One could go on and on forever talking about anything, but I'll just touch on it here.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Cabin Writings: Camp 2012

Nothing is Angry Here

The coolness and crows cawing on this cloudy day make up for the unfortunate smear of traffic noise pollution behind and beside me. At the river, sanity returns.

Nothing is angry here. A partial island along the riverbank houses a family of trees. Their feet, clay colored, show how they sometimes wade in the water. I wonder if they feel the cold? The water trickles and gurgles, tripping along near the flow of the river, which does not speak. Tree cotton and spider webs dress the branches in a gauzy tangle, capturing brittle leaves and twigs for accessories. The air smells earthy and damp. I want to bring the dusty, gritty soil to my nose and compare its smell with that of the mud. If I climb out on that branch to lean my face over the river will it still look green?

photo credit: Creative Commons

Upon Eating too Much Candy on Halloween

Crackling like cellophane, they beckoned from my closet. The hairy faceless giants, their rainbow colors calming in the fearful darkness, led me through a forest of chocolate trees. I snatched a twig and tasted the rich brown sweetness. In a patch of light the beasts began to dance. A gumball-spotted smaller one, who smelled of peppermint, cradled me to her chest. When the dance ended, we slid down into warmth where she tucked me into a pile of furs. 


You exit from the top of the spacecraft. How you got inside doesn’t occur to you. Your eyes are too busy making sense of the who. Giants face you with reptilian skin that sparkles like Christmas. What you really want to know is where their mouths are. Why aren’t you scared? Why don’t you use your mouth to scream? But they start swaying, stirring; their color blurs and perfumes the air. And what can you do but join in?

Catching Your Death (this one wasn't well received because it's odd, but if you saw the bears covered in sweaters at the art gallery, perhaps it would make more sense?)

“Wear your sweater; you’ll catch your death!” All his life, his mother’s words before he left the house. She’d have him wear two if he let her pull them over his head. And now, the cold squeezing him. The fire finished. The lights blinking out in the sky so frozen. Cold, but too hot. Had to get loose from the down coat, the long underwear. A growl. A rumble. A bear coming closer . . . wearing his sweater?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Before This Mess

What floods over me is this: Watching "Black Arrow" and running around in the summertime dusk with my sister, banging our staffs together, wielding our bows and arrows, each of us wanting to be Black Arrow. Or racing on The Black, having just watched "The Black Stallion," feeling the thunderous hooves beneath us, carrying us around the track at night. Leaping into the air, knowing the ground couldn't hold us down if we really wanted to soar.

I've mentioned before how captivating the gloaming can be. As a child, that time of day brought every imaginary moment, every thrill and wonder from a great story, to life.

Just last night, out on the back deck, the moon a sliver, the clouds still tinged with pink, the air warm with the sound of children and birds—but a quiet warmth—I caught a glimpse of it as I sometimes do, adult that I am. That feeling of being so alive—more alive than during the dull day in the hot sun with the chores to do and the bills to pay, the work to be worked only for the sake of completing something or fixing something—so alive and ready to create, invent, adventure, discover; it came over me.

It was like a peek into the truth, the truth of how life is supposed to be. Like in the movie "Cocoon" when Brian Dennehy's character tugs slightly at the lower lid of his eye to reveal a bright shining light, a view of who he really is, which is this glowing and mysterious creature from somewhere else; I got that shiver of realization that all is not as it seems.

Something tells me that before, before all this mess of life where we are either getting hurt or trying to fix the hurt or recover from it; where we are either toiling away for the sake of survival or sitting around being comfortable—which really ends up meaning bored—before this we were ONLY creating, inventing, adventuring, discovering, loving and being loved.

And I get tingly with excitement knowing that God wants us in that reality again. It's as if I can see or hear the angels flying around smiling about it.

Sunday, July 15, 2012


Finding Our Way When the Going Gets Rough

We had the llama droppings to follow. And the sometime markings of a trail. But the numerous water crossings, trees in the path, and potentially dangerous plants slowed us down and caused many detours. A constant recalculating of our route took place on that overcast day in the Idaho wilderness.

Stanley Lake
How it began.

Luke's friend at work heard about our upcoming trek into the Sawtooths and told us about Crater Lake. 

Wait, that's in Oregon, right? The map search confirmed that Idaho has one too, in the White Cloud Mountains. So the coworker told of his three-mile hike with llamas and how we should check it out.

Once into the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, we thought to consult a ranger station for some campsite and trail maps. We asked how to get to Crater Lake.

Crater Lake is in Oregon, a man told us. 

Yes, now if we could just look at a map and show you the Idaho treasure . . . .

