Category Archives: Memoir

Midsummer Daydream

On the occasion of Tom’s and my 43rd wedding anniversary:

ravens over the Grand Canyon

ravens over the Grand Canyon

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.

Lynda and Tom, August 2016 (photo by David Moss)

Lynda and Tom, August 2016 (photo by David Moss)

cliff rose, Cape Royal

cliff rose, Cape Royal

(adapted from Losing It: Deconstructing a Life, unpublished work © Lynda Terrill, all rights reserved)

 

 

 

Earth Days: Past, Present, and Future

daffodils

daffodils

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.

Exploration

The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons

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.

swiss chard, "Rainbow Mix"

swiss chard in my garden: “Rainbow Mix”

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.

Scenic Lake, Michigan (my brother's lake; I don't have a photo of mine)

Scenic Lake, Michigan ( my brother’s lake; I don’t have photos of the lake I grew up on)

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.

Lake Superior

Lake Superior

I march for the Grand Canyon, Zion, Glacier and all the rest of the federally protected lands.

Transept Canyon from Widforss Point

Transept Canyon from Widforss Trail, North Rim of the Grand Canyon

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).

butterfly with black-eyed and verbena bonariensis

butterfly with black-eyed and verbena bonariensis

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.

Happy Spring.

 

Facts and Photos

A seldom recalled fact (except by me) is that for three years in mid-1960s, I wrote the column “Milford High School News” for The Milford Times in Milford, Michigan. Through my teen years, I also wrote articles for other junior and senior high school publications. I mention this here because the title of this post reminds me of high school verbiage: you know, “Roses and Cabbages” or something.  If I remember my columns accurately, I used plenty of passive voice, such as, ” the French Club had their spring dinner and a good time was had by all.”  I want now to write about the  hikes Tom and I have taken, the clear skies north of Sierra Vista, the kangaroo rat that jumped into our camper shell on a dark night, the Arizona sycamores, and much more.

However, I haven’t been able to clear my mind  sufficiently to write because, when I have access to the internet, I keep taking looks at my Facebook feed, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, and then I fret instead of write. We have so many problems: the attempted Muslim ban, the environment, the judiciary, the wall, women’s rights, and deranged tweets about Saturday Night Live, for god’s sake. I need to focus on what I know: There is truth and there is beauty (AKA facts and photos) and I am striving to hold onto both.

Facts I learned

  • It is generally agreed that there are four distinct desert regions in North America: Chihuahuan, Sonoran, Mojave, and Great Basin. Arizona claims to be the only state that  contains parts of all four deserts (for more information, see the article from The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum).
  • “By the time Big Bend National Park was established in 1944, there were virtually no resident bears in the Big Bend area.” However, in recent decades black bears have returned and there are approximately 8 to 12 adult bears living in the park now. (for more information, see Black Bears in Big Bend).
  • “The San Pedro River [near Sierra Vista, Arizona] is one of the last free flowing rivers in the Southwest. In 1995, the American Bird Conservancy recognized the San Pedro as its first ‘globally important bird area’ in the the United States, dubbing it the ‘largest and best example of riparian woodland remaining’ in the Southwest (from a brochure of the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area).”
  • The Arizona sycamore (Platanus wrightii)  grows in the Sonoran desert “in riparian washes and canyon bottoms between 2,000 and 6,000 feet in elevation in Arizona, New Mexico and northwestern old Mexico” (see Arizona State University online publication for more information).

