Excuses Although it is March, I still haven’t transferred all of my phone numbers, passwords, and other data from my 2017 Audubon Birder’s Engagement Calendar to my 2018 Audubon Birder’s Engagement Calendar. This transfer usually happens early in January (see Old Year, New Year: Flexibility, Part 3). Part of the delay may simply be that there is so much minutia scrawled in the 2017 book that I am daunted by the task of transferring it to the new book.
I think the real reason might be more fundamental, though. I have been sitting here — each day at once agitated and inert–waiting to see what happens next to our country. My own version of Potomac fever, I am afraid. And I am afraid: I used to tell my children that our country had had difficult times before and had gotten through it. Now, I believe the current regime and its attendant problems are by far the worst in my lifetime. I went to one march so far this year and will soon go to another. I sign petitions. I walk. I do my weights and stretches, and sometimes I even do my planks. I photograph flowers and trees. On TV, I watch cooking shows and basketball games. I think spring is coming. I believe my hibernation is ending and my hope is growing.
Happy Interlude In early February, Tom and I camped for three nights in the Big Cypress National Preserve and for one night in Everglades National Park. We saw alligators and manatees; anhingas and egrets, mangrove islands and dolphins, and much more.
Spring is Coming Wood frogs are mating in vernal pools here in Arlington, Virginia. Salamanders are on the move. Daffodils are blooming and so is the witch hazel and some forsythia. Almost two weeks ago a cherry tree was blossoming at Arlington National Cemetery. Tourist groups are massing on the National Mall. I think it is time to put aside my 2017 almanac and rejoin this year, this fight, and this life.
Staircase to Heaven, again
1972–1973 (North Rim and environs)
Did I ever tell you about the time I got dropped off at Pipe Springs National Monument? I was on my way from the North Rim to my friend Anita’s wedding reception in Salt Lake City. Someone drove me to Pipe Springs–on the Arizona Strip–87 miles from the Grand Canyon Lodge where I worked. I tried to hitch a ride from Pipe Springs to Cedar City, Utah so I could catch a plane to Salt Lake. At least back then, Arizona State Road 389 was not a well traveled road.
After some time, Pipe Springs National Monument closed for the day. It got dark and I felt forlorn and probably a little scared. I settled down in the ditch beside the road. I wasn’t about to take my chances standing on the side of the road through the night. I worried some and I slept some. Morning came, someone picked me up, and I made my flight to Salt Lake and the wedding reception. I was an idiot back then, no doubt, but all that expansive sky, sand, canyons, and forests made me feel that all was possible, all was good, and I would not be harmed.
Angry and sad aside: Most of my life now, this Grand Staircase, this Colorado Plateau, has been for me not only the land of the beautiful, but also of the good and hospitable. I want to scream and cry and kick and yes, hate, as I see people and entities want to destroy this land. I don’t do those things: I am still trying for the beautiful and good.
So many more stories to tell, but I think I am finished for now. I wanted to tell you about Hop Valley, the double rainbows on the snowy road to Bryce, pine nut gathering at Cape Royal, the smell of the ponderosas in the sunlight, and Chesler Park in late winter.
Now, I will march, I will sign petitions, I will walk. In the end of summer, we may be at North Rim again, and, in November I will vote.
Thank you for listening.
Here are some photos:
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.
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.
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.
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.
*(adapted from Losing It: Deconstructing a Life, unpublished work © Lynda Terrill, all rights reserved)
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.
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.