west; Charlottesville and its funky music heart, but I am happy to be back home in Arlington.
*Also, our friend Sharon’s mom brought a Southern Maryland specialty, spinach-stuffed ham.
Good friends and neighbors, flowers and trees are more beautiful and stronger than hate and ignorance. That’s the way it has been so far in my life. Charlottesville, may you heal quickly.*
*All of these photos were taken in the city of Charlottesville, Virginia.
On the occasion of Tom’s and my 43rd wedding anniversary:
I bought a copy of Don Quixote in 1974 as an early step in an ambitious plan I had lined up after my first year of graduate school. One of my favorite professors agreed to work with me as I decided to read “the big novels” during the summer break. I was going to read Don Quixote, The Red and the Black, and Remembrance of Things Past. In this professor’s class I had already read all but the last fifty pages of The Magic Mountain. I think my failure with the last fifty pages should have given me a clue.
Sometime in May that year, my friend Tom thought we might as well get married. Reader, we got married at Midsummer and it has worked out very well for us. Back then, it was all friends and family, love and excitement played out on a red rock and pine forest backdrop. Over the years, some pain, sadness, envy, anger, and other of the less favored emotions have been added to the mix, but our picaresque still wanders on intact.
Thinking about our wedding usually makes me laugh Given only a few weeks lead time, my parents gamely drove out from Michigan to Salt Lake City to attend (and pay for) our wedding. I think Hank and Audrey might have thought I was marrying a Mormon, but being people who minded their own business, they didn’t ask. I suspect they were relieved when they found out that Tom and I were being married in an Episcopal church, but I would never know because they would never talk about such matters. The one thing my mother did say after meeting Tom was, “I knew you wouldn’t marry a jerk.”
1974 were salad days for my brothers and me, so only one brother was available to attend the wedding as the official representative of the whole team. The designated brother, George, was a Michigan-style skier (the top elevation at Alpine Valley where he used to ski is 500 ft with a vertical drop of 240 ft), so he wanted to see the Utah-style slopes.
The day before the wedding, my dad and mom, George, my husband-to-be, and I piled into the family’s LTD for a drive up Little Cottonwood Canyon to Snowbird ski resort (top elevation 11,000 ft, vertical drop 3,240 ft). My family was suitably impressed with the mountain peaks, rushing creeks, huge boulders, and the tram ride. The tram ride was nothing compared with the drive back down the canyon. Hank was a flatlander born and bred, a driver since he was about twelve, and never one to spare the accelerator pedal. He said he wanted to spare the LTD’s brakes, so–and this was before seatbelts were standard in American cars—we all hurled down the six miles of canyon road twisting and turning speeding I imagine between 40 and 50 miles an hour—with no brakes. I thought I might die before the wedding. We younger ones were frightened, but I believe that my mother took it all in stride.
Back to the Wedding: A friend, Becky, whom I had roomed with when we worked at the North Rim was a clothing and textiles major at Brigham Young University. She kindly made my wedding dress. The pattern and material cost only about ten bucks, and the resulting dress fit my body and my mind perfectly. Another woman, Laura, a fellow graduate student and (since that era) my lifelong friend, embroidered violets on the dress’s empire waist. At the almost literal eleventh hour, Laura decided to embroider not just the front hem of the dress, but all round the bottom of the dress. She stayed up all night to finish.
Tom’s best man was our friend Art, whom Tom knew in high school and whom I met at the Grand Canyon. My maid of honor was our friend Sally from the canyon days. Back then Tom was a cook, I was a salad girl, Art was a waiter, and Sally sold tickets for the mule rides down the North Kaibab Trail to Roaring Springs. As a point of information, I would like affirm that people ride mules down the canyon; they do not ride burros or donkeys. Mules are large, intelligent, and sure-footed; they know what they are doing even if they do seem to want to walk closer to the trail’s outer edge than to the canyon wall.
Not only did Sally make Tom’s tie to go along with his Z.C.M.I. (Zions Commercial Mercantile Institution) bargain rack suit and perform the maid of honor tasks, but she also provided the music for the service. Tom wanted her to sing “Ode to Joy,” but we were all satisfied with “The Lord of the Dance.”
All our Utah, Arizona, and Wyoming friends attended the wedding. I know this because we have photos of our friends lined up along the tables with odd expressions on their faces. Most of our friends back then could use a good feed at a decent restaurant. In addition, since Utah still made drinking alcohol in public difficult back then, our friends were dazzled by the Mormon version of an open bar—all the mini bottles you wanted.
I don’t tell you about it much, but sometimes I despair about this and that. Then I think of my family and my friends and, like Anne of Green Gables or Jo March, I buck up. The world can sometimes seem difficult, but Tom (and my family, our friends, the gardens and the books) have been my comfort and joy. Thank you.
