Tag Archives: North Rim

Page, AZ

I’ve been thinking about Page, Arizona quite a bit lately. That’s because I read about the closing of the Navajo Generating Station, located on the Navajo Nation near Page. In 1972, Page was booming as the generating station with its three 775 ft. stacks was being built. The school population was also booming and I was hired to teach eighth grade literature. Through the years, I’ve told you a few stories about Page and there are more.

My parents took this photo at 4:45 A.M., August 12, 1972 as I headed west–Milford, Mi to Page, AZ–in Pippin the VW

I’ve been reminiscing about Page lately,  but I think about education pretty much all the time. That comes from being the daughter, sister, cousin, aunt, and friend of teachers. Tomorrow many students and teachers are returning to school after the winter holiday, so I am thinking about them.  I’m not sure what the students in my classes learned, but my year in Page was a goldmine of life lessons for me.

What I learned*

  • Consider how you label people. I was reading aloud one of the stupid memos from the office (see Up the Down Staircase, Bel Kaufman, 1965), which said something like “all the Indian children should go to the office.” E_________ , a Navajo, or perhaps more correctly, Dine, said, “I am not from India.” Got it.
  • Keep your own counsel. I was so enthusiastic and idealistic that I didn’t realize that it’s generally best to keep one’s cards close to one’s chest. I still have a little trouble with this one, but I am savvier than I used to be. Now you wouldn’t find me (without support from others, at least) asking the principal to let me have someone come in to talk to the kids about drugs. No matter that a number of the kids likely were more familiar with drugs than I was and that I despised drugs then, as I do now. It just made me look like a druggie/hippie, and it didn’t help the kids.
  • There is a place for decorousness. There is a uniform. Speaking of chests: I needed to work on a bulletin board one Sunday after I had been away somewhere in the country. On such journeys and under my camping outfit I did not usually wear a bra. I remember I was just wearing my trusty flowered thermal long-underwear shirt. As I was working on the bulletin board, one of my male students showed up. He was a nice kid—I forget his name, but I can almost see him. “Hi, Mrs. Schmedlen,” but his eyes were on the shirt. I had thought no one would be around, but I am still embarrassed about the encounter. Even now, contrariness makes me not want to wear the uniform. Still, I was raised right and I do know what uniforms go with which cultural encounters.
  • Beware of shopping baskets full of wine. Because school started in August and the North Rim (see Cookies on the North Rim and Ain’t No Reason to Go in a Wagon to Town) stayed opened until mid-October when the snows came, I occasionally still got up to see my Grand Canyon friends. In fact—shades of the Zeitgeist—twice that fall semester, Friday classes were called off early because of bomb threats. I never knew who called in the threats—student, teacher, administrator, or outside agitator. There were no bombs, no one was in danger, but I was able to head up to the rim early. I am mentioning this because I had become a traveler between the isolation of the rim and the fairly poor excuse for civilization Page was back then. My North Rim friend—everyone’s friend—Paula happened to be in a cheap wine phase. So, she asked me to stock up on Annie Green Springs to bring to her the next time I went up to the rim. Being an agreeable person, I went to Babbitts and picked up many bottles of cheap wine. I was just completing that one errand, so I don’t think I had anything else in the basket. Since Babbitts was the main grocery store in town then, it was not surprising that I met a student with parent in tow. I don’t think they failed to notice my shopping basket half full of wine. Maybe that’s why, some months later, after I took a day off to get Pippin the Volkswagen worked on in Flagstaff, a rumor surfaced. One of the kids told me that some kids thought I was home drinking to “celebrate the end of the war in Vietnam.”
