Author Archives: lyndaterrill

Staircase to Heaven, Part 5: Words

Kodachrome Basin State Park

Kodachrome Basin State Park

I have been putting off writing this post about the Grand Staircase.  Photos are easy, but sometimes words are hard for me.

This morning I have Windexed the living room table (where we leave smears when we eat in front of the TV). I’ve washed a load of clothes and I am about ready to put them into the dryer. I’ve put two applesauce cakes in the oven (from The Fannie Farmer Baking Book ). I feel comfortable and happily domestic.  Even so, somewhere inside, I am afraid that the despoilers of the land will win this battle of the Grand Staircase and Bears Ears and the others. I am sad and angry because I don’t think my words or photos can change the minds of those ones. I will try the words anyhow.

Three days later: My words still haven’t found their way to the computer. I sit in my living room chair. Through my window, I watch the winter silver Potomac flow in the distance.  Like most people I know, my heart weeps and my mind hurts.  More hate, more racism, more lies spew from our country’s White House. So many things to grieve about and to fight for, where should I begin?

I know. I look around our room and I see the huge blue and pink(ish) map: “The Colorado Plateau and Its Drainage.”  Tom bought the map for me about 18 years ago, when I briefly had a job with an office and benefits. To the left of the map are two bookcases, a Navajo rug, and a poster of Zion National Park, “Celebrating a Century of Sanctuary 1909-2009.”  On the walls closer to me are the Thomas Moran print of Indian Gardens from our friend Laura, a painting of Hopi basket designs by our friend Sally, and many other talismans.  Enough for now: Like a movie, the sun just broke through the clouds a tiny bit.  I will try my words again.

our living room, 1.13.18

our living room, 1.13.18

Now, it looks like I have too many words. Here are some more. I will stop soon.


1958 (?) I saw it on Mickey Mouse Club, I think.

I felt sad when I saw and heard a piece on TV about a river that was going to be dammed and a canyon that would disappear. I saw a fabulous rock called Rainbow Bridge. I felt sad until the feelings were buried.  Only decades later, I uncovered this memory and realized I had loved this land of the Colorado River Plateau 12 years before I ever even saw it.

Glen Canyon

The Glen Canyon Archeological Survey, Part 1, May 1959

1970 (My spring and summer in Zion National Park)

  • One of my Mormon friends, told me that if one prayed earnestly—some lines from The Book of Alma in The Book of Mormon—one would hear a response from God. I remember trying this praying somewhere up the canyon side not far from Emerald Pools. I thought I prayed earnestly, but I heard nothing. Well, I heard something. It was the tranquility, power, and beauty emanating from the land, sky, and water. Then, and, onward through the years, I became increasingly comfortable with my being a secular humanist nature-lover.*
  • After hours of walking, my coworker and friend Pat and I finally came across the Coral Pink Sand Dunes. At least one source says the park is 12 miles from Highway 89 to the dunes. No wonder it seemed so long to us tenderfoots. After Pat and I clambered around on the dunes, we settled down for the night. We had trouble opening up the can of peaches we brought, and I think we finally drank the juice through the little opening we had somehow managed to make. I don’t remember what else we ate or tried to eat. One more thing we didn’t know about the desert—at least at 6000 feet elevation in April—was that it was cold. Because we were freezing, we were wakeful through the night. We shivered all night inside our cheap sleeping bags, but, set down, this set down, I saw the starry sky I have never forgotten. The stars in that desert night sky have been the standard by which I have watched every night sky since and none have surpassed or even matched it. When I read the environmental news, I think maybe our atmosphere is now sufficiently polluted that no one can have the gift again of that starry sky. Magi or no, magic or no, god or no, I thank those stars I was lucky enough to see.*
  • Third person in line on a hike along Taylor Creek in Zion’s Kolob, a rattlesnake warned me. I had never heard the rattle before, but I knew the sound.  I have always tried to be careful.
  • Losing my way on my first hike and wandering to the rock face of the Watchman, The Narrows, West Rim Trail,  and much more.
Coral Pink Sand Dunes

Coral Pink Sand Dunes

1971 (North Rim and environs)

  • Tom and I thought we might go to Page on our day off. I don’t recall why we wanted to go to Page. Page is 123 miles from the North Rim and we had no car, but we weren’t daunted; the North Rim is a long way from everywhere. We were hitchhiking and there wasn’t much traffic. It took hours, but we finally got past Jacob Lake and off the Kaibab Plateau. We were picked up by a young Navajo family and we got to ride in the back of their pickup. It was night by the time we got to Page. It was not much of a town, and all I remember is the crazy lady who was walking around the streets talking to herself. I felt uncomfortable and sad about her. Tom, as he has in such situations since then, just felt a kindly empathy for the woman. I don’t know where or if we slept and I don’t remember how we got back to the rim in time for work the next afternoon, but it was the start of a long journey for us together.*
  • I never made it to Calf Creek Falls. A coworker Ariane and I drove in her Datsun from North Rim toward Boulder, Utah. The water came down in torrents from the fresh falls streaming off the cliffs and from the sky itself. A large boulder fell a car length and a second or two ahead. We survived, unscathed–just.  We turned around and drove to the low bridge that spanned Calf Creek. The flash flood drove the brown water far above the bridge. The rain and then the creek subsided.  We got a room, probably in Escalante. I haven’t gotten back to Calf Creek yet, but I still hope to.

1972 — 2014: Too many years and too many stories

  • I have to stop for now. If I write too many words, I don’t think people want to read them.
  • If I keep thinking of this hike or that story or that friend, my mind lives too much in the past.
  • If I write too much, I worry too much about what is going to happen to our wonderful land.
  • If I stop worrying or writing, I think the the vandals might win. So, I will be back soon.
  • Tomorrow, though, I will contemplate the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr, the hero of my youth.

 

Singletree Campground, Fishlake National Forest

Singletree Campground, Fishlake National Forest

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

 

 

Staircase to Heaven, Part 4: More Photos

When we were hiking back in Zion in 1970, my friend Pat noted that–even with the technicolor, in-your-face canyon vistas surrounding us–I spent a certain amount of time looking down at the ground. I still do that.  Below are some plant photos from the Grand Staircase and environs.

cyanobacteria with flowers, Canyonlands National Park

cyanobacteria with flowers, Canyonlands National Park

columbine, Cedar Canyon Campground, Dixie National Forest

columbine, Cedar Canyon Campground, Dixie National Forest

bluebell, Red Canyon, Dixie National Forest

bluebell, Red Canyon, Dixie National Forest

roundleaf buffaloberry, Natural Bridges National Monument

roundleaf buffaloberry, Natural Bridges National Monument

Indian paintbrush, Kolob, Zion National Park

Indian paintbrush, Kolob, Zion National Park

cliff rose, Cape Royal

cliff rose, Cape Royal, North Rim, Grand Canyon National Park

cactus, Pine Valley, Dixie National Forest

cactus, Pine Valley, Dixie National Forest

juniper, Needles Overlook

juniper, Needles Overlook

pine cones, Red Canyon, Dixie National Forest

pine cones, Red Canyon, Dixie National Forest

pinyon pine, Canyonlands National Park

pinyon pine, Canyonlands National Park

cottonwood near Canyonlands National Park

cottonwood near Canyonlands National Park

Note: My next post will be mostly words, not photos.  I wonder if I can help convince Secretary Zinke, Senator Hatch, Congressman Bishop, and others to preserve our beautiful land.

Staircase to Heaven, Part 3: Photos

Happy New Year!

Below are some photos from the Grand Staircase area of the Colorado Plateau.  Plant photos to come soon, and then, finally, words.

