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)
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: