Exercising Rights and Respect

Let’s be clear.

I stood up for you, not because I agree with your opinion, but because I believe you have a right to your opinion.

I marched with you, not because I agreed with the position of everyone who marched, but because I supported your right to be heard.

“Do you love your children?” my roommate asked.        Yes.

“Do you like your children?” my roommate asked.          Yes.

“Do you like all the choices they make?                                  No.

But they are grown. They exercise rights. They make their own choices.

When President Jimmy Carter reinstated the draft in 1980, there was a huge outcry. People protested. The front page of my hometown newspaper featured a 21-year-old holding a sign: Is anything worth dying for?

Yes.

That.

Your right to sit there on the curb with that protest sign.

Freedom of Speech is precious.

I may not agree with everything you say.  Sadly, much of what you say may be unfounded.

But oh, how I champion and applaud your right to say it!

Silence?

No.

 

 

What are you marching FOR?

I saw that a majority of my good friends from all over the country were marching. Women of all generations. They are smiling, thoughtful, intelligent women who have seen much they didn’t like – especially in the last few months. Many of them are history buffs and well know that women have not always had the right to vote.

They also remember personally what it feels like to not have a voice-to be disrespected in the workplace or the home simply because they are female. Others have experienced firsthand that it is more difficult for a woman to get a higher paying job – a job that is often reserved for men because men will not settle for the lower paying jobs.

Some had dignity and esteem gouged from them during the young and learning years when they were seen just as an object – something beautiful to toy with and tease and demand favors of in the workplace. They are wiser now. Stronger. Firm. Not often angry, just insistent that their daughters not have to fight the very same fight over again.

I was out of town, off the grid, well beyond the bounds of any city or civic institution. I followed the news with interest. The march was referred to as a protest and that startled me. I saw that some of the women carried placards refuting or against a particular person -the new president of the United States.

Protest is strong language to me and I dreaded seeing violence or law-breaking. (Indeed, I continue to be grieved by the emphasis and spin that this is against a person and one person only rather than against policies) But a march? A march of solidarity among women? I had indeed taken my own solitary march that morning – a mile through snow a foot deep that made me long for snowshoes.

Had I been in town, I would have marched with them. Not against a person or thing, but for several things:

For friendship

For solidarity

For love

For equality

For justice

For truth

For freedom

For liberty

For unity

For doing the right thing

For logic, reason and wisdom to prevail

But mostly for love

Love in all things

Love to the stranger and alien

Love to our families

a kinder, gentler and more understanding response

and courage in place of fear

Because perfect love casts out fear

Morning Matins

It’s like morning matins, I said. And she, thinking I said morning maintenance, nodded in agreement.

The early church had some set times for daily prayers, meditations, observances. Some were referred to as matins and others as vespers.

My early years within the bounds of evangelicalism stressed the discipline of morning prayers – don’t leave home without them.

Contemporary thinking gives credence to meditation in many forms, looking inward, quieting the thoughts.

“This,” I clarified, “This morning walk in solitude, this is morning matins for me. I can’t live without it.”

I have adopted a few healthful morning rituals mentioned in Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project (2009):

Take a drink of water before you rise

Get out of doors as soon as possible

Engage in at least 20 minutes of rigorous exercise

That morning walk or hike is beyond helpful. It is essential to a clear head and a stable emotional life. I suspect it supports good physical and spiritual health as well.

Morning Maintenance, Morning Matins

Potato, Potahto

No matter how you say it. Do it.

 

 

Living the dream albeit frugally

The life I live does not make my mother jealous at all – except that she would love to see me more often. She wasn’t jealous when I lived in the primitive cabin either.

But Dad liked it. His can-do pioneer spirit revived. He could see all the possibilities and he pitched in with a will to help make the dream come true. Mom pitched in too, went over and above, but to her it was only hard work, extra duty. “I could never live like this,” she said. No, Mom and Dad are not at all jealous of the life I now lead.

To an erstwhile spouse, the cabin was a dream-come-true. He caught it, got a grip on it and will never let go. Once upon a time, he had other dreams, outdoor dreams, naturalist dreams, travel dreams, but his grasp of possession on the cabin obliterates the vision of other possibilities. He is trapped.

I alone get to live out the rest of the dream.

My ex-husband is no longer along for the ride. Sometimes that makes me feel guilty when I enjoy the great outdoors, the rocks and trees and solitude. But it was my dream too. I got here responsibly. I worked hard. I provided for my children. So I keep putting one foot in front of the other. Solo. I probably feel guilty less often than he feels covetous.

Wilderness lovers and supporters to the max, my brother and SIL work duty-bound jobs to support themselves with a six-figure income. Their love of travel and their gifts evocative of everything Nature speak to their love of the great outdoors. Yet they are tethered to a university and an edifice; to the whim of grants and administrators.

My brother and SIL are living the dream in their way; well-planned, itineraried and funded by secure savings accounts. They wonder at me living it frugally and surviving on less than a shoestring – a thing many are not willing to do. Admittedly, I still have to find a way to pay a couple residual bills and I don’t see any overseas travel in the near future. Once in awhile that stresses me.

But most of the time I am abundantly grateful for a roof over my head at night, a vast sky and wilderness during the day, hot and cold running water, the nurture of nature’s beauty and the solitude that brings inspiration and understanding.

 

 

Taking a meander through life

How often had she said it? “I don’t like to walk for transportation. 15822841_10154008704191891_2897296190757686136_nWhen you walk to get there, you have a set goal, a deadline. There is no pondering, no exploring. You have to walk fast, be punctual.”

Granted, she usually had some direction in mind when she hiked. She was seldom without preparation and a good plan. It’s just that she reserved the right to alter her course, take a different side path, experience something new. She hiked to see new things. To think. To ponder. To assimilate new insights. To make connections between the physical world and the spiritual; the mental world and the earthy. In short, she hiked for recreation. And, in putting one foot in front of the other, she reaped all kinds of health: Physical health. Mental health. Spiritual health. Emotional health.

How like a river is the journey of life, she thought. A river meanders. Often, instead of taking the straightaway through a meadow or valley, the river pushes its boundaries ever outward toward the side, taking a longer route and then making a leisurely switchback. But, when a river gets between a rock and a hard place, where geologically the sides are slumping and closing in, it crashes forward in a cataract. Sometimes a flash flood stirs up the calm meander of the river and it pelts rocks and twigs and throws debris against rock walls. Eventually, the river punches a new hole, a shortcut through the rock wall making a natural bridge. Water flows swiftly under. Or maybe the river, growing impatient, just floods over the neck of the earth peninsula outcropping between two switchbacks and cuts a new course, a shorter route to the goal.

A good meditative meander may result in some active chipping away, some erosion, a new shortcut, maybe a dramatic change of course, less often a roller coaster ride down a cataract. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Explore all options in your journey. Be strong like the water, and do a good deal of thoughtful meandering.

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The memories we lost in 2016

Nineteen years since I have seen him, yet the face in the photos is so real I can hear his voice, remember his manners, sense his body heat emanating from the mixing board, read his language. Harvey has been dead for three years, but I didn’t find out about it until 2016, so it’s been a shock getting used to his absence these past few months. Harvey was nine years younger than me. He is not supposed to be dead and me alive. The last time I talked to him was by phone. Dallas to Denver, long distance. He was getting married, he said. Honeymooning in Colorado, he said. Did he need to rent a four-wheel drive to make it to Georgetown safely? That was 18 years ago. His eulogy said he was married for 15 years before his death. I found the video of his funeral online. I recognized several of the photos in the section titled early years – the ones taken during the brief years we worked together. Wrote music. Recorded music. Wrote musicals. Directed children’s musicals. Those years are still real to me. Moments of success and fulfillment. And that is how I found out Harvey had passed. I went looking for him via Google one night. My musical life had taken yet another U-turn, I was playing in a band, reconnecting with a musical acquaintance from 1984 and I found myself wanting to reconnect with Harvey of 1996. I left contact information on the website of the DJ service he used to run. His former business partner got back with me and broke the news. Harvey is gone. Who will validate my memories? Harvey’s widow had barely entered the scene when I exited for Colorado in 1997. She knows nothing of those years we spent as musical colleagues in shared studio space, though pictures of his individual musical successes proliferate.  2016 has been a year of loss for so many. When you lose someone, you lose a part of your memories. I am aging, increasingly losing more extended family members and high school peers. Who would have thought learning of the loss of a cowriter with whom I had lost contact would come as such a jolt? But it does. We are all intrinsically connected – especially those with whom we have made music. There is no going back. There is only forward. Treasure the music you make today. Treasure the people with whom you make music. Sing a new song every day.

