Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Thoughts on Fire

The smoke filling the air mirrors the fog I feel in my brain. My thoughts feel jumbled and my senses dull. The sun is filtered through a shadowed lens. Smoke inhalation feels like it is splitting my head apart. I just swatted (rather hard) at a fly on my leg only to recognize upon the "ouch" that it wasn't a fly, but another gash from the week's adventure(s). 13 glasses of water and only 2 trips to the bathroom today would suggest that dehydