Today is the day
The meadowlark sang for me
Spring can begin now.
Today is the day
The meadowlark sang for me
Spring can begin now.
There are a lot of stages to growth. It doesn’t happen easily or quickly. Sometimes it occurs in fits and starts. You make some progress, level off, and stay at that stage for a while until you feel the next wave of growth building to propel you forward again. Although, like most people, I have wanted growth to come more quickly, I now appreciate the process more. I used to be anxious or frustrated with the leveling off until I realized those periods of my life allowed me to recuperate and prepare for the next stretch. I think we’d all like to be like a super hero, maybe Superman. We just want to close ourselves off for a brief moment and then emerge fully transformed into our stronger, braver selves. It just doesn’t work that way. It takes 18 years for a child to physically mature into an adult. So why should we think our emotional growth should be an overnight transformation? Growth requires time, patience, and energy.
While thinking about this today, I was reminded of an episode from LOST. Charlie, a recovering drug addict, asks John Locke to hold his heroin stash. John agrees and tells him he will hold it until Charlie requests it three times. On the third time, Locke will relinquish the drugs. When Charlie asks Locke the second time, Locke points to a moth in a nearby cocoon. He shows Charlie a small hole at the top of the cocoon that the moth has worked to create. He could, Locke tells Charlie, make the hole bigger to help the moth out, but the struggle to escape is what strengthens the moth for its life journey. If Locke assists the moth, the moth might not be strong enough to survive on its own.
This is why the struggle is real and vitally important. Struggle increases our strength. It’s in the struggle that we gain the fortitude to grow on, to move to the next stage of development. The tears, the anxiety, the discomfort, the conflicts, the frustration are all part of process. I think about when my youngest was diagnosed with severe dyslexia. I would sit and listen to him as he worked with his tutor, and I would cringe. It was painful. It broke my heart to listen to him battle his way through readings. I wished I could snap my fingers and make it all go away for him. I couldn’t. In the end, the years Luke spent leaning into the discomfort led him to become the person he is now, ambitious, dedicated, and a diligent reader. If I had snapped my fingers and changed his situation for him, he would have only overcome the dyslexia, but perhaps not grown stronger and discovered how capable he truly is.
So, am I happy that my personal growth story is taking so damn long? No. No I am not. But am I grateful to still be plugging along? Absolutely. I can look back and see where I was. I know I’ve made progress. So, I will keep working at it, stopping to take a break as necessary, knowing that every bit of the process is important and will, in the end, lead me exactly where I am meant to be.
We got home yesterday afternoon and, being the Type A person I am, I immediately dove into the process of unpacking, doing laundry, and getting settled at home again. This was an even bigger task than usual because we had celebrated Christmas by unwrapping gifts the night before we left for Hawaii, which meant there was an even bigger mess left behind than usual. Sigh. I don’t like chaos in my house. I find it counterproductive to my intention to live a more peaceful, mindful life. It’s difficult for me to feel at peace when I look around a cluttered, dirty house.
While we were in Hawaii, I would wander along the lava rocks on the beach outside our rental home and look for shells that had been beached and discarded. I would collect nice looking shells of that variety, ones on dry land rather than in the tidal pools because I know the tidal pools are teaming with sea snails and hermit crabs, and sometimes live cowries too. To be careful, though, when I would collect the shells, I made a habit of drying them on the lava rock wall by the pool or on the counter in the bathroom. The shells needed to be dried before packing, and I figured this would allow time for any sea life living in the shells that had somehow managed to escape my notice to make a break for it. And it did happen. One day I brought the few shells I had found to our bathroom, removed them from my pocket, walked into the other room, and a little while later heard something make a sound in the bathroom. I returned to find a hermit crab in the sink. Apparently that shell’s owner objected to being collected. I took him back to the beach and set him into a tide pool. He was free.
At any rate, as I was unpacking my suitcase yesterday, I found the shells I brought home in a Ziploc bag and set them out on my bathroom counter. I had plans to sterilize and polish them, but that process could not begin until I had the house settled again. While I was busy unpacking my toiletries and putting some towels away, out of the corner of my eye I saw one shell moving across the counter. Dammit. I had a stowaway. Despite my best efforts to ensure I didn’t transport any live creatures from the Hawaiian tropical climate to cold, semi-arid, high altitude Colorado, one of the shells held a tiny hermit crab who had refused to let his presence be known on the bathroom counter in Hawaii.