They passed Luke the gazetteer and, finding the coordinates, Luke and a ranger found the lake on the map. Then we purchased a couple of maps to show us how to get there. Since it wasn't a "designated trail" we knew we would have to be persistant if we wanted to complete this hike.

But the hike would have to come the following day. First, we found our perfect campsite, set up, and relaxed in and by the river.

While Luke played with his ham radio, I toured the neighborhood.

This fella found me threatening, so I couldn't stay long to admire him, but it was just as well. He might have tried to fly at me as so many of his friends and relations had been doing. I had to keep my mouth tightly closed, as you'll recall my butterfly phobia discussed in this post and in this one.
OK, the adventure.

To get to the Crater Lake trail, we took a back road from our campsite and drove along the river. The map clearly showed how the road would connect to another dirt road and lead us right to a trail. Obstacle one: private property with a closed gate. This made no sense at all, but, undeterred, we backtracked and took the highway to another connection.

We found our road and we found this view.

Our hike would take us along the creek right up that valley toward the snow.

I, supposedly the trusted navigator, thought map consulting was over, so I let Luke drive to the end of the road. Abandoning the guide, I decided I knew exactly where we were. Our water packs on our backs, the car keys lost and then found, we almost went hiking the wrong trail.

Then an unexpected angel happened by to correct our error. Oh, she said. Crater Lake is back that way. Yes, yes indeed. Her map agreed with ours—the one we later pulled out of the car and decided to carry with us. Thanking her, we drove away to find the real stop.

Obstacle two: though the trail had a number on the map, on the actual land no sign pointed the way. We had to guess. Down by a cabin we saw a creek and decided, according to what we knew from the map and the angel, that the trail started in that vicinity. After crossing the water, feet dry for the time being, we hiked up the hill along a fence and found this promising, and friendly, sign.

A trail, a real trail, and we, without dirt bikes or ATVs, happily started what we thought would be a gentle three mile hike to a lake. The assumptions we make in life. Just because we found the trail, and just because the lake was maybe three to four miles away did not mean it would be a gentle experience. I was huffing and puffing at half a mile. At three miles there was no sign of us being close. 

It's the journey, not the destination, I had to say again and again. 

Luke contemplated the little life quest we made, following in the footsteps of others. We thought at times we must surely give up or get lost, but then that little sign of someone who had been there before—that scrape on the log, that horse hoof print, that llama dung—if they could do it so could we. The trials on the trails would not keep us from enjoying the beauty around us and what waited just ahead. 

Breaking out of the trees, we stared up to the switchbacks across the shale, obstacle number three. That's where we have to go, Luke said. Oh my. So many hours into our journey, did we have time to keep going and still get back before late? We both wanted to finish. The idea of turning around sounded dismal. But no one, except the angel, knew where we were and she had probably left for home already. So many creek crossings meant that our feet were no longer dry. And the sky threatened rain.  

Three o'clock and we turn around, Luke decided. 

OK, I said, then let's run!

And we climbed. And we climbed. Colder, colder. Our legs and feet screamed at us.


closer, closer
Crater Lake is nestled among the trees below the peaks

Our view

Where's the picture of the lake? OK, we didn't hike all the way down to it, but after climbing close to 4,000 feet our bodies needed strength to carry us back again.

Rain falling, no more snack food, and a glimpse of the lake through the trees—time to retrace our steps. 

We got back to our car soaked to our knees, with bumps and scrapes. I caught my pant legs on so many trees and tripped my toes on so many rocks that I know not how I didn't sprain an ankle or fall on my face. Once we ditched our wet clothes and made it back to camp, we curled up in the tent, exhausted, and it wasn't even dusk. But as I sit here reflecting on it all, no regrets. Except, perhaps, maybe we should have taken horses. And llamas.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Gruffalo Goes to Summer School

Act Two:
A Recent Encounter

One of the four kids at my table would not stay still in his seat. Engaged in a precise reading curriculum that left no wiggle room, we had to follow the program for an hour before the kids could read by themselves. I asked the boy to sit at the end of the table so that he wouldn’t bother anyone. Even in that spot his body wanted to move. And when he made even the slightest mistake in his reading, he got more fidgety and more contrary.

The other students, quiet and obedient, didn’t squirm so much but their lackluster spirits spoke volumes. One of them did pipe up enough to say that he could read fine and what we did was boring. He wasn’t tripping over his words but having to wait patiently while the strugglers read their passages again and again. Finally, when one student excused himself to go to the restroom, we all took a breather.

When it was time for independent reading, I tried to enforce the section of the library where the students were supposed to get their books. But they wanted to pick up books from anywhere. Then two of them brought me some picture books and asked if I would read to them. I agreed, if they would spend the other half of the time reading independently. We sat on the rug and I opened the first book, The Gruffalo, by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler.  

