Gratitude

One of the saving graces in my life right now is a gratitude group that I’m a part of — a private, online group — sorry, you can’t join but you could start your own and invite others to comment with their own daily/weekly gratitude posts.
How does it work? Well, here was mine today:

  1. It’s a gorgeous fall day (by Friday it’s going to be wet and snowy and wicked cold overnight, but right now? It’s gorgeous with clouds and sun and wind and fall colors).
  2. One of my favorite blog writers has a new post about taking care of ourselves mentally right now — and not just a new post, but several others that I missed somehow over the past few weeks/months of being in and out of connectivity. She’s made me smile and nod with recognition, touched my heart with compassion, and made me guffaw over a dog story about the puppy in their house. I’m grateful for her writing and sharing of messy life.
  3. My cat is still alive and still healthy. (She is also annoying, constantly wanting to be in a lap and she sometimes yowls because she is deaf as a doorknob and that is lonely.)
Help! I’m being held captive by a sleeping cat!

We were supposed to be camping

SuperDad and I took a drive on Thursday to scout out some new camping spots along a river. This section of a national forest has free dispersed sites although not many of them are good for trailers, so it is smart to check them out first before attempting to camp there. This was supposed to happen while we were camped in an actual NFS campground within an hour of our scouting expedition, but heavy rains last night coupled with several days of bad weather in the forecast caused us to rethink the camping part of this trip. Luckily, there were photo ops present:

Peek-a-boo!
A cow and her calf
Mama Moose
I believe the calf is a male

After such a lovely day, it had darned well better be miserable weather or we’ll regret canceling our camping plans!

The water was so very clear!

That Pandemic Summer

I’m not really sure how one writes about travel during a pandemic. For the most part, we are homebodies. Owning a camping trailer has enabled us to get out of the house and yet still have a home of our own during the summer; it’s the ultimate social distancing vehicle, complete with its own toilet. (Hallelujah!)

June was when the travel ban was finally lifted for Oregon State Parks. This happened in the middle of our long-ago planned trip to the beach, so our reservations were shortened from four nights to only two nights. Originally there were going to be other extended family members camping in adjacent sites, but in the end only SuperDad’s parents kept their reservations. Their campsite was across the road from ours. We took our oldest grandson on this trip and he had a great time despite the rain and wind on the beach (which was sparsely populated to our delight.) If you want a warm beach experience, don’t go camping in early June on the northern half of the Oregon Coast!

Since we nearly cancelled out on taking the 4-year-old camping on the coast (heavy rain was expected on the first day, iffy weather the rest of the time), we had quickly made make-up trip plans for the following week, which we kept since it was such a different trip. This time we had sunshine and warm weather in a full hook-up KOA site along the Snake River. Oma and Opa took turns keeping Little Foot occupied on land and water, and his family came out and joined us on the final afternoon/evening for little brother’s 2nd birthday celebration. (Now is probably a good time to explain that we have chosen this family as our “bubble” of 5 other people.)

We began July without reservations at a National Forest campground (no hookups) in the Idaho Panhandle. While I did a little ferrying of my mountain biking husband to his chosen trails (and picking him up from the trails he didn’t mean to take that left him 15 miles further down the scenic highway), I got in plenty of book reading while he played. We liked it so much we returned with a reservation 9 days later for another 3-night stint. (Three nights is just about perfect for camping without any way to plug in: my CPAP battery stays happy as long as I don’t try to use the vapor feature.) We plan to go again before the end of September since it is only an hour away and tends to be wonderfully quiet.

I spent the first part of August trying to find a place for our trailer that would be near where extended family was staying . Thanks to a friend from church and her connections, we were able to do so (I’ve never handed over $50/night so happily) despite everyone else in the region also trying to camp at the lake. We’d heard that RV sales had really picked up this year as so many people were trying to vacation during a pandemic. It’s all true: the campgrounds are full and the RV lots are looking sparse. I love our extended family and I need some personal space, especially when I’m one of the few who thinks we should wear face masks when playing card games at the indoor table. For three nights we ate suppers outside, spread out in the cabin yard in our folding chairs; in the afternoons we met at the local day-use swimming beach.