The little guy had lived through a day on the counter and another twelve hours in a plastic bag inside a suitcase, only to arrive 3300 miles away from its origins and 1030 miles from the nearest ocean. I momentarily considered setting up an aquarium setting for him before coming to my senses. Colorado is no place for a tiny, salty hermit crab. I had to dispatch him. I hated to do it (and I will not disclose the methodology of such actions here because I am still wracked with guilt), but it had to be done. And, no, I don’t really want to talk about it.
I’ve spent a bit of time since then beating myself up for being a murderer. Finally, though, I decided I had to forgive myself. I did not mean to bring him here. I didn’t set out to harm anything. I tried to leave my shells time enough to walk away if they were inhabited. I also realize I am likely not the first human to err in this fashion. And on multiple occasions while looking for shells on dry land in Hawaii, I found hermit crabs who were stranded away from the ocean (seemingly miles away if you consider how small they are and how far the tide had carried them from their point of origin) and picked them up and returned them to tidal pools, thereby saving their lives. Sometimes, life is messy. I am a person who has rescued snakes, voles, mice, rabbits, and even salamanders from window wells. I need to cut myself some slack on this one life. I try to be a good steward on this planet, but being good does not mean being perfect.
Next time I go to Hawaii and collect shells, though, I am going to stop the collection process two days prior to my departure to give any accidental sea life ample time to escape my evil clutches.
Today was a day of the unexpected from start to finish. It began with my waking up early and deciding once again to go see if I could catch a pretty sunrise. I had my doubts because the forecast was for an overcast day with heavy clouds. Steve and I were the only ones out at 6:40 a.m., though, and were treated to this stunning Hawaiian greeting.
We had a ten a.m. departure time for a drive to the Hilo side of the island, so I decided to shower and grab a quick breakfast. While I was sitting at the outdoor table eating, our oldest announced there was a surprise visitor in the saltwater pool. A crab had found its way up the beach and decided that this pool might be a better option for him. Joe went on a mission to remove the visitor and eventually manage to coax it from the water in the pool onto the skimmer net. Once he acquired his target, Joe walked him down the rocks to a safe spot near the water where the crab was allowed to crawl back to whence he came.
With that excitement behind us, we departed for the windward side of the island, seven of us in a Dodge Grand Caravan. The drive was fascinating. This island is huge by comparison to the others. We learned the other day that this island is large enough to hold all the other islands and still have Big Island left over. Being accustomed to Kauai and Maui, driving around this island can feel daunting. There are 8 climate zones on this island, so a drive will take you through a lot of varied sights. We started with our tour guide, Joe, telling us about the different types of lava rock here, pahoehoe and aa (pronounced: paw-hoey-hoey and ah-ah, respectively). The first type has a smooth, billowy appearance, like a black cloud, and the second is very rough and rubbly. As we headed mauka (towards the mountain), the landscape changed. More greenery appeared before we hit an area of grasslands before we later hit a section with trees and flowers before we hit more of a forested area before we then began heading down again into more bushes and flowers. The Big Island is a good place to get a feel for all that Hawaii has to offer on her many islands.
I knew the house where we would find our relatives was remote, but honestly I was not prepared for the last stretch of road, which was single lane, slippery mud, with a river crossing. Yes. All of this in a front wheel drive Dodge Caravan. There was one point when we were pointed downhill towards a rocky river crossing and a couple expletives entered my head. Somehow, though, the Dodge managed it (just barely) and we arrived at our destination. We were not prepared for what we saw.
The rain on this side of the island means everything grows here. I mean everything. They had papayas, coconuts, bananas, pineapples, oranges, meyer lemons, and collard greens (among other things) growing. The flowers were stunning. The grass was lush. This girl from a semi-arid state was in awe. We got to sample organic bananas cut straight from the branch. I’m not a big fan of bananas, but if I could eat these every day I would.
The cousins live in a self-sustaining home, with solar power, rainwater collection, and propane taking care of most of their needs. They have chickens and are preparing to get some goats for milk and cheese. Their neighbors own cattle. They talked about how they barter for items they need, trading their produce and eggs for items other neighbors have. This world could not be any more different than my life in affluent suburban Colorado, where our organic produce comes from Whole Foods (and they may get some of it from here). For lunch, they laid out for us a table filled with locally sourced and homemade foods. There was gluten free banana bread made with coconut flour, some homemade rustic bread with homemade jam, fresh papaya and rambutan, and some assorted cheeses and sausage. They had also prepared freshly squeezed lemonade. I could almost get the appeal of this type of living, but then decided I don’t want to have to wait for a rushing river to recede after a rain to access my home after a 4-wheel drive trip into town. The kind of prefer a river-free, easy trip to the store and the post office.