Photos I took

Arizona sycamore (Platanus wrightii), Ramsey Canyon Preserve

Arizona sycamore (Platanus wrightii), Ramsey Canyon Preserve

American kestrel (Falco sparverius), Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

American kestrel (Falco sparverius), Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Tom among the sacaton, San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area

Tom among the sacaton ( Sporobolus airoides), San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area

birds (I don't know their names), San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area

birds (I don’t know their names), San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area

sunset, Joshua Tree National Park

sunset, Joshua Tree National Park

Observation

I see turmoil, anger, confusion, and sadness in our public life now. I saw a great deal of scat on the desert trails where Tom and I walked.  I am an organic gardener, so I know that scat and other organic debris enriches the soil so beautiful plants can grow. I am going with that: We have scat now, but beautiful flowers will bloom, I do believe.

scat, Murray Springs Clovis Site, Arizona

scat, Murray Springs Clovis Site, Arizona

brittlebush (Encelia farinosa), Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

brittlebush (Encelia farinosa), Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

 

Fall Back and Rise Up

maple leaf

maple leaf

So, tonight we fall back again and it can’t come too soon for me.

I love all the seasons, but most of all, I love autumn.  One might think that an odd choice for a gardener.  November has no crocuses (well, Tom tried autumn-blooming crocuses one year, but the squirrels ate them all before we ever saw any blooms) and no crowds or hosts of daffodils.  I have a few peppers hanging on and a couple of cherry tomatoes, but that’s it for summer.

I do not like the hot and humid summer of Virginia, but I love preparing my nest for the winter. Around here, that means finally needing a light comforter with the window open just a bit.  I love soup and chili and, yes, I love football, cider, doughnuts, and good apples.

apples, Charlottesville City Market

apples, Charlottesville City Market

Shifting Gears: Recurrent Fears Every four autumns since I was old enough to vote, I worry about the presidential election. When I taught school in Page, Arizona,  I voted absentee for George McGovern. Later, in Salt Lake City, I voted for Jimmy Carter, even though I always did like Jerry Ford.  In Arlington, Virginia, I couldn’t believe the United States could vote in Ronald Reagan. Reality showed me. I know who won the election in 2000 (the one in fact and the one by Supreme Court fiat). I didn’t believe that George W. Bush could be re-elected after the photos of Abu Ghraib were published.  Now, I am aghast at the specter of  the possibility of a  demagogue poised to claim the presidency by the vote or by the mob.

Tuesday night our friends Daphne and Tom are coming for a sleepover so we can stay up and watch the election returns together.  Reminds me of a pajama party of my youth, where we girls screamed over Psycho. Talk about déjà vu. I think we will all need blankets to cover our heads when scary returns come in. We will be okay, though.  Tom will be making comfort food: spaghetti and meatballs and garlic toast. No one’s (that I’ve tasted) meatballs and spaghetti are as good as Tom’s are and we will have a green salad of lettuce, chard, arugula, and herbs fresh-picked from my fall garden.  I have been considering what dessert will be the homiest and most comforting and I have decided on apple crisp.  I am using Joy of Cooking‘s recipe, which tastes the most like my mom’s–talk about comfort.

The leaves still fall with sunny abandon, so I am not (too) afraid.

path, Ivy Creek Natural Area

path, Ivy Creek Natural Area

I believe that what Maya Angelou wrote (see Still I Rise ) is true for all of us:

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Maybe Tuesday or maybe later, I believe–as I have since childhood–that we will rise all of us: stronger and better together.

 

September 1999

Tom's rose, Awakening

Awakening

In September 1999, a former adult ESL student of mine was found dead in the trunk of a car a few blocks from our school.

Today, thanks to the efforts of many, including the Arlington County (VA) Police Department’s Cold Case Unit, a suspect has been extradited from Guatemala to Arlington, Virginia.  I don’t want to to write my former student’s name here (and certainly not his), but you can find them somewhere if you want.

I just want to tell you a little bit about her.  She was young. She was sweet and funny.  When our class walked over to the park for a picnic and games, she could really belt the softball (it might have been a hardball).

It might have been for Valentine’s Day, but, anyhow, she gave me a little redbird music box that chirped Beethoven’s  “Ode to Joy.”

I took the bird off my bookshelf a few minutes ago.  I had thought the little bird stopped chirping years ago, but she chirped a few bars for me.

O friends, no more of these sounds!
Let us sing more cheerful songs,
More songs full of joy!
Joy!
Joy! (taken from a translation of Schiller’s lyrics at http://classicalmusic.about.com/od/romanticperiodsymphonies/qt/Beethovenjoytxt.htm)

Joy to you somewhere, my dear.

