Soaking up summer

There is a chill returning to the air.  The grasses are changing and when the breeze blows over the mountains, I can smell autumn coming.

Soon.  Very soon.

Fall is a time of change, and it will bring more changes to us again this year.  (More on that later.)

But before it does, we are soaking up the last bits of summer.  Summer is short here, so we have to love it while it stays.

The girls can’t get enough of swimming in lakes and rivers.  Even fully clothed.

Watching them love being alive makes my heart live.

It wakes me up inside and makes me choose life and joy, everyday.

Our lives are moving forward and blending like the seasons.

Summer gives way to fall and winter.

Warmth gives way to cold.

But somehow, all is right and as it should be.  It makes us what we are.

“Let children walk with nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life, and that the grave has no victory, for it never fights.”

- John Muir

 

Miles to go

The rain to the wind said,
You push and I’ll pelt.’
They so smote the garden bed
That the flowers actually knelt,
And lay lodged–though not dead.
I know how the flowers felt.

-Robert Frost

Each time I return to the Tetons I am overwhelmed by holiness. Even in the summer crowds, I am amazed by the personal, sacred nature of the experience.

There is an awe and a reverence there that I have never felt anywhere else.

It is also a place of deep teaching for me.  I have learned things in those mountains that I know were reserved for me to feel just in that sacred place.

The Tetons hold something so dear for me that in recent months they have provided the quiet place of healing that I have so needed.

A place with enough awe and quiet that I could finally hear.

“Perhaps your own reiterated cries deafen you to the voice you hoped to hear.” 

- C.S. Lewis

“You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trusted it?…Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief.” 

- C.S. Lewis

Yellowstone and these woods near me are home now.  They are me and I am them.  Even so, I found myself the other day in the shadow of the Tetons, praying silently that I might stay, that I might keep the healing salve and comfort of their rest always.

The answer was quick.  I could visit, but I could not stay.  I have things to do and more to become.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

-Robert Frost

Swimming hole

This summer, the girls have discovered the joy of swimming in a more natural setting.  These were taken a few days ago at the Firehole Falls swimming hole in Yellowstone.

The Firehole River is surrounded by geothermal features, including Old Faithful, which dump very hot water into it.  We’ve stood behind Old Faithful many times, watching its runoff into the Firehole River.  As a result of these numerous and very hot features running to meet the frigid mountain runoff, the river is a very comfortable temperature.

“The Fire hole is a companionable river. Notwithstanding its forbidding name, it… always does its best to put [a man] at his ease. Like some hospitable manorial lord, it comes straight down the highway for a league to greet the stranger and to offer him the freedom of its estate. … It may be a quiet charm that lulls to rest, or a bold current that challenges his endurance and caution.”
-Klahowya, Early Yellowstone visitor, 1910

 

Time to become

If there is anything that Yellowstone has taught us, it is patience.  Quiet, pleasant patience.

That things take time, and sometimes the time is long and that rushing does no good.

Last week, it rained and rained.  And rained.  It was wonderful.  I am grateful for ponchos and sweatshirts.  The chilly weather gave us a deeper glimpse at the steam and water of Yellowstone.  It is interesting to go there, day after day, week after week, and watch the tourists.

It is so good to see so many people coming out to find rest here.  People are all so different, though.  So many Americans are in such a rush.  They literally run from one thing to the next, whereas most Asians saunter slowly, taking pictures of every small thing, including my kids. :)

My kids have been blessed with a life where they don’t understand rushing.  They can hurry if needed, but rushing is different.  They have learned that it takes time to develop thoughts and realizations.  I love though, that they have time to develop them, rather than being told what to think.

Twinborn

As we return again and again to Yellowstone this summer, I am really in awe that it was just a little over a year ago that I first stepped lightly into its borders.

Even then, I wrote: “I don’t know all that our future holds, but something inside of me tells me that we are at another turning point in our lives.” 

How right I was.  How little I knew.

Mystic Falls, YNP, with my cell phone camera (too rainy to take my real camera).  If a place looks this amazing with a cell phone picture, try to imagine how it looks in person!

