Tag Archives: Salt Lake City

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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)

 

 

 

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.

 

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

The Wedding Quilt

To me, the title of this post sounds like these words should be in an anthology of sentimental pioneer stories written in the late 1800s.  This is the title I want, however, so I am wondering where these words will lead me.

Looking Backward: Forty years ago next June, my sister-in-law, Betsy, made my husband, Tom, and me a quilt as our wedding gift.  It took many months for the whole project to come together.  Tom drew Hopi designs (or at least what Frank Waters thought were Hopi designs) on squares of cloth and Betsy embroidered them. She patched these squares together with squares of cloth she had taken from old shirts, skirts, and jeans.  The skeleton around the patches was dark blue broadcloth (I think that’s what you call it). The quilt warmed our beds in our dumpy Salt Lake City apartments. The quilt was bright, bold, and strong, just as we all felt back then.

quilt detail: turtle

quilt detail: turtle

I gather now that I wasn’t supposed to wash the quilt as much as I did. However, there were  the two of us and two babies (mewling and puking), and I  like things clean. Please keep this in mind for a few paragraphs.

quilt detail: Hopi figure

quilt detail: Hopi figure

Way Back: I never could sew and I can’t sew now. I mean, I can sew on buttons and fix little rips and that is  it.  Because I wanted to make Christmas gifts by hand for my kids and because I was poor, I did piece together a few  flannel nightgowns, some stuffed animals, and, I believe, a Superman cape for Robert, and sleeping bags for Martha the doll and Railroad Dog the stuffed animal.  Way Way Back: I’m so old, I was required to take Home Ec when I was in 7th grade.  I made the worst, the ugliest, the craziest-pleated kilt in Milford (MI)  Junior High  history.  I kept it for years, although I do not know why.  Please keep this mind, too.

quilt detail: sun figure

quilt detail: sun figure

Fifteen Years Ago: Some of the patches on the wedding quilt were falling apart. Maybe I had washed it too much.   A few patches almost disappeared along with some of the embroidery. We bought bright—but not as bright—quilts and coverlets at L.L. Bean and  packed the wedding quilt away.

Not Too Many Years Ago: Tom and I started thinking about what we might do when we retired.  We planned to travel back to Utah and explore the places we’d missed, like Capitol Reef and Escalante.  We told Betsy we’d pick her up from her little Utah town and go adventuring together again.

Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef

Five Years Ago: Betsy just up and died and we miss her.

2013: A) Tom and I went adventuring on the Colorado Plateau. We saw Black Dragon Canyon with Blaine and Bonnie, but Betsy, their dear friend, wasn’t there.  We camped in Capitol Reef and it was even better than we had imagined. B) We got back to our house in Charlottesville, Virginia. We took some paintings out of storage.  The wedding quilt was protecting one of the paintings.  We lay the quilt on the lawn and saw that, really, only a handful of patches needed to be repaired.

quilt on lawn

quilt on lawn

Two Weeks Ago: I can’t sew worth anything, but I finished repairing the wedding quilt.  It lies now on our bed and we will put it in the camper to go back to Utah when the new year comes. Although the quilt, and we ourselves, are not as bright, bold, and strong as when we were young, it’s alright, and, this time, Betsy will come along with us.

quilt repaired

quilt, repaired

Here’s the song that always reminded us of Betsy:

Oh, had I a golden thread
And a needle so fine
I’ve weave a magic strand
Of rainbow design
Of rainbow design.

In it I’d weave the bravery
Of women giving birth,
In it I would weave the innocence
Of children over all the earth,
Children of all earth.

Show my brothers and sisters
My rainbow design,
Bind up this sorry world
With hand and heart and mind,
Hand and heart and mind.

(The Judy Collins version (from Whales and Nightingales, 1970)  of “Oh, Had I a Golden Thread” by Pete Seeger, 1959)

Flexibility, Part 2

In my last post, I noted that I thought my physical flexibility was lessening somewhat.  I am not happy about that, but my chief concern is that I remain (or maybe the correct phrase is become more) mentally and emotionally flexible.