This was the trip where I learned that it is really difficult to attend Zoom meetings while camping. (Oops!) Later in August, some of those same family members rented a vacation home in NE Oregon while we had a site at Wallowa Lake State Park. We joined them for the tram ride up the mountain, suppers outside, and masked card games around the table inside. After 3 nights, they went home and we had 2 additional nights at our cozy campsite where the bucks entertained us during supper and cribbage tournaments.

The skies were beautifully clear (except for that first full day when we took the tram to the top of the mountain) and we could see Jupiter and Saturn each night through an opening in the tree canopy. By the time we got home again, it was September.

We stayed home for the big windstorm that whipped up fires across the region on Labor Day, but after assessing the situation, we decided to head out again and take our oldest grandson camping before it was actually fall weather. We chose a place close to where his great-grandmother had grown up. Little Foot enjoyed boating on the reservoir with Opa and roasting marshmallows for S’mores after dark. I thoroughly enjoyed staring up at the Milky Way each night. Oh, to escape completely from light pollution! This is one of the joys of camping.

We got home from that trip last Thursday, did minimal unpacking and then turned around and took a trip sans-trailer the next day. According to what was on the calendar, it was a 2-night trip; according to what I learned when we arrived 5 hours later, it was a 4-night trip. It’s probably a good thing I tend to over-pack! It’s also a good thing that I have people I can call on to check in on our cat (who was NOT happy with us about our long, unplanned absence). A few things about this particular trip:

  • We shared a house with some extended family members but had our own room. I hung out in there to read and rest instead of in the living room.
  • The smoke followed us inland and turned all but the first day into non-scenic drives (Guess who thought she could get pictures with the camera “tomorrow”?)
Flathead Lake in Montana is notoriously beautiful, but imported wildfire smoke makes it difficult to tell
  • Wearing masks while sharing meals indoors isn’t really possible, and wildfire smoke makes it unhealthy to eat outdoors
  • I was uncomfortable with not wearing a mask around extended family who were previously not part of our “bubble.”

It’s been six full months since the pandemic shut everything down for us here. I’m weary of the continued battle over whether or not masks help (spoiler alert: they do). So now we are home for a bit and I am pretty much quarantining myself after having more exposure to maskless people and many others who were wearing their masks incorrectly than I ever intended to have during a pandemic. So many noses! I was wearing my own mask around them, so I should be relatively safe. As for our relatives with whom we spent time, they continue to be healthy and we are the young ones in the bunch. However, I definitely do not wish to be the one who exposes anyone else, known or unknown, to this virus. Seeing maskless people in Montana was unnerving for me. I’ve been able to control my environment for much of the past 6 months and being at the mercy of others, where I have to rely upon their own responses to this pandemic when I don’t think they are being as careful as I try to be, makes me uncomfortable.

I’m not perfect, and I realize that there are people who are much more careful than I am. By traveling at all, I am at greater risk than staying in my own house. However, by traveling with a trailer, I am bringing along nearly everything we need and limiting our exposure to others outside our household. Luckily, we can continue camping for a while — at least until the temperatures drop significantly.

Awaken… Grieve… Act…

The prophet Micah tells us, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)

Yesterday, the President of the United States of America decided he wanted a photo taken of himself holding a Bible in front of an historic church in Washington, D.C. 
Yesterday, people were legally and peacefully protesting when they were attacked by tear gas and rubber bullets, and they were pushed back by armored bodies. Clergy, who were at that church to assist those peaceful and legal protesters, were also pushed away from that church. No permission was asked, no warnings were given.

Should we remind ourselves WHY people were protesting? Brutality. The careless taking of a man’s life by a law enforcement officer while his fellow police officers did nothing to stop him. George Floyd is one man in a long line of people – black men in particular – who have died because they were perceived to be unworthy of justice. He wasn’t the first man in police custody who cried out that he couldn’t breathe while the very people we hire to PROTECT US become murderers.

Yesterday, the President of the United States of America decided he wanted a photo taken of himself holding a Bible in front of an historic church in Washington, D.C., and he wanted it before the mayor’s curfew began, so he gave an order – or a series of orders – that sent armored policing forces into battle using chemical weapons and rubber bullets against innocent American citizens. Are we supposed to be grateful that the bullets were made of hard rubber instead of steel?

The current President of the United States of America is a bully who likes to talk about being tough and using force. Rather than speaking words to calm hot tempers, he stirs the embers of hatred. He sows division instead of sewing us into a united people.