 

 

A hike in honor of my brother’s birthday

I took a hike in honor of my little brother’s birthday. How could he possibly be 59 when I am still young and fit enough to exchange a 2-mile hike for 6 miles on a whim? Six miles is a feat I could not have pulled off when I was half his age, by the way. But age has its privileges and its victories!

“Where do you want me to hike in honor of your birthday?” I asked.

“You know the area better than I,” he responded. “You choose.”

Owachomo Bridge is the oldest and most fragile of the natural bridges. My brother is not the oldest nor the most fragile in our family, so that’s out. Also, Owachomo is a short hike, less than half a mile round trip. Not a fitting distance in honor of a brother – or my day off.

Sipapu Bridge is most fitting, I thought. It is the second oldest bridge after Owachomo and the second largest natural bridge in the United States. Of the three bridges here in the monument it is the most symmetrical and beautiful. Besides, Sipapu means “place of emergence” and my brother is obviously the more emerged member of our family. But Sipapu Trail is also steepest and lies in shadow. We have been advising visitors against Sipapu for the past week because of the cold and melting snow.

Kachina Bridge, the youngest of the three bridges at Natural Bridges National Monument, is so named because of the Kachina symbols found in the petroglyphs in the area surrounding the bridge. Petroglyph hunting seemed fitting for my brother’s birthday. Destination decided. Three quarters of a mile down. Wander around a bit taking pictures of petroglyphs. Three quarters of a mile back up. Easy Peasy, right?

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My roommate expected me back in a couple hours. I was pleased with my total time of four hours. She will learn not to trust in my early return with an open day, a prepared daypack and (most importantly this time of year) strap-on YakTrax.

Trail Diary for a brother’s birthday hike: Made it down the slippery slope to Kachina in excellent time. Found the Petroglyphs and wanted more. Did a bit of exploring. Found more Petroglyphs. Wandered up the canyon toward Sipapu. Remembered that Horse Collar Ruin was somewhere up this canyon. Kept putting one foot in front of the other. Canyon often in sun and just as often in shadow. Passed Horse Collar Ruin where I had hoped to find sunny spot to eat a snack.  Sunny spot occupied by other hikers. Found fabulous pictographs – an entire congregation of high-fives – just beyond Horse Collar Ruin. Rounded the bend and saw Sipapu up ahead. Ascended Sipapu Trail. Steep ascent, manmade staircase. Snowy and icy in spots. Crossed the road to Mesa Trails. Mud slippery and sloggy across the mesa. Ate apple and peanut butter while slipping and sliding. Successful and satisfying hike in honor of my brother’s birthday. Returned to residence to be greeted by Bear’s Ears Monument news. Well now, that rather upstaged my efforts.  Happy Birthday, Brother!

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Wherein my Loki jacket goes to Purgatory

My favorite black classic Loki jacket –trusty outdoor companion for the past five years – is spending the ski season at Purgatory as a hard-side accompaniment to my daughter’s short down jacket. Meanwhile, I’ll be comfortable in my winter layers and knee length down coat – or so I thought.

The weather forecast called for mostly sunny weather and I trusted it. My trust did not prevent me packing a rain poncho and ice grips. There had been no precipitation for the previous week or 10 days at Natural Bridges, but it is December. Any water in the canyons is mostly frozen. And some ledges are in shadow 24 hours a day.

With a temperature reading of 33 degrees, I exited my car in the down coat over a ubiquitous hoodie, slung my daypack across the shoulders and set out for Kachina Bridge. I planned to hike the entire five-mile loop. Down to Kachina. Through the canyon. Under Owachomo. Across the mesa. Back to my car.