After enjoying our meal and catching up for a bit, we returned to Kona, passing more climate zones on the way back. This island is something else entirely. Not gonna lie…it’s kind of hard not to like it.
We ended the day at our lovely rental home with some take out food from a popular restaurant and a relaxing, still evening on the lanai. At this point, I’m finding myself torn between here and Maui as a place to land permanently someday. There is something about Hawaii that feels like home to me. I’m not sure how a Colorado girl finds this as her alternate place, but here I am. If not the mountains, then the laid back, healthy-minded, nature-oriented, sea-based life of Hawaii is my dream.
We began the day with another early morning, so I decided to wander down towards the ocean for a morning meditation. I’ve been meaning to set up a more consistent meditation schedule, so it seemed like time by the ocean was a great way to begin. I settled in on a lava rock facing the sea, and spent ten minutes focusing on being present and becoming one with that rock. I find that when I am meditating more often, my overall ability to handle challenging situations, be they major or minor in scope, improves.
On my way back to the house, I decided to explore some of the rocks. It amazes me how the volcanic rock can seem to otherworldly. And since being in Hawaii on Christmas feels alien in the best possible way, I am drawn to these black rocks. I snapped this photo, which encapsulates the many contrasts of this island. The black rocks with the white coral sand. The low lying beach areas with the high volcanic hills. The blue sky with the white clouds that dot it. This place is mesmerizing, a perfect location to be present.
After my early morning exploration, it was time for more Kona coffee. I tried a new combination today, oat milk with macadamia nut syrup. It did not disappoint. And it was clear from the foam art that Hawaii loves me as much as I love her.
As our leisurely day progressed, I returned to the keiki (child) ponds and the beach to search for fish and look for more photo compositions. I was surprised by how many tropical fish are visible from the lava rocks surrounding the ponds. I vowed to snorkel there more this week. Heading back up the beach I found the remnants of this twisted tree and fell in love with it.
Most of the rest of the day was consumed by shopping at Target to prepare for Christmas dinner at the house the next day. I did manage to sneak in some quiet time on one of the hammocks, though, and there I found another darling green lizard on a palm tree. They make my heart happy.
When we were planning the trip, I thought attending a luau on Christmas Eve was about the most Mele Kalikimaka thing we could do. So, I booked the seven of us an evening out at the Royal Kona Resort, which is less than a mile from our rental home. Six of us had been to a luau before. Oddly, however, my 87 year old mother-in-law, who has traveled the world extensively (seriously…she has been to Timbuktu and Easter Island, among many other notable locations) was the sole traveler who had not experienced a Hawaiian luau.
We were greeted with two Mai Tai beverages a piece. Could not refuse that offer. Then we dined on salads, roasted pork with cabbage, local fresh fish, poi, pineapple, and coconut rolls before the show began. If you haven’t been to Hawaii before, a luau is a must experience. It’s a good way to try local delicacies and learn something about how the islands came to be inhabited and by whom. The Royal Kona luau featured a show that covered dances and legends from many sister islands, from Tahiti to Tuamotu, Rarotonga in the Cook Islands to New Zealand. Not being much of a dancer myself, I find myself entranced by Polynesian dances, the elegant hand motions combined with the fast, rhythmic movements of the hips. It’s fascinating to watch. But the show’s crescendo was an impressive fire dance from Samoa.
At the end of the night, we returned to our ocean house, sat under the covered dining pupupu hale (hut), and listened to Hawaii. From the touristy main part of Kona, music and the cries of holiday revelers reached our ears and reminded us that Christmas Eve is a celebration. As a boat, lit up for Christmas, sailed by, we decided it was indeed a very merry Mele Kalikimaka.