  • Mental health days are occasionally appropriate. Like serious teachers everywhere, I got up early, worked hard all day, bought extra supplies, made materials, prepared for classes, and corrected papers. I used to correct papers and prepare lessons on the bed in my bedroom in the school system owned apartment I shared with the school librarian. As long as I owned those sheets, they carried the pen marks where I had done my school prep. Another thing I did with those sheets was get eight hours of sleep every night. I think if I hadn’t enough sleep, I wouldn’t have been strong enough to carry on. Maybe you are laughing a little bit now and maybe I am, too. I have by now done many more difficult things in my life than teach eighth grade literature. However, in my defense, it was the hardest thing I had had to do so far in my life and I think I acquitted myself well enough. I remember that when my mother was teaching she would on rare occasions take what she called a “mental health day.” Teaching is emotionally and physically demanding, and, yes, we teachers owe it to ourselves and our students to be up to the challenge. I think I took one mental health day that year in Page. No, it was not to get drunk to celebrate the end of the war in Vietnam. I don’t even remember the day specifically, but it was good to be able to follow my mother’s example.
  • Arm-wrestling was useful then, but is not currently advised. Because of my tom-boy (as we called it then) childhood tagging along with my four brothers, I had spent my share of time arm wrestling. It turned out I could usually out arm-wrestle the boys in class who challenged me. I don’t know how it started, but I do remember that almost all of the boys were taller than me and my arm-wrestling prowess seemed to give me a smidgeon of credibility. One day a likeable, talkative boy was goofing around too much. Holding on to his shirt, I picked him up out of his seat, told him to stop and put him back in the chair. He calmed down after that and was even friendlier to me than before. Another time, another charming, lively kid was goofing off around by my desk. I gave him a friendly poke with my pencil, but I was holding the pencil backwards, so I gave myself a little puncture wound and I still have the mark on my right palm to remember the incident. What am I saying–that violence is good? No, I was the only teacher there who wouldn’t use a paddle on the kids. I am saying that engagement on some non-academic level can break down barriers and build trust for both teachers and learners. I don’t disagree with rules that have been put in place to protect children. I think those rules need to be in place, but adults need to know what is reasonable, appropriate conduct for teachers, not ban them from putting a friendly hand on an arm or having a friendly arm-wrestle. This looks like a slippery slope that can be argued longer than I care to think about it.
  • I almost didn’t tell you this story, but I was encouraged to put it back in the narrative. The kids used to come up around my desk sometimes to ask and tell me things. Looking back, I think there was a certain amount of low-pitched pandemonium in my classes, but the desk routine plays pretty well in my memory, except for this episode. One time, S____, a Navajo with cowboy boots and bowed legs, was one of the kids around the desk. I gave him what I meant to be a jocular and affectionate mild little push on his arm and he fell down on the floor. What—from all my years of watching TV westerns—I had imagined were bowed legs from riding horses (maybe like Gabby Hayes) were something else. I now believe the child had rickets and I knocked him down as if he were a feather. I am so sorry. Sorry that I was so stupid and sorry that any child in the 1970s (a much better economic time than we have now, BTW) could be suffering from such a malady. I wonder if I have learned anything except that remorse is a stubborn emotion. Be careful and be tender, but I’ve found that a little difficult to keep in mind all the time.
  • Children need to learn how to control themselves. In the years before and after Page, I have seen many kinds of discipline. Discipline is still not my strong suit, and I have been glad that I have hardly ever had to apply overt discipline to an adult ESL student. Plus, I’ve seen strong disciplinarians who were kind, effective, and who always had the learners’ best interests at heart. I still believe what my dad once told me: that children need to learn how to control themselves and overly hard discipline by the teacher won’t help them to get there. Someone recently asked me, what does help children learn self-control? I think I have learned to be a quite self-controlled person, but I don’t have an answer for this question. I think maybe our experiences teach us things (e.g. stoves are hot), but I don’t think that gives teachers the right to be preemptively and overly strict to try to teach children life lessons. I don’t know; I just don’t like bullies. We all have to learn to control ourselves. I continue to work on it, with some success and with some failure.