The cantankerous squirmer didn’t squirm. In fact, no one moved or made a peep. Entranced by the story and drawings—a book at least one of them had read before—the joy seemed also to be in the sharing of the experience. They knew it was good and wanted me to see how good it was. The other books we had been reading? They were good too, but I’ll bet none of us can tell you anything about them anymore. I have no idea even of the titles. We hadn’t been reading them for fun. Will the kids remember The Gruffalo? No question in my mind. Did they then want to go back and read it to themselves? Yes. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Only the Stupid Go to Summer School

School’s out, and kids get to stay up late, sleep in, watch cartoons all day, or run around outside like hooligans; BUT, the lucky few get to go to that special place called summer school. I never attended as a child, but the three states and three school districts where I’ve gotten to teach during summer school all have a commonality: An academic agenda.

Well, naturally, it is school, silly. Summer camp, Vacation Bible School, Boys and Girls Club summer activities—all these places also include teaching and learning, but somehow they have a little more fun in the program than a regular school district summer school. What’s usually at the top of the academic agenda? Reading and math. Can working on reading and math be super-awesome-best-fun-you-ever-had? Yes. Do many summer schools present it as such? Yes, or they at least try to do so. Have I witnessed it as super-awesome-fun? Only a little.

                         Photo Credit: Otter Mii-kun (Creative Commons)

Act One:
Summer School 2003

Nick looked delighted, like a recent kindergartner should, as he bounced into summer school on that first day. His older sister lingered, patted him lovingly on the head, and told him, in a motherly tone, to “be good.” His blue eyes flashed timidly around the room and he quietly joined the other students in a circle on the floor.

We started the day with reading. The kids were supposed to sit around the teacher and look at the pictures from the book as she read it to them. This was the best part of reading time. Most did need extra help in the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic, but how many others were out on the streets all day getting to live up their summer free time?

Later, Nick’s busy body wandered the room. I asked him if he would like to read some books or find some more math games to play, like the other children were doing. “No,” he replied calmly and with a toothless grin he lisped; “I justht want to dancthe.”

His teacher later confided to me that this little boy, who was scheduled to enter her first grade class, should really stay home another year. He was bright and eager but she feared that his slower progress in reading would damage his spirits. She was an excellent teacher with her hands tied by the wishes of the parents and the same-age grouping that the system of education puts into place for grade levels.

Nick was indeed a very bright kid. He knew all about whales and dolphins because he had been to the San Juan Islands in his grandparents’ boat. He loved all kinds of animals. Demonstrating how prairie dogs live, he went under the table and said: “Sthee, I’m a prairie dog and I’m underground.”

He had the most fun at recess, saying, “I justht want to run laps.” That and play soccer. I played with him and he told me “time out” and came over and gave me a very serious look as if I had done something wrong. “I need to talk to you,” he says. “You need to kick the ball a little harder.” Thanks, Coach.

Back in the classroom, I told Nick we needed to work on his letters. Suddenly the bright little boy, the one who eagerly taught me so much, put his hands to the sides of his face and looked down with a sad expression. “I didn’t bring my thinking cap today.”

“You can use mine,” I offered, and made like I was taking it off my head and putting it onto his. This didn’t quite get the desired result.

“I’m sthtupid,” he said. 

“Nick, did someone tell you that?”

“No, I justht know it. That’s why I’m in sthummer sthchool.”

“No, that is not true. Summer school is just a place for more learning,” what could I say?

“I can’t do it,” he continued. We practiced a few letters and then I let him quit. He wanted to read the ABC books so I felt encouraged that he wanted to read anything and I let him turn to those without pressing him too hard.

At the end of the day, riding home on my bike I passed Nick and his brother and sister as they were walking. “See you tomorrow,” I yelled out.

He pointed strictly; “Remember, tomorrow: The Championship!” Soccer on the brain. He wanted to be a kid, not a scholar just yet.

*photo credit Otter Mii-kun

Friday, July 6, 2012

Train Up a Vine

My adoption scared me at first. All I had ever known was the warm wet comfort of the nursery. Suddenly hands reached in and pulled me from my bed and placed me, gently, into another black carrier. Happily I looked left and right to see several of my best friends join me. Then we got into an SUV and took off down the road. I had no idea what to expect.

The journey wasn't too many hours, and then the two people who had adopted us took us all out of the car and set us down in an open area. No roof covered our heads. There we sat, waiting and wondering. That night I got to see what had only been fuzzy and dim before. I got to see stars, clear and bright! How can I express the beauty?

For a while, life continued like this. The sun rose and set, more piercing and brilliant than I had ever felt it. We talked, my friends and I, but only at night when quiet settled around us. We remembered what our nursery caregiver had told us we would become. Would it really happen? Would we really grow big and complete our important mission?