My heart is broken by the years of racist actions and policies in this country and by the realization that I have benefited from this even if only in small ways. I don’t fear the law enforcement officer stopping me for a traffic infraction. I didn’t worry when my sons were growing up and learning to drive that they would be seen as suspicious individuals. Oh, by that point in time I was aware that mothers of black and brown boys had those worries; it saddened me and angered me, but it wasn’t a burden I carried every day until the day it happened to a family I knew and loved. At that point my friends’ burden became my burden, too.

Yesterday, the President of the United States of America decided he wanted a photo taken of himself holding a Bible in front of an historic church in Washington, D.C., so without regard for anyone or anything else, he used his power to bully his way across the street and take what he wanted. Innocent people were hurt. He held up a book that contains God’s commandments to make himself look good.  But inside that book are these words:

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.”

Petals fall like snow

bright and soft, we begin our lives
held tightly, nurtured, protected

we strain against that which holds us
seeking freedom, growth

but do we understand
that by our declaration of independence,
we are forever changed

Thwarted Plans

The Scout left after dinner yesterday to embark upon some social isolation hiking. We knew the state parks were closed, but he was very surprised when he got to his planned starting point and discovered this:

The article I read this afternoon tells me that over 7 MILLION ACRES have been closed — and that’s just in our state. My heart breaks for my son. Hiking is one of the few things he can do; he’s spent much of the past several years in his room, socially isolating because of Post Concussion Syndrome.
Yes, I know we’re supposed to be staying home due to the novel coronavirus and the dangers of COVID-19, and except for “essential” trips away from the house, that is what we are doing. Yesterday I drove him to two different medical appointments; I stayed in the car with my phone and a book while he went in to meet with those new-to-him doctors (all part of trying to find a way to heal from PCS). The doctors have no answers. They cannot explain why The Scout had 6 weeks of reprieve from his symptoms (chronic headache and cognitive impairment) after 3 months of hiking on the PCT last year. Since they have no answers, hiking again is his best chance for regaining his healthy self. Frankly, I see his solo hiking as somewhat essential for his mental and physical health. I do not begrudge him the chance to try again for that relief. He’s already changed plans twice this spring due to park closures (state and national) and the realization that he would be unwelcome visiting small towns for resupply.

I’ll leave you with this picture of him playing in the ocean with his brother 12 years ago on a mostly deserted Virginia beach (because, like today, it was cold and blustery), when no one but a hardy few were willing to get outside and experience the power of nature.

Back to Nature

DSCN1317 (2)

 

We met up with The Scout over the weekend. He’s making good progress and, more importantly, he is content and looks happy and healthy.

DSCN1316 The Hiker with owl feather in cap and Mt. Shasta in background, WEBSIZED

 

Oh, to travel! My hiking days may be over, it’s too soon to tell, but to be able to go… to see… to experience!

DSCN1439 Mom and hiker, WEBSIZED

I’m truly grateful for the chance to see him mid-hike. (This was about 20 yards from the parked vehicle where we brought him back to access the trail again.)

He’s off now, back to solitude and daily epic views. He promises to be home for Thanksgiving.

hiker off again, websized

 

Three Years Later

As I write this, it’s been 3 years and 3 hours since The Scout fell 23 feet from a broken branch to the hard ground beneath. Miraculously, he wasn’t killed instantly and while we don’t know if he only blacked out from having the wind knocked out of him or if he was unconscious for more than that brief time, he did manage to get up and walk home with great effort.  His back held the greatest pain felt at first, but the wicked headache made itself known within 36 hours; with no other name to give it, his symptoms have been labeled as post-concussion syndrome and he lives with chronic headache untouched by medication (we tried) somewhere around a level of 4 out of 10 on the pain scale (on a good day).  He graduated from high school more than a year ago and we are grateful that we did not have to fight for appropriate accommodations — a stellar scholastic reputation prior to his injury and compassionate staff made a big difference. Since then he has worked part-time, spending the best hours he can give to his employer during the busy season and enjoying occasional good days with family and friends. But like all of us, he wanted something more; unlike many of us, The Scout has made that something more happen.

Hart's Pass

Last week he began hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. 

His first 30 miles were spent hiking north to the Canadian border — the northern terminus of the PCT — and from there he turned around and headed south. If all goes well, he plans to hike all the way to the southern terminus of the PCT at the Mexican border.