Happy back to school, teachers and students!

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

Narrowing and Focusing: Traveling Home

The Watchman, Zion National Park

I began teaching composition approximately 45 years ago.  In all that time, I am not sure that I  managed to help many novice writers become more effective writers of expository prose. However, I did read hundreds of essays and write many comments.  Over the decades, I found that the same few bits of advice remained constant: narrow and focus the topic, have a clear thesis, give specific examples, and do not overstate.

I am thinking of about expository prose today because I am struggling  (again) with my own writing.  How will I be able to distill a six week road trip into a narrow and focused thesis-driven post that includes specific examples and which does not overstate?  I don’t know–maybe I won’t be able to manage it–but I can comfort myself with a bulleted list. I don’t  understand writing, but I do believe words have power.*

  • Our Route: Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, Arizona, California, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia
  • Birds: I hauled along my new binoculars (see Vision Quest), but I didn’t use them much. The binoculars seem a little heavy around my neck and they annoy me when they bang on my chest when I walk.  Still, I think I spotted a few golden eagles this trip, and perhaps a bald eagle.  We saw  hawks, Steller’s jays, a red-headed woodpecker in Wind Cave National Park, a hairy woodpecker in City of Rocks National Reserve, and more.
  • Favorite Set of Facts: “Roosevelt credited his Dakota experiences as the basis of his ground-breaking preservation efforts and the shaping of his own character. As president 1901-09, he translated his love of nature into law. He established the US Forest Service and signed the 1906 Antiquities Act, under which he proclaimed 18 national monuments. He worked with Congress to create five national parks, 150 national forests, and dozens of federal reserves–over 230 million acres of protected land” (From the National Park Service information pamphlet for Theodore Roosevelt National Park).
  • Not narrowed, not focused, not in proper order, but here is my thesis: We traveled home the whole six weeks of our journey.
    • Home was with my brothers and sisters-in-law.  We visited them in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan at the beginning of the journey. Later on, we were lucky to be able to travel in Nevada, Arizona, and Utah with two of these dear ones.
    • Home was with our friends in Salt Lake City and near Cromberg, CA.
    • Walking through mountains, forests, prairies, and canyons felt like home.
    • I am from Michigan: Water has always felt like home to me.
    • North Rim and Zion: it was old home week for the soul.
    • Kind strangers we met along the way made us feel at home. (Tom just suggested that I need to be more specific. Haha, see one of the bits of advice, above. I am talking about the bellman at North Rim, the tour bus driver in Zion, the server at the Duluth Grill, fellow hikers on the trail, people in line at the Huron Mountain Bakery in Marquette and many others.
    • Tom and I were on the road again, but we were at home together.

*NOTE: Because of the ongoing Kavanaugh debacle (my home is about 4.5 miles by foot from the U.S. Congress), I am somewhat sad and angry today.  Thinking and writing about beautiful places, family, and friends helps me feel somewhat hopeful.

In the Sierras

in the Sierras

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park, Michigan

Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park, Michigan

Lake Superior

Lake Superior

Grand Canyon from the North Rim

Grand Canyon from the North Rim

Tom above Lake of the Clouds, Michigan

Tom above Lake of the Clouds, Michigan

reading in the van

reading in the van

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Am in the Middle of a Mirage

Yes, I am at the Mirage in Las Vegas this afternoon.  It seems like an accurate name to me: This place is just a mirage to me.  The North Rim is what is real to me. I remember again the words of J.W. Powell in his The Exploration of the Colorado and Its Canyons:

Still farther east is the Kaibab Plateau [including the North Rim], culminating table-land of the region. It is covered with a beautiful forest, and in the forest charming parks are found. Its southern extremity is a portion of the wall of the Grand Canyon….Here antelope feed and many a deer goes bounding over the fallen timber. In winter deep snows lie here, but the plateau has four months of the sweetest summer man has ever known. (p. 102)

from Bright Angel Point

from Bright Angel Point

clouds and vegetation, North Rim

clouds and vegetation, North Rim

Deva, Brahma, and Zoroaster

Deva, Brahma, and Zoroaster

from Point Imperial

from Point Imperial

Transept Canyon

Transept Canyon

Transept Canyon sunset

Transept Canyon sunset

Excuses, Spring is Coming, and One More Staircase Story

day planners old and new

day planners old and new

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.

oak leaves and crocus

oak leaves and crocus

scilla, Mary L. Ripley Garden

scilla, Mary L. Ripley Garden

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.

gulf fritillary, Big Cypress National Preserve

gulf fritillary, Big Cypress National Preserve

great blue heron, Shark Valley, Everglades National Park

great blue heron, Shark Valley, Everglades National Park

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.

sign, Gulf Branch Nature Center, Arlington, Virginia

sign, Gulf Branch Nature Center, Arlington, Virginia

witch hazel, Mary L. Ripley Garden

witch hazel, Mary L. Ripley Garden

early cherry blossoms, Arlington National Cemetery

early cherry blossoms, Arlington National Cemetery


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:

aspens, La Sal Mountains

near Chesler Park, The Needles, Canyonlands National Park

near Chesler Park, The Needles, Canyonlands National Park

In the Needles District, Canyonlands National Park

In the Needles District, Canyonlands National Park

clouds, Natural Bridges National Monument

clouds, Natural Bridges National Monument

our camper in Capitol Reef National Park

our camper in Capitol Reef National Park

ponderosas on the North Rim

ponderosas on the North Rim

 

 

 

 

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 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)

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

 

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.