Ode to Joy redbird

Ode to Joy redbird

 

Report from June 20, 2016

awakening,Tom's rose

awakening, Tom’s rose

This morning I have been whistling snippets of Mendelssohn’s Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  This pleased me because I love that music and because I was happy to note that I was whistling again.  I haven’t whistled much these last years. I think maybe one has to be more lighthearted than I am or have a younger mouth than I do. In any case, this morning’s whistling sounded pretty good to me.

I started whistling when I was very young.  I remember wandering around the backyard in Detroit just whistling. I don’t know how I learned to whistle, but I was proud of my skill. I did love to whistle Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah long before I understood the baggage that went with the song. My dad was a whistler, too.  Sometimes, when we were stuck waiting in the car, Dad would whistle to amuse us children.  He would whistle Khachaturian’s Sabre Dance and other war horses.

When I was in college, I used to whistle as I walked home alone at night from class or the library, but it wasn’t because I was scared.  It was because it was dark, maybe a little damp, and because the music I made sounded beautiful to me. I whistled the love theme from Zeffirelli’s movie Romeo and Juliet, various bits from Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suites, “I am a Maid of Constant Sorrow,” and, of course, the Sabre Dance.

For many years, I whistled a bit of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, ditties from medieval Christmas music, and whatever else my ear and mouth could pick up.

Late this morning, it finally dawned on me why I was whistling the Mendelssohn. It was Midsummer yet again, 42 years after Tom and I were married in Salt Lake City. That was long before life became so–I don’t know, less a romantic ideal and more visceral and earnest. We were lucky then with our dear family and friends with us to celebrate and we are lucky now to have each other still, even if the whistling is halting and off-key.

I don’t know if I ever whistled this song, but I surely sang it through all these years:

What I’ll give you since you asked
Is all my time together;
Take the rugged sunny days,
The warm and rocky weather,
Take the roads that I have walked along,
Looking for tomorrow’s time,
Peace of mind.

As my life spills into yours,
Changing with the hours
Filling up the world with time,
Turning time to flowers,
I can show you all the songs
That I never sang to one man before.

We have seen a million stones lying by the water,
You have climbed the hills with me
To the mountain shelter.
Taken off the days, one by one,
Setting them to breathe in the sun.

Take the lilies and the lace
From the days of childhood,
All the willow winding paths
Leading up and outward.
This is what I give
This is what I ask you for;
Nothing more

Judy Collins, “Since You’ve Asked,”  Wildflowers, 1967

In the High Sierras

In the High Sierras

Bee’s Knees and Bears Ears

So far this morning I have: skimmed the front section of the New York Times, worked on yesterday’s crossword puzzle, swept the floor (picking up stray oat shards that fell off the bran muffins), emptied the dishwasher, washed and dried clothes, plumped up the bath rugs in the dryer, tried to clean the cushions for the porch chairs, and corresponded with friends and relatives. All of this was not in an effort to be neat and efficient, but to pile up more tasks in order to avoid finishing this blog post. I began this post over three weeks ago, but I have not wanted to finish it. Part of this reluctance may be because, especially in this over-heated political climate, I want to avoid writing about political topics. As my friend Sharon said once, I do like to please people. I think, though, the bigger stumbling block is that I don’t know how to synthesize my ideas and feelings to express them succinctly in these few paragraphs. Synthesized or not, succinct or not, I am done waffling. Hold back the edges of your gowns, Ladies*, I’m going back in.

By the time I was 20 years old, I had pretty much given up the idea that politics could or would save the world. Earlier on, I had thought that non-violent political and social engagement could do that. That’s why I majored in political science. That’s why I had canvassed for Martin Luther King Jr. and had rallied against the war in Vietnam, had tried to organize to save Biafran babies, and had written about preventing the Alaskan pipeline. Well, the war in Vietnam did end eventually, but, in significant ways, the other causes haven’t worked out well.