The trail was varied. Some steep slickrock, through some big sage, sandy creek bed crossings with hundreds of slender willows, a Mormon tea plant here and there amongst the mini forests of pinyon pine. In places the trail was narrow and I brushed against bushes and branches at the sides. Worried about tearing the nylon shell of my jacket, I looked down. Small dark spots spread across thighs indicating the down was absorbing droplets of water. The sky was still sunny, the weather dry. Quickly, I checked the bite valve of my water reservoir. Dry. Safely hooked to a shoulder strap in the up position.

The trail I was hiking was perfect terrain for ungulates. Without planning to do so, I had verified some oft-repeated scientific information.

My purpose for these three months of volunteer work at Natural Bridges is to facilitate accurate information for visitors via print or interpretation. When we tell visitors Desert Bighorn Sheep get most of their water from the plants they eat, visitors are skeptical. Sage and rabbit brush seem so dry. But it really is true! You can get water from plants. I hiked while the morning was still warming up, the sun peeping into the canyon. I passed through a vegetation buffet designed for large mammals. I took on water.

The Loki jacket’s purpose for the next three months is to protect a down jacket – to keep the down from being shredded by the jostling snowboards and skis of other powder buffs as she scans tickets. Loki jacket is doing that job well. But how am I to keep dry while hiking the rest of the season? How about wool?  Or maybe just a new Loki Mountain Jacket?

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What would you give to be loved?

She was single. At an adult time in life when most would assume and presume to be married. Or is that true? Many of her friends were also alone. Grown children. Estranged spouses. Sometimes more than one. In some cases, a deceased spouse. A lifetime of anticipated marriage and a dream of growing old together had certainly taken an unexpected and unwelcome turn for each of them.

Once in awhile, she and her single friends might discuss loneliness – the dream of actually finding a soul mate. Often, they iterated the good; how really nice it was to be single and independent, to arrange life without regard to the strong opinion of another. Some joined singles groups online or in person in an active bid to find a partner. One or two friends were openly desperate, chasing a string of lovers. Others quietly waited and pined.

Secure in her singleness, outwardly content, with a measure of independence, she still found herself one day in deep longing and yearning.

She was out walking (although it could have been any legitimate hobby or activity beloved by an individual; knitting, painting, golfing, yoga). Minding her own business. Steadily moving forward. Putting one foot in front of the other. She was suddenly overcome by longing and yearning. Articulating the feeling, she said, “I would give anything to be loved!” She sighed and coddled the pangs of longing for a few moments.

“Really?” asked her brain. “Have you not done this before with less than satisfactory result? Would you repeat the past? Hold on to someone who didn’t want to stay? Help someone who didn’t want your help?”

Love is not a thing you can barter and get a guaranteed return. Love cannot be enforced. It is ineffective to say, “Look how much I gave up for you! Now you are obligated to love me unconditionally.”

There is such a thing as strong, healthy self-respecting, other-respecting self- sacrificial love. There are things you give up, willingly out of your love for others. For family you love. You self-sacrifice willingly your goods, your desires, even your life to directly love someone else. But, when you give, or give up, in a bid to get that other person to love you because you so desperately need love, that is unhealthy.

So. What would you give for love? Would you give up your writing? Your music? Your goals? Your successes? For a time, yes, to care for a dearly loved one. But for life? For the whims of others?

“Love,” said wise counsel, “is not 50 / 50. It is 100% / 100%. You bring 100% of who you are into a relationship. But if you give up all you are, you no longer have 100% to give. You have nothing to give.”

She reconsidered the ancient parable of the 7 foolish and 7 wise virgins. Be wise. Be always prepared. She got that part loud and clear. For decades she was perplexed by the fact that the wise virgins did not share with the foolish – did not give up their provisions self sacrificially. And Jesus, who was telling the story, thought that was okay? Yes.

Why? Because to split their oil would, a few miles down the road, cast everyone into darkness and make all 14 of them the loser. How much better for the seven wise to hold their torches high, full of oil, and spread light on everyone – even the seven foolish. In this way the wise, the prepared multiplied their effectiveness and shared light with everyone.

“So. Be it known,” she said, “I will not again sacrifice who I am and who I am designed to be in a bid to get someone to love me enough. I will bring my 100% and shed all my light on the relationship until my oil is spent and my light extinguished.”

 

 

Putting One Foot in Front of the Other, Hiking for Life!