Something about this place has expected more of me.  I have expected more.  I have known I was ready.  So I asked to be more.

The answer to my prayer has humbled me to the depths of my soul.  I am sorry I talk about it so much here but never actually tell it.  It’s just too much, too sacred, too mine.  I have never felt a greater gift, a deeper loss, a more acute suffering, a greater opportunity.

A year ago, I wrote this: “Joy and pain are twinborn.  Pain gives way to joy, because so often, we have to give up something in order to receive.”

Was I writing to my future self?  I don’t know if I’ve ever written anything more true.  I have ached at my grief, until I have finally come to a point where I have decided to choose life.  I have realized that in this suffering, my prayer was answered.  My prayer was answered.  Finally, I see that.

I have changed completely.  My heart is new.  My prayer was answered.  And that is a tremendous gift.

Secret places

From wonder into wonder existence opens.

- Lao-Tzu

 

Learning from failure

View of the Tetons from Sawtell Peak Trail.

We were all a little summit hungry after Mt. Washburn.

Wildflowers in bloom on Sawtell.

So, we attempted another summit.  Longer hike, less elevation gain.  It seemed like a good balance.

However, we arrived during what I can only describe as a massive swarm of bees and horseflies.  Huge ones.  Probably due to the abundant blooms on the mountain.

They surrounded us, and one of the girls got bitten pretty good.  Everyone was doing fine until they saw the thin stream of blood flowing from the wound.  Then the two oldest girls panicked.

The younger girls were able to remain calm in spite of the hoards flying around their heads, but the two oldest just couldn’t do it and they lost all sense.  We tried to hike for a while, but we didn’t get more than 2/3 of a mile up the mountain before it just wasn’t possible to continue.  We turned back.

When we were back in the safety of home, we talked for a long time about faith and fear, about keeping our heads and trusting mom.  We learned a lot about horseflies and their bites, too. :)

In the past month, the girls seem to be getting repeated chances to learn about keeping their heads in a dangerous situation.  Descending a mountain at sunset.  Attempting a hike amid swarms of dangerous insects.  Descending another mountain during a sudden and unexpected hail storm.

After the most recent experience (hail storm), my third daughter, who had been the most shaken, asked me why things like that kept happening.  Why God would allow us to be caught in a dangerous storm that could have hurt us.  I believe He is offering my daughters opportunities to learn something important, because though the challenge has been different each time, the lesson has been the same.  I could be frightened that my girls would have a real need in the future to keep their heads and not panic, to listen and be calm, or I could be grateful that they are being given chances to practice and learn.

No experience is wasted.  The summit isn’t always the most important outcome.  The failure can be just as crucial.

The language of water

Gibbon Falls

“As long as I live, I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can.”

-John Muir

Terrace Spring

White Dome Geyser

Great Fountain Geyser

(No picture could do it justice.)

Bathing in the mist of the geyser. 

Box Canyon Fall

Life cycles

Last week we had a nice little hike up to Harlequin Lake.  Very short and easy…just what we needed after our summit last week.

(How is it possible to get a picture where 5 out of 6 have their eyes closed??  And that it is the best picture I got?)  :)

At the beginning of summer, we hiked up to Lost Lake to catch a glimpse of the beautiful lily pads during their first week in bloom.

During this hike, we got to see the lily pads during their last days in bloom.

Most were already gone, but a few strong flowers remained.

Life all around us hummed on in its constant progression.

I think it’s wonderful to live here, where we can see the days and the seasons change moment by moment around us.  It gives us perspective and hope for renewal.

(Me lately.  Rarely do I wear makeup anymore.  When I’m in the mountains, I’m home and more comfortable in my own skin.  It’s a good feeling.)

All around us were the new young trees springing forth from the ashes of the Yellowstone fires years ago.  Here and there, tall, stark pines remain to tell us the story: there can be no rebirth without burning and destruction of what once was.

Wild and free.

 

“All good things are wild and free.”

-Thoreau