Kolob Canyons, Zion National Park

Kolob Canyons, Zion National Park

Altar of Sacrifice, Zion National Park

Altar of Sacrifice, Zion National Park

Trail to Angel's Landing, Zion National Park

Trail to Angel’s Landing, Zion National Park

Zion near the East Entrance

Zion near the East Entrance

Wahweap Creek, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

Wahweap Creek, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

Wahweap Hoodoos. GSENM

Wahweap Hoodoos, GSENM

Moccasin Mountain Dinosaur Tracksite, GSENM

Moccasin Mountain Dinosaur Tracksite, GSENM

dinosaur track, Moccasin Mountain Dinosaur Tracksite

dinosaur track, Moccasin Mountain Dinosaur Tracksite

Vermillion Cliffs, Kanab, GSEENM

Vermillion Cliffs, Kanab, GSENM

 Red Canyon, Dixie National Forest

Red Canyon, Dixie National Forest

The Needles, Canyonlands National Park

The Needles, Canyonlands National Park

Southeastern Utah

Southeastern Utah

Natural Bridges National Monument

Natural Bridges National Monument

Hovenweep National Monument

Hovenweep National Monument

 

Staircase to Heaven, Part 2

Colorado River (1973): Jackass Rapids/Jackass in the Rapids *

In the summer of 1973, one of my former eighth grade students (from Page, AZ) invited me to hike down to the Colorado River from near the Bitter Springs Arizona Highway Department outpost where she lived. This would be a walk down to the first rapids within what is generally considered the beginning of the Grand Canyon, not far below Navajo Bridge that spans Marble Canyon. My student said the locals called the area Jackass Rapids. I was a fair-to-middling red rock hiker back then, but it took fancy footwork to keep up with the sure-footed young girl. As my memory of the day comes into clearer focus, I think this trip might have been the girl’s answer to the environmental living elective (see Grand Staircase to Heaven, Part 1). She had not participated in the class, perhaps because, being of local pioneer stock, she already knew much more than I did about the local environment, or maybe it was just that she was already in band during the elective hour.

In any case, the sky was perfect blue and the sun was scorching and I already had sunburn from some recent hikes in Zion National Park. When we finally got down to the Colorado River, I did what I always did back then—I jumped in the water. The air temperature was probably in the mid-90s, the river was around 40°, and my back was already burnt. The resulting pain was intense and I felt like I was the jackass the place was named after. For several years afterwards my arms carried the marks of the sunburn and nowadays in the shower, I wince at cold water on my back. My memories of those Arizona and Utah times, though, remain bright: sky blue, rock red, pine green, and Colorado River brown.

sky blue, North Rim, Arizona

sky blue, North Rim, Arizona

 

rock red, Red Canyon, Dixie National Forest, Uta

rock red, Red Canyon, Dixie National Forest, Utah

pine green, Singletree Campground, Fishlake National Forest, Utah

pine green, Singletree Campground, Fishlake National Forest, Utah

Colorado River brown, Kings Bottom Campground (near Moab, Utah)

Colorado River brown, Kings Bottom Campground (near Moab, Utah)

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

Staircase to Heaven, Part 1

juniper (Juniperus osteosperma)

juniper (Juniperus osteosperma)

Then As far as I can recall, I first saw Utah’s Grand Staircase in the summer of 1970. Heading south and east from Fredonia across the Arizona Strip on U.S. 89A the road rises onto the Kaibab Plateau. Partway up in the pinyon-juniper forest is a scenic overlook. I had been to scenic overlooks before: by the Great Lakes, the Skyline Drive, and, that very summer, I was living right inside Zion National Park. Still, I had never seen a vista so vast as the Grand Staircase. Looking northward, I could see wave after wave of cliffs: the White Cliffs, the Pink Cliffs, the Gray Cliffs, on and on. It seemed like this view was also a bridge to some other plane: one that was all light, beauty, and possibility.

desert primrose (Oenothera primiveris?), Red Canyon, Dixie National Forest, Utah

desert primrose (Oenothera primiveris?), Red Canyon, Dixie National Forest, Utah

Now They did it. Last week Trump, et al. eviscerated (or, as millions of us have it, tried to eviscerate) Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Bears Ears National Monument. My response has been to put up angry and sad emojis on Facebook and to sign petitions about this and so many other outrageous actions by the current administration.

I want to do more. I want to help save this land of light, beauty, and possibility.  For the next few postings, I will tell my own stories about the Grand Staircase. I am only one person, but I have a voice, and I want to join those other voices fighting to save the monuments.