(adapted from Losing It: Deconstructing a Life, unpublished work © Lynda Terrill, all rights reserved)
Since January 2017, I have belonged to a Facebook group, March for Science. This group has been focused on organizing Earth Day (April 22) marches in support of science. In my life I have been mostly an English teacher, not a scientist. On my registration form for the march, I checked “science enthusiast.”
For months, March for Science group members have been posting “Why I march” comments. I loved almost all of the comments I have read and sometimes I cried about the stories. I never laughed because the current repeated attacks on scientific truth are deadly serious.
I love—I really do—the scientific method. I have read about, known, and admired many scientists. I admire many of my mentors in the Rivanna Chapter of Virginia Master Naturalists. In literature, John Wesley Powell, who scaled canyon walls with one arm, is one of my heroes. Farley Mowat, who railed against the decimation of human and animal populations in Canada, is another. However, my reasons for marching next Saturday in Washington, DC are, perhaps, more in keeping with my English major sensibility.
Why I Will March for Science on Earth Day
I attended the ENACT (Environmental Action for Survival) Teach-In on the Environment at the University of Michigan in March 1970 (see https://blogs.lib.msu.edu/red-tape/2016/mar/march-11-14-1970-university-michigan-holds-environmental-teach/ for more information about the teach-in). I was a young idealist then and I am old idealist now. I won’t give up.
I march in honor of my mother. I planted my first garden with my mother: popcorn and radishes against the side of the house in Detroit. Counting that garden and the one I grew with my brother George, that’s 45 years of gardens, most of them organic. Food and beauty. I won’t give up gardening now.
I march in honor of my father. My father taught me how to fish, skip stones, rake leaves, and shovel snow. He put up a hammock between two tall oaks, so we could see the sky, the water, and the leaves while we rested and dreamed. I won’t give up the dreaming.
I march in honor of Michigan and the Great Lakes, my first home. They want to cut EPA research for the Great Lakes by 97%. I want them to hear my “no.” I remember the crayfish and the sunfish in the sunny shallows of our lake. I remember the power and strength of Superior. I will not let them destroy our lakes without a fight.
I march for the Grand Canyon, Zion, Glacier and all the rest of the federally protected lands.
I march for the Kaibab squirrels of the North Rim, for the condor who glided past us on the South Rim, and for all the crows and ravens everywhere. I march for the bees, and for the butterflies, and for the American hornbeam that we planted in our yard last month and for the ponderosa pine, iconic tree of the North Rim (and food for the Kaibab squirrels).
I grow old. I do, in fact, sometimes wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled, but I will not stop now.
I have many more things to say. Maybe I will write about them another time or maybe not, but I will march and I will not stop.
Our current road trip will end tomorrow as Tom and I head back to Charlottesville. Spring awaits with its cleaning, taxes, and, best of all, the garden.
What a strange (but not too long) a trip it’s been: squealing differential in Florida, airborne tent in Texas, hankering to be one with the earth everywhere, while still craving that internet political fix.
Today, I am taking a detour to New Orleans. Tom didn’t quite take me to the Mardi Gras (it’s on February 28 this year), but close enough for a woman who doesn’t smoke, mostly doesn’t drink, and who surely can’t dance (except maybe to Motown).
I love New Orleans. Maybe it started with my mom’s New Orleans pralines. Or, maybe it was Paul Simon’s, “Take Me to the Mardi Gras“:
Come on, take me to the Mardi Gras
Where the people sing and play
Where the dancing is elite
And there’s music in the street
Both night and day
Hurry, take me to the Mardi Gras
In the city of my dreams
You can legalize your lows
You can wear your summer clothes
In the New Orleans
And I will lay my burden down
Rest my head upon that shore
And when I wear that starry crown
I won’t be wanting anymore
Take your burdens to the Mardi Gras
Let the music wash your soul
You can mingle in the street
You can jingle to the beat
Of Jelly Roll
© 1973 Words and Music by Paul Simon
I loved the food. People were singing and playing. There was music in the street.
I let the music wash my soul and I mingled in the street. I worked on laying some of my burden down.
I remembered what I thought the first time I went–alone–to New Orleans about 14 years ago. As I wandered through the French Quarter, I thought: I know who I am throwing in my lot with. I am with the people who sing, dance, eat real food, and maybe smoke and drink and whatever, but just trying to get by with a little grace, style, and humor. I do not stand with those who think there is only one way and who denigrate those who choose a different path. That sounds like fascism to me. I can’t explain myself well on this topic, but, lucky for me, Robin and Linda Williams have some words that work for me in Going, Going Gone: