Wild and free.

 

“All good things are wild and free.”

-Thoreau

Oxygen choices

On Monday, the girls had their first real “summit.”

Mt. Washburn, YNP.  10,243 feet.  Three miles up, three miles down.  1400 foot elevation change over three miles.  Not a 14er or a Half Dome, but still pretty challenging for six young kids.

Even our 2-year-old made it over a mile up the steep climb before I started to pack her on my back.

This sweet little 4-year-old had to have been one of the younger hikers ever to summit completely unassisted.  (So proud of her!)

The experience was completely spiritual for all of us.

When we were 2/3 of the way up, it started to really tax us.  It was a constant steep incline, and we were weary from the climb and wet from rain.  Little spats of bickering started to break out here and there, and the girls started to talk about how hard the hike was.  Our breathing was labored and we were becoming exhausted.

Then, my 8-year-old near-quoted a line from one of our favorite movies: “Guys, we can’t do this right now.  We’ve got to make oxygen choices.”

We all laughed.  She was right.  We may not have been hiking the Himalayas, but we did have oxygen choices to make.  We needed every spare breath we had, and we couldn’t waste them on petty things.  We couldn’t haul around rocks and we couldn’t argue.  It quickly became apparent to their little minds and bodies that the only way we were making it to the peak was working hard and working together.

The higher we climbed, the more we could see.  The beauty was overwhelming, almost impossible to take in.  Mountains all around, and we were higher than any of them.

The summit loomed ahead of us, always just out of our reach.  There were times when each of us felt like we would never make it.  The child on my back had never been heavier.

Somehow, though, we each wanted it.  We needed it.  We kept going.

The summit, when we finally made it, was victorious.  My girls threw their bags on the ground and danced.

They each added their name carefully and with pride to the register of those who made it.

We stayed at the peak for an hour at least.  It was too sweet to leave it in a hurry.  From where we stood, we could see Yellowstone Lake.  We could see the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.  We could see everything.

It was incredible to look down from so high on all of those places, those dozens and hundreds of places where I have lost and found myself in Yellowstone.  Down in the trees and canyons, by lakes and rivers.  I could see myself and all of the places I’ve been and all the prayers and sorrows and joys and thoughts.

Perspective is an amazing thing.

I had no idea how much I needed a summit, a place to work so very hard to get to, a place to want to be badly enough to make it through hurt and tiredness, a place to gain such immense perspective.

I did need it, though.

Going down was hard.  We were tired and the trail was steep.  Rocks constantly slipped beneath our sore feet.  But our new-found perspective was with us as we went down, and I hope we’ll carry it with us wherever we go.

The sun set right before we made the trailhead.  Perfect, perfect day.

The camera fairy

Well, I didn’t lose a tooth, but I did lose a camera.  The camera fairy brought me a new one!

I am starting to think that the camera fairy may be my husband…bless him. :)

Just in time to catch this beautiful place in summer bloom.

Time without a camera was good for me.  Sad, because we visited so many wild and beautiful places.  But it made me live in the moment so much better.  I think I’ll be more aware of that now.

Blessed am I, and I know it.

Home

It’s happened twice now.  Today, when it happened again, I knew what it was.  Putting it into words is difficult.

I walked lightly through the woods, and my feet were welcomed.  I felt like the ground and the trees and the water were glad.  They know me now…I’m a visitor no more.  I’ve given them my heart and I’m home.

Stand tall and stand together

A few weeks ago, we hiked up into a wild and lonely part of Yellowstone.  It was a day that is the absolute definition of perfection.  It rained and rained, giant sheets of rain, washing us free.

We scrambled in the rain up a steep hillside to catch a glimpse of a beautiful waterfall.  We carefully helped each other down and played in the rushing stream.

Then we changed course and hiked the steep switchbacks up to a lost little lake, in a valley just wide enough to hold the lake.  It was ringed with lily pads which had just bloomed that week.  They were a rare treat to see, and worth the effort.

(dang cell phone pics that couldn’t capture the amazing flowers!!)

Taking in our victory was short-lived, however.  All around the ground, everywhere by the water, was grizzly scat.  Everywhere.  I was prepared with bear spray, but no one wise wants to invite an encounter.  I wasn’t surprised.  Grizzlies are often in these areas right now, emerging with cubs and enjoying the abundance of food.

So, we very briefly took in the wonder of the place, but knew that it didn’t belong to us right then.  As we prepared to retreat, there were some nerves from my girls.  We are surrounded by higher hills and some steep slopes, all densely wooded.  A bear could easily descend on us without much warning, and as the lake took up the whole valley, there were very little options about where to go.