It has been warm in Denver. Record-breaking warm. National news coverage level of warm. I was in Target this morning and I saw two women wearing sandals. SANDALS. In December. In Denver. This is nuts. The latest I am usually able to wear flip flops is October. We’re not exactly south Florida. We’re literally a mile high. When other people are getting rain, we are getting snow. But, here we are at December 2nd and we still have not had our first snow of the fall. We have not made it to December without a measurable snowfall since record keeping began here in 1882. It has been 224 consecutive days since we last had snowfall. This is not good for many reasons. The first of which is two-thirds of Colorado’s water supply comes from snowpack. The second is the dry conditions put us at serious risk for forest and brush fires. And the third of which is this:
This not-so-little wolf spider (can’t tell from the photo but he is about the size of my palm when his legs are extended) was waiting for me in my garage this morning. I rarely see these fellows after September. Sometimes I see them through October if it is a warm October. But I have not once seen them in November or beyond. Until this morning. As I came around the corner to my car door at 7:10 am so I could drive my son to school, he was right there. After I dropped a juicy expletive, I judged that he was at a safe distance for me to access my car door. I rushed in and slammed the door, checking to make sure he hadn’t made a leap for it (they do jump). I was safe. As much as I wanted to back out and run it over, he was a little too close to the wall. Damn. When I returned home and opened the garage door, I noticed he had moved. He was now positioned about right where I would need to exit. So, I did the only logical thing. I crawled over the center console, popped open the passenger side car door, and exited that way. When I later went to leave for an appointment, I noticed he was still there, so I entered my car from the passenger side because that is what any sane arachnophobe would do.
I like warm weather. I like sunshine. I’ve enjoyed not having to wear hats and gloves and snow boots yet. But with this latest spider development, I’ve decided to start praying for snow. I barely tolerate those hunting spiders in the late summer and fall, when I expect to see them. I certainly won’t stand for this now. They should be hiding underground at this very moment. They need to go and, for that to happen, it needs to get a lot colder and snowier here ASAP.
So, if anyone knows how to summon snowfall, I’m all ears. I would like to be able to be fear free in my garage and I would also like to enter my car through the driver’s side door tomorrow and for the foreseeable future. Feel free to leave me an ancient alchemist’s snowfall recipe or the number for a reputable shaman in the comments section. Thanks in advance.
For two decades now, we have gone to the corn maze with our sons before Halloween. It started in 2001, when we took four month old Joe to Anderson Farms. We have been when it was 80 and sunny. We have been when the temperature dropped and we were finishing the maze in the snow. We have been when we had the boys in Baby Bjorn carriers, then in wagons, and then when we raced as teams (boys versus us) to see who would emerge triumphant. It is one of the traditions we made and kept over the years. It was definitely different this year with Joe off at college, but we decided we weren’t ready to let this go.
It was about 60 degrees at 10:10 a.m. when we entered the maze. The sky was full of cirrus clouds, and the leaves on the cottonwoods were amazing. Luke has a crazy good ability to read maps, so he told us we could finish both sections of the maze in 15 minutes. I told him it would take at least 30. With this challenge, he started leading us through the maze. In five minutes he had us through the smaller section of the maze. I was a little shocked. I knew he was good, but this was a little over the top. I started to suspect that this is why he and his brother have beaten us through the maze three years running. We did get close one year, but not close enough. I thought it was because Steve and I were old and slow. It was actually because Luke was Magellan in his former life.
Luke raced us through the second part of the maze. I kept complaining that although there are seven miles of paths in this maze, I was going to get in less than one mile of walking because he was so damn efficient. In the end, I wasn’t half wrong. We reached the exit for the second part of the maze at 10:36. I tried to explain to Luke that corn mazes aren’t about speed, but Luke told me I didn’t raise quitters. He thinks successfully navigating corn mazes it is about efficiency and speed. I tend to disagree. I think corn mazes are meant to be wandered through in awe, with a plan of escaping at some point but not until you’ve sucked every last bit of glory out of fall before dreaded winter arrives. But I was not going to complain about our difference of opinion because any time with our high school senior is a good thing.
I think that when both boys are gone next year, Steve and I will still work to keep this tradition alive, even if it is just the two of us. I can’t see giving this up. At its worst, it’s a cold, wet day in a muddy cornfield. At its best, it’s a beautiful morning walk in nature under a glorious fall sky.
You can’t keep your kids from growing up and leaving you, but you can keep some things in tact so that if they ever return (maybe with their own children) they know where to find you.
“All good things are wild and free.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
I was raised to be an apologist, so forgive me if I apologize for the short but sweet post tonight. I do try to take time to write, but sometimes you have to take time to live.
All is right with the world when you get to spend time with people you love. My sister is in town from Connecticut with her family, and we took them out for a late afternoon of paddle boarding on a nearby lake. Afterward, there were some non-competitive corn hole games, followed by some long walks. Sometimes you get caught up in the busy business of life and you forget the simple pleasures. I am guilty of this too often.
I’m grateful I took time today to be present with people I love, to get out into nature and feel the cool water on my feet while I paddled across a windswept lake, and to remember what it’s like to be free, to be comfortable, to be loved just as you are. I should remember to do these things more often.
