Thursday, November 10, 2022

Press On


The golden light is just starting to come through this little window-filled house. Not a creature is stirring except Bumpy and me. Aberdeen is snoring (literally), curled up in a little ball next to me (the NO DOGS ON FURNITURE rule is more of a guideline :-). The white, snow capped Peaks outside my window were a haunting moon color and are now turning a rich salmon color in the morning magic. This place is so beautiful through all it has suffered. 

Madigan has been requesting some one-on-one time for several weeks and he told me he specifically wanted to hike the "big hike" down the Grand Canyon with me before winter hit. So, last Sunday, we awoke at 3:00 AM, drove to the canyon, dodging elk along the way and boarded a shuttle bus at 5:00 AM. We started down the South Kaibab trail at 6:20 with headlamps on. The sun started to light up the tops of the canyon walls around 7:00 and the whole canyon was filled with resplendent light contrasted with dark shadows. It was breathtakingly beautiful. 

We reached the Colorado River and crossed the bridge at the bottom of the canyon at 8:45. We sat next to a creek and ate "lunch" together on a picnic table. We rested for about 30 minutes, talked about Transformers, helicopters, and what the future might hold. Then, we headed to the Bright Angel trail for the long path upward. I told Madigan, "don't look up. You'll get discouraged if you see the cliff walls towering above you. Just look to the next foot step." I could tell when he looked too far ahead because he would sigh or say, "how far do you think we've gone?" or "how many more miles to the top?" We reached Indian Gardens which is on the plateau before the major final climb, and approximately 4.5 miles from the top. We rested a bit, refueled and re-filled our waters. We took small rests going up and we just paced ourselves. As Madigan grew more tired and the trail started to feel more and more endless, I watched him make the decision repeatedly to press on, to just make it to the next switchback, to only think about the next steps forward. To say I am proud is the biggest understatement of this year. We went 16 miles, with a 5000 ft elevation difference. 

Madigan's face when we reached the Bright Angel trail head at the top was that complicated boy/man face that I see more often these days. It reflected the exhilaration of accomplishment, the relief because the fatigue is real, and I saw the spark of awe. As I have reflected on my life, I see marked places where I have pressed onward past "the impossible", I have found a strength that is not my own and somehow makes my own weakness sufficient, I have realized things about myself that carry me more boldly to the next bend in the road, the next rapid in the river, the next mountain in front of me. This was one such encounter with life for Madigan and somehow I know it is a milestone that has built in him a newfound strength and resolve. I pray he will build upon these lessons about himself to more fully become all that he is to be. 

On the hike through the canyon, I prayed almost constantly for Grace Gregory who was in a horrible car accident the day before. Throughout the hike, I could not help but consider the correlation between what I saw Madigan mentally conquering and what Grace is physically having to endure in the process of repair, recovery and eventual healing. There is an excruciatingly long path forward to full recovery and if she looks at the canyon walls above her she will falter and lose heart. But, if she takes only the next step forward, sets her mind on just doing the next thing, she will succeed and she will exit this canyon of misery, changed and with newfound/permanent strength that she has not known of herself previously. The life lessons that she has been given, the perseverance that she has developed over her lifetime, the remarkable ability to do the impossible is what gives me confidence that Grace WILL. This canyon will not defeat her.  

Press on. It is what is required. 

Friday, November 04, 2022


Yesterday, while it was snowing, Kaysee and I trotted over to pick up some supplies from the store. On our way into the store, we both noticed a man standing near the door who just seemed out of place. Less than 10 minutes later, we exited the store and climbed into my vehicle. I noticed that Bumpy, who had been in the very back of the car when we went into the store, was now sitting in the backseat and looked a little out of sorts. When she's irritated or frustrated or just unsure her eyes sag a little around the edges like a Bernese Mountain Dog. 

I started the car and looked in my rear view mirror and noticed that my back window was gone. It had been shattered all over the back of my car. There were pieces even in the backseat. My toolbox was opened. I saw some small scratches on the back of the car that I didn't recognize, but that's not surprising, and there weren't any car tracks in the snow indicating that a vehicle had hit the back end. I was pretty sure someone had broken into the car because even though the toolbox was open, there was no glass inside of it. 