Then the two people came for us again. This time we left our carriers behind and sank blissfully into a deep soft bed. We could stretch out a little. After getting drinks, we started to feel warm wet and sleepy, just like back home. I became so very glad that we had left the nursery.

Day after day we got to feel the sun and the open breezes. We drank and took baths mostly at night. And we started to grow. Our adoptive parents liked to stop by and admire us. They got really excited when some of us started to blossom into adolescence.

But before long our home started getting crowded. Some of my friends, now siblings, were outgrowing our bed. They flopped over onto me and made it difficult for me to see the stars at night. I didn't know how long I could take this uncomfortable closeness.

The strangest thing happened one day recently that was both a little painful and later quite comfortable. Our parents came and began moving our limbs around. I was glad to get free of the tangle of bodies I had suffered under, but then my limbs were moved into very different positions and, would you believe, ropes were wrapped around my body and tied up above me! This didn't seem right at all and I couldn't understand how our nice, loving parents could do such a thing! And they were so happy about it, as if it was good for us!

When they finished, I glanced around and saw that we were all in the same situation. Before I could start to complain, however, one of my new brothers said how nice it was that he didn't feel like he was falling out of bed anymore. And then a sister said she was glad he wasn't squishing her anymore. Someone else said how nice it was to just lean back on the ropes and relax. Hmm, I thought. They are right. They are all right. Instead of fighting the ropes I started to relax too. Maybe our parents knew what they were doing after all.

My family

Spare the twine, spoil the vine.

"Train up a [vine] in the way he should go, and when he is [mature] he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6, NKJV).

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Letter to My Husband's Ex: Thank You for Changing Your Mind

Dear ______,

Wow, you let HIM go? Yeah, I know; life doesn't always go as planned. And people change. Or they don't change. Because of your decision, though, some happiness came my way that I hadn't counted on. This is my story, that strangely would and could never have happened if not for you.


I never wanted to get married. Fairy tales and love stories sounded beautiful and made my heart happy, but the lovey-dovey stuff just wasn't in my stars. My dreams included independence—doing amazing things around the world but doing them by myself. As a child I wanted to devote my life to animals. People, with the exception of my family, came secondary.

Close friendships began to show me that people weren't so bad. Then, as I entered the working world, I discovered that children had a lot in common with animals and needed a voice, a champion, so I started devoting my life to them. I was growing in God and realizing that I shouldn't just sweep people under the rug. Still, falling in love was far from my mind—no frog-kissing in my future.

*photo credit: Jennifer Barnard (Creative Commons)

One day, as I was getting ready to launch into a new zone of Save-the-Children / I-am-awesome-on-my-own, I remember telling God that hey, maybe life would be fulfilling going on the way I was (especially since I wasn't rejecting people so much and thinking only of myself) but if there was someone out there who could spark a little fire inside and be my partner on this planet, I could dig it.

Then along came someone from my past. Someone I NEVER expected. Someone who hadn't been in my thoughts and who hadn't been AVAILABLE. (Someone YOU, dear ex, had decided to leave). I think I told God something like this.

     "UM, excuse me. Remember that little conversation we had? Yeah, ha ha ha. I was kidding. You can't have someone fall in love with me. It's just not a good idea. I don't think I have that kind of love in me."

Time went by, however, and this guy became a close friend. I realized I could TRUST him. He brought out the LAUGHTER in me. He was a great LISTENER. I wanted to be with him. Then, the following started.

Yes, it was gradual. I don't rush into anything. But I liked it. I fell in LOVE. Did my dreams change? Did I stop being me? No. I simply ADDED TO MY STORY. I chose to KEEP this guy, and HE CHOSE ME. We each had a hand to hold and the desire to support each other.

Suddenly life had MORE. I gained a(n):

Rockstar                                             engineer        
                         idea man                                                                 builder
     storyteller                      computer genius (aka lovable NERD)      

 walking encyclopedia                 comedian                                              giver

                                      chef                     gardener                     FRIEND OF GOD

What a wonderful gift from God is my husband.


So thank you for changing your mind. Does that sound rotten of me? Am I gloating in your loss? THAT'S NOT MY AIM. Please believe that I want the same happiness and joy that you once had to bless your path again. No, I want BETTER for you.

My story isn't the only one that has goodness and beauty grow after ugly destruction. Does the horrible storm have to happen for the rainbow to shine? What do I know? Is everything all planned out and we just move along as we are programmed to do? I don't believe so. We make choices. $#*% happens. We decide what to do with it. Wallow in it, burn it, bury it, or use it as fertilizer for something GRAND.

* Photo Credit: Jennifer Barnard