I am writing this from a campground in the San Juan National Forest north of Durango, Colorado. We have been here since Thursday afternoon with our sons and our friends. Steve and I have been camping together since 1994. We bought our first pop-up camper in 2004 when our sons were 3 and 1. Our inaugural camper trip was to Maroon Bells near Aspen. I’ll never forget it because Luke, then about 14 months, got cranky around midnight and started wailing in our tiny, silent-but-completely-filled campground. We spent the next hour driving up and down the moonlit road to Maroon Lake until he fell asleep and we could return to our camper. Now the boys sleep in their own tent. Steve and I have upgraded to a small, hard-sided camper. Along with our adventure gear, we have grown and changed, but camping is the same.
I have a love/hate relationship with camping. On the one hand, there is the adventure of traveling somewhere new and exploring our stunning state. On the other hand, I prefer not to be cold and/or wet, ever. On the one hand, there is nature, the scent of pine trees, the joy of seeing a clear, starry sky not lost to light pollution. On the other hand, hotel beds are so much nicer than a three-inch camper mattress. On the one hand, it’s kind of fun sitting around a fire with a drink while the kids burn marshmallows and wolf down S’mores. On the other hand, I hate it when my hair smells like campfire smoke and I have to live for days without a proper shower while my leg hair grows and I begin to resemble Sasquatch. On the one hand, camping is the best way to unplug. On the other hand, some of my favorite things have plugs. It’s a conundrum.
Still, I have so many stories because of camping. I slept in a car at the foot of Long’s Peak in February once, freezing all night, just to get away with a then boyfriend. Before we were married, Steve and I drove sixteen miles up a 4-wheel-drive-only dirt road near Crown King, Arizona, only to arrive at our campsite, put up our tent, and discover we had one flat tire and one almost flat tire and needed to pack back up and leave. Once my family and I had to abandon our camper and drive to a hotel after a bear showed up in our campground and spooked some fellow campers. They began hollering and banging pots and honking horns trying to scare the poor, furry thing off. We decided we had enough as soon as someone began shooting a gun into the air to spook it. I have a lifetime of memories tied to this crazy notion that you should leave your comfortable home, pack up your clothes, put your food on ice, and change your perspective for a few days by being slightly uncomfortable, dirty, and inconvenienced.
Never mind. I just remembered why I love it.
“An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.” ~Henry David Thoreau
The seasons have changed again without my expressed consent. Fall, with its kaleidoscope of colors and blazer temperatures and soup recipes, does have its allure. But it’s not summer anymore, dammit, and fall is the harbinger of the upcoming cold, grey suck of winter. It has been dark and rainy here for the better part of a week and a half, and my dog and I are tired of dampness and soaked feet. In Denver, fall traditionally arrives with blue skies punctuated by rippled cirrocumulus clouds, a landscape bathed in yellow rabbitbrush, and ideal hiking weather. Pumpkins come out, indian corn goes up, hay bales and scarecrows adorn yards swathed in fallen leaves. I often slip into fall with only a twinge of sadness at the loss of summer. This year with the rain landing me unexpectedly in the middle of seasonal affective disorder months earlier than usual, however, it’s felt like a 55-mile-per-hour rollercoaster descent into disappointment. Combined with relentless barrage of heartbreaking news over the past five weeks, from Harvey to Irma to Maria to Las Vegas, I have been living in a why-even-get-out-of-bed state in my head.
This morning the sun reappeared, not in a cloudless sky but more obviously than she has shown her face recently. I jumped at the opportunity to walk the dog in dry conditions before delivering our sons to school. As Ruby and I padded along, scores of butterflies scattered before us. Hundreds of them, migrating through on their way to the warmer climes of New Mexico and Arizona, flitted across our path making it impossible not to stop and stare. For the first time in weeks, the clouds in my head lifted, borne upwards on the wings of painted ladies.
When I need it the most, this planet slaps me with its marvels. The intricacies of our connections to the earth and its flora and fauna are miracles too immeasurable to overlook. It’s common to check out of the moment and to check into problems that are either too big for adequate and timely solutions or too meager to stress and belabor. In times like these, I always benefit by pulling a Henry David Thoreau and taking a walk to remember what beauty is and where peace lies. Turn off the television when the news is too much. Go find yourself again where you didn’t know you lived. The only certainty we have is this moment. Don’t waste it.
“There are moments when all anxiety and stated toil are becalmed in the infinite leisure and repose of nature.” ~Henry David Thoreau