We sang loudly as we calmly walked back out.  But most of all, I told my girls to “stand tall and stand together.”  The bigger  (and calmer) we looked, the less likely we were to invite an encounter.  We retreated calmly back out of the valley and had no trouble.  We enjoyed a rainy hike back down the mountain, and two little fawns walked down with us.  I think they liked the girls’ singing, which had become soft and sweet by that time.

“Stand tall and stand together…” It was just a phrase that came out of my mouth at the time, but all the way down the mountain, I thought of it over and over.  If my girls can do that, I think that they will be able to have the strength to face whatever comes for them.

You’ll make it.

We’ve had the most incredible, incredible June.  So many hikes, so many wild places.  Sadly, all with nothing better than a cell-phone camera.  That’s not been such a bad thing…but more on that another time.

We hike because we find ourselves.  We learn what we are capable of.  We discover secrets we were seeking.

A few weeks ago, Matt had to go to Jackson for work, so we jumped at the chance to go along and be in the Tetons again.  The girls and I hiked around Jenny lake again, one of the most beautiful places in the world.  It was a very hot day and we ran out of water, something that has never happened to us before.  Our mid-way goal was to hike up to Hidden Falls.

It was long and hard and hot for the girls.  But when we finally made it up to the falls, and the wind picked up and the mist from the falls fell over us, I had this rush of gratitude…just complete thrill that we had made it.  And in my mind, I heard the words, “You’re going to make it, too, Ann.”

Sometimes, lately, I’ve struggled to feel that I will ever come back out of where I have been.  I think I will now, but I will be different.  Stronger, better, different.

 

12 Years

Last weekend was our anniversary.  Twelve years together.

Matt has always been a remarkable husband: kind, gentle, patient, peaceful.  I’ve never known anyone who makes me so whole.

This past year of our marriage has shown me a new depth to him.  He has always lived for my happiness, but this year, he has given everything for it.

The crowning event of the weekend was that we watched Old Faithful erupt just before midnight early on our anniversary.

Yellowstone2010cmyk

 

As a family, we laid on the boardwalk under the stars, almost completely alone.  We watched the stars come out one by one.  We named them and we told old legends and stories.  We named the constellations and huddled together as the night became more chill.

As our guesstimated time drew nearer, we waited breathlessly for the eruption.  It took longer than we thought, and there were times when it seemed like it would never happen.  Dark clouds moved in and blotted out some of the stars.  But we knew that if we waited, we would see the sight of our lives.

Loving someone is like that sometimes.  Sometimes it takes time and breathless waiting to see the one you Love emerge into the glorious person that you know they are.  Matt has done that for me this year.  He has waited, quietly, patiently, knowing I needed him, knowing that I was coming.  He has had faith that I would come back down from the mountain, purer than before.

When it finally happened… there are no words.  No picture could ever do it justice.  It was truly one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.  The tower of water and steam pushed through the darkness, seemingly cutting through the clouds and revealing the stars once more.  It was glorious, lit up by the stars.  I am still in awe of the memory, days later.

I hope that this year, I can be the spouse he has been.  I hope I can be a patient listener, a quiet waiter.  I hope I can be a seer of good things to come and a giver of dreams.

Rain on the roof

It’s quiet in the camper right now.  Rain is falling on the roof and all around us.  I’ve listened to its quiet (and sometimes not so quiet) sound all day.  The kids are breathing softly in their bunks.

Life has consisted of lots of marshmallows, campfire songs, and fresh air.

 

My children and my husband have been infinitely patient with me and my journey lately.  Somehow, the Lord brought me to this place to rebuild me from the inside out and to truly, truly test me.

How merciful to be tested in a place where He is so easy to be found.

Pools of light and color

We live in such a magical world, where the pools grow from deep within the earth and go so deep you cannot see the bottom.  Where color lights even the steam that rises from the very hot water.

We hike day after day through these mountains, discovering new wonders and new miracles.  Sometimes the thunder rumbles around us (don’t worry, mom…the lightning is far, far away). ;)

Blessed am I.

Broken camera

Well, my friends, my camera is broken.  And I dropped my nice phone in the toilet.

However, though we’ll have to content ourselves with pictures from a lousy cell phone for a little while, I have to say…we are having the happiest of summers.  Life’s better at camp.

The girls and I had a grueling little climb up a very steep mountainside to catch a glimpse of the Grand Prismatic Spring from above.  Amazing what a little perspective does, even if it’s sometimes difficult to obtain.

I still can’t get over the sudden burst of life here after such a long, long winter.