Page, Arizona (1972-73): Dialogue Journals on the Kaiparowits Plateau Road*

Besides teaching eighth grade literature in Page, I developed an elective class I called environmental living. With two notable exceptions (below), I don’t remember much about the class. First, not many students signed up for the class and second, although I was enthusiastic, I was no science teacher.  I knew more politics and theory than practical knowledge about environmental issues. The students and I grew plants (I don’t remember what kind), toured the Glen Canyon Dam, and went on a few trips out into the desert that surrounded Page.

One time the students and I took a short trip to part of Antelope Canyon, a few miles outside of Page. I could drive my Volkswagen Squareback right onto the slickrock sandstone, and the times and local culture didn’t worry about insurance or whether there were enough seatbelts to go around. The students and I reveled in the views and in sliding down the slickrock on the seats of our jeans. The success of this outing must have given me the confidence to plan a more ambitious excursion. Note: Back then my students and I could go pretty much where we wanted, but things have changed since that time. For example, now access to Antelope Canyon is now more stringently controlled by the Navajo Nation, and now a large area north of Page is part of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

I had been hankering to explore the remote area north of the Arizona/Utah border that could be accessed by what was then called the Kaiparowits Plateau Road. One snowy winter Saturday, a carful of students and I headed north on U.S. Route 89 and then took a right onto the (if memory serves) unimproved Kaiparowits Plateau Road. I don’t remember much about our activities. I think we walked around some, ate, and, like the silly brand-new teacher that I was, I let some of the students smoke cigarettes. As the afternoon advanced, we headed back toward the main road. I was driving up a long hill on the snowy road when some demon made me downshift. I knew better than that, but–all of a sudden–there we were, stalled in the middle of nowhere with the snow starting and the sun going down. The kids got out of the car and I tried again and again to get the car out of the icy tracks where it was stuck. Spinning the wheels on the ever more slick snow, of course, did more harm than good. I almost panicked, but a resourceful teacher is never without her materials.

In the back of the Volkswagen, I had a box of dialogue journals that the students and I had been writing back and forth to each other. Dialogue journals are great tools. The teacher writes a question or makes a comment to an individual student and the student writes back what he or she wants to—language correction is by modeling appropriate form, there are no grades, the sharing is whatever the student decides to share, and no one else needs to see the text. The journals were particularly great tools then, too, because I put some journals (as yet unused) under the back tires and my trusty car roared out of the icy tracks. The kids hopped back in the car and we hotfooted it back to town, just about when the parents and school people were starting to get worried.

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

Bryce Canyon looking toward the Grand Staircase

Bryce Canyon looking toward the Grand Staircase

November 2017: Some Sentences and Photographs

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.

Sentences

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.

Photographs

wasp (I don't know what variety)

wasp (I don’t know what variety)

cafe, National Gallery of Art

cafe, National Gallery of Art

Romanesco broccoli at the Rosslyn Farmers Market

Romanesco broccoli at the Rosslyn Farmers Market

greens from Kate's yard

greens from Kate’s yard

Mary Livingston Ripley Garden

Mary Livingston Ripley Garden

American elm (Ulmus americana) in front of the Museum of Natural History

American elm (Ulmus americana) in front of the Museum of Natural History

Columbia Gardens Cemetery, November 1, 2017

Columbia Gardens Cemetery, November 1, 2017

Evening in Rosslyn

Evening in Rosslyn

my mother's muffin tin; my pumpkin muffins

my mother’s muffin tin; my pumpkin muffins

 

We live in Arlington

the view from our window

the view from our window

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.

Arlington, Virginia

Arlington, Virginia

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.

birds outside our window

birds outside our window

frog in a Long Branch Pond

frog in a Long Branch pond

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.

PHO 75, Arlington, VA

PHO 75, Arlington, VA

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.

musician outside of the Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC

musician outside of the Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC

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.

Rosslyn, Arlington, September 2017

Rosslyn, Arlington, September 2017

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.

Arlington County Fair

Arlington County Fair

community resources

community resources

Watergate: the Rosslyn Garage

Watergate: the Rosslyn Garage

Rosslyn cityscape

Rosslyn cityscape

rainbow from our balcony in Rosslyn, Arlington, VA

rainbow from our balcony in Rosslyn, Arlington, VA

*Also, our friend Sharon’s mom brought a Southern Maryland specialty, spinach-stuffed ham.