I called the police and waited for a long time. When they arrived they seemed skeptical that it had been directly targeted but they looked at the surveillance footage from the store. The officer looked a little amused when he came back out of the store and he told me that the back window had been smashed in by someone who then reached into the back of the car. Seconds later, the suspect was reeling backwards as a dog lunged at him. I've been saying... "She's not nice!" And I love her to pieces! I'm sure she was mortified and I'm sure he may think twice before reaching into an unknown car again. 

I asked the officer if there was any blood? He looked at me with a twinkle in his eye and said, "Are you asking out of curiosity or hope?" I assured him it was purely out of hope. :-) 

"That's a good dog, but I don't think I'll try to pet it." Smart! 

Our insurance covered the window and we were able to replace it today, much to my delight. It was a bit breezy driving it yesterday in the snowstorm and this morning to my 22 degree morning hike. 

Monday, October 31, 2022

Notes on my coffee cup

Humanity is complicated. It is broken. It is resilient. Some rise from the ashes and some stumble and cannot get back up. I find myself staring, sometimes from afar, at the lives of people - some whom I know and love deeply, and some whom I've just briefly encountered. The impossible is thrown at absolutely everyone. Each person, at an individual level, is required to respond to it. People I've talked with in just the past week: 

The survivor of a brain aneurysm who found new life, new purpose and a determination to more-than-survive past the impossible. 

The officer who experienced a brain tumor, lost vision in one eye, lived through radiation not once but twice, regained his vision, but ultimately lost the ability to pursue his career path. 

The husband who lost his wife in a complicated and messy series of choices and events. He is living one day and then the next. He is loving his children fiercely. He is facing tomorrow because he has breath and reason. He is strong. He is broken. He is being molded and it is beautiful and it is... messy. 

The wife loving her husband through Parkinson's and advanced Alzheimers as his primary caretaker. She finds solace and comfort in her gardens and her spunky pup. Her husband remembers and adore her still, most of the time. Every day is impossible but she will face tomorrow. 

The girl who was hit by a car while riding her scooter to work. Her face bears the bruises and cuts but she miraculously is mostly unharmed and she has a new determination to face tomorrow... with a helmet on. 

The sister who lost a beloved brother. How does one survive this kind of pain? 

The woman who lost her home, her place of refuge, to the hungry mouth of a raging wildfire. Yesterday (a couple months ago), on her knees, sobbing, asking why, clutching to the memories. Today, making plans to rebuild once again. Hiring a master artist to carve a bear into the skeleton of one of her scorched pine trees. Beauty from ashes. 

A neighborhood devastated by fire and water coming together to rebuild. Moving dirt, rocks, sharing tools, giving time, helping where help is needed. More water will probably come - fire may come again one day, too - but no one is alone in all of it. 

The wife watching her husband battle pain all day, every day, for years. Holding his hand, but more importantly, holding his heart always and forever in her own. The love these two have for one another brings me to tears. It is profound and it is painful. Through their pain they give constantly to others. Tomorrow will come and they will rise, together, and face it. 

The best friend who just had another surgery and is unable to take the pain killers to ease the healing process. Life has thrown garbage at her time and again, but she wakes up, cries her tears in every shower and her smile is the richest and truest of anyone I have ever known. She will face tomorrow on her knees, with trembling in her heart and absolute trust in her maker. 

The little girl who came flying off a bucking horse and determined that she would get back on. 

The woman who has dedicated 20 years of her life to working faithfully the job that was put before her. She has grown as a person and as an employee. She has become successful in ways that she never envisioned or planned, but simply because she has always done it well. All of it. The stuff of life. Her job teeters on the edge of failure or success... she waits and she shows up to tomorrow to do what is set before her. 

There is more, but it's too much. The resilience of humanity is absolutely remarkable. We need each other. And in so many ways, we must find the strength and resolve in ourselves. It's not found in being remarkable. It's found in living, in facing tomorrow, in doing the impossible because we have to. It's found through our weakness. The tiny things in life become profoundly special. 

Personal notes on my coffee cup on a cold Thursday morning. 

The dog that loves fiercely in spite of herself (she's not nice) and the boy that adores her. 

A faithful friend. 

A cousin who has become a best friend and never stops making me laugh. 

An epic birthday cake failure to celebrate 70 years of a wonderful man's life. 

Mastering a braid even though my hands were numb from fatigue after moving rocks all day. Yay! 

Watching my mom take on my hill and almost conquer it today after a year or more of extreme health challenges.