I was 20 when the news of the Kent State massacre wafted into Zion Canyon where I was living. I felt pain and outrage for a bit and then the canyon and the sky took me back.

Zion Canyon

Zion Canyon

I spent three summers on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Back then we were mostly isolated from the news. Instead of the news, we listened to the wind in the ponderosas and the calls of the ravens.

ravens over the Grand Canyon

ravens over the Grand Canyon

When I was 22, I taught public school for one year in Page, Arizona, just outside the Navajo Nation. This was challenging for me because of loneliness, school bureaucracy, and fairly rampant ethnocentrism. This experience was also an honor for me because of the land outside my classroom, some caring colleagues, and the students themselves.

Those early years in wild country passed quickly and I settled in close to the ground with my husband, my children, and whatever little bit of land I had to garden. This is where I have mostly remained. However, sometimes I force myself to bring my head up.

our garden

our garden

Bee’s knees: Already this spring, I have seen a few wasps, several bumblebees, several types of native bees, one cabbage butterfly, a couple of yellow swallowtails (or one twice) and another unidentified butterfly flying across the street. A few blocks away, I saw what looked to be a couple of honeybees among the flowers. I am hopeful that we legions of organic gardeners and farmers, and other assorted tree huggers will stem the tides of poison, disequilibrium, and destruction of our earth and its inhabitants. I plant my garden and I look (and find) signs of hope. Recently, I moved a clay pot that had over-wintered on my front porch and I startled a red-backed salamander. About a week ago, Tom discovered a garter (most likely) snake in one of my rock piles. Two evenings ago, I attended a presentation about non-honeybee pollinators at Ivy Creek Natural Area here in Charlottesville. It appears that many varieties of native bees and other arthropods are continuing to pollinate the flora for us, but we need to plant more native plants, and, of course, refrain from using poison.

bee and flower, Idaho Botanical Garden

bee and flower, Idaho Botanical Garden

Bear Ears: Ever since it came in the mail last Saturday (now almost a month ago), I’ve been wearing my “Protect Bears Ears” tee shirt to the gym and around the neighborhood.The few people that have commented on it seem to think this is an initiative to make sure that bears have adequate hearing protection.

No, it’s not about that. I have brought my head up from my comfortable dirt, rocks, and plants and I am becoming political again. Bears Ears is the name for an area of Southeastern Utah, east and south of Canyonlands National Park. Many Native Americans and environmental groups are calling on President Obama to name this area a national monument through the Antiquities Act. Some people  advocate leaving the control (and designation of use now and in the future) of this approximately 1.9 million acres of land to the state of Utah. Since I am adverse to, well, adversity, it’s a relief that people around here don’t seem to know what my shirt is referring to.  Confession: A couple of weeks ago realizing that many other gym goers’ tee shirts sport names of races, vacation spots, or bars, I chickened out and started wearing my wordless tee shirts again. This week, I toughened up and tried to put my body where my heart was.

My heart is with the native people of the Colorado Plateau—Diné, Hopi, Ute, Zuni and others. In many instances back in Page, my students, their families, and their cultures were not respected. It looks like there are still some people now who disrespect and disregard the cultures and histories of the groups who have lived in the Colorado Plateau hundreds (and thousands) of years before the pioneers settled there in the latter half of the 1800s.

bullet holes in pictographs, Southern Utah

bullet holes in pictographs, Southern Utah

My heart is with the rock, sand, and sky of Southern Utah. I believe that this land should be preserved for all the inhabitants of this earth. I hope that President Obama will designate the Bears Ears a national monument.

Southeastern Utah

Southeastern Utah

There. I have said my piece and I am hunkering down close to the ground again.

protect Bears Ears

protect Bears Ears

For more information about Bears Ears, please see: The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, The Grand Canyon Trust, and many articles in the Salt Lake Tribune and other periodicals available online.

* Thank you, William Carlos Williams and Allen Ginsberg (see the introduction to Howl and Other Poems).