I like to think that, at least sometimes, I embody definition #3 for flexible: “characterized by a ready capability to adapt to new, different, or changing requirements….” (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/flexible) This is not just some random idea I picked up on the Internet.  I did once have an actual mental health professional called me flexible (and, for the record, resilient also).  My family seems to expect me to be flexible and I think they are more or less satisfied with me on that point. I was going to write that my coworkers have generally thought I was flexible, but I don’t think that is completely true.  However, many of my coworkers/friends have found me friendly, cooperative, and non-doctrinaire.  Anyhow, back to considering my flexibility quotient:

How I have become or tried to become more flexible:  

  • I now like to listen to opera.  This is not because I’ve changed my bourgeois Midwestern spots. It’s just that our parrot friend Phoenix enjoys opera and I trust his instincts.
Phoeni

Phoenix

  • I used to despise eggplant.  I don’t blame myself.  I think when I was young, I only had tasted horrible school-lunch style eggplant parmesan. I mentioned this dislike to an Afghan student.  She said that she would change my mind when I tasted her eggplant dish.  She was right and between the baba ganoush and that Chinese dish of fried eggplant with lots of garlic, I am now a dedicated fan.  In fact, I am growing four Japanese eggplants this year (a huge crop when one gardens on 1/20 of an acre as I do).
eggplant

eggplant

  • Time was—back when I was a new gardener—just sighting a slug was cause for loud complaints and gross-out noises. There was the time I ran barefooted to answer the phone and stepped on a giant, spotted, end-of-summer specimen. I washed off my foot in the tub for five minutes.  The thought of slug slime on my foot was just too much for me to bear.  It’s been a rainy spring and early summer here and just last week, I flipped a page of The New York Times Magazine, which had been out on the patio, and found a slug making itself comfortable inside.  I took the slug outside and, with Tom’s help, we liberated it.  I don’t usually even sprinkle my diatomaceous earth around the vegetables to tear the slugs’ little bodies.  Life’s tough enough all around already without it.
diatomaceous earth

diatomaceous earth

  • About five years ago at one of our Deep Creek, Maryland family meetings, one of my sisters-in-law  introduced me to Sudoku. Not only introduced me, but left her puzzle book for me to finish. She told me that, to begin with, it was okay to fill out a few of the squares—using the answers in the back—to help me get the idea.  Well, it took me more time than I want to admit to figure out the logic involved in Sudoku, and I still cheat on every game I play.  At first, I kept playing because the puzzles were fun and because I love my sister-in-law and her book.  Later, I played compulsively to help me through a tough patch or two. Also, at the back of my mind, I remembered that pop culture tells us that doing this stuff (crosswords, playing bridge, etc.) is supposed to help keep our cognitive functioning up to snuff—flexible, that is. I have about a fifth of the puzzles in the book yet to complete, so I guess I will see whether my slow and unsteady pace wins the prize of maintaining well-oiled cognition.
Sudoku

Sudoku

  • I was the youngest of five children and so I never spent too much time alone when I was growing up.  I had roommates in college and at my first jobs away from home.  Then, for two quarters—maybe one—when I started graduate school, I lived alone in a cellar—more or less—in Salt Lake City. Some things happened there. A figure crouched at my window in the night staring down at me in my cellar. A thief robbed me of my Zuni bracelet, my mother’s brooch, and the Swiss Army knife I kept by my bed for safety. Many early mornings a greasy crone greeted me when I stumbled from my little space through the laundry area to my even smaller bathroom. I was not a success first time out alone.  So, later on, married with kids, I used to worry when my husband would go away on business trips.  I don’t know what I expected. We had nothing much to steal and, by this point, we lived in nice neighborhoods.  When the children got a bit older and life became—let’s say—complicated and, maybe, not easy, I learned something new. The scary things were no longer separate from me crouching above my bed the way they had been when I was young.  I realized that the fear, insecurity, and pain were inside of me.  I became flexible (and resilient) because I had to do so. And I keep trying most days.

Note: My husband read these words and mentioned that I haven’t  actually explained why I became flexible. I guess that’s because a) I don’t know why and b) it’s not totally true. Maybe it’s because as the youngest child and the only girl, I fit naturally into the already well-developed family structure: not too much complaining or crying or I couldn’t tag along; once a brother deemed me able to walk home from kindergarten by myself, I just had to find my way home (I did); don’t flinch when the hardball comes at you–hold your glove in the right place.  As an adult, I have sometimes taken sips from the cup of bitterness.  Happily, I never gulped.  Instead, I would remember the Bob Dylan lines, “Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now” (from My Back Pages) and it  has seemed true for me, whenever I shook loose of the bitterness.  Also, I am a stick-in-the-mud about many things–from how I put dirty dishes in the dishwasher to my politics. Furthermore, I am becoming less flexible and resilient about driving.

I don’t know whether or not my examples have convinced you or me that I am flexible.However, when I have been writing, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about some words from a W.B. Yeats poem that give me comfort.  Here they are from  “A Dialogue of Self and Soul”:

I am content to follow to its source
Every event in action or in thought;
Measure the lot; forgive myself the lot!
When such as I cast out remorse
So great a sweetness flows into the breast
We must laugh and we must sing,
We are blest by everything,
Everything we look upon is blest.

From The Winding Stair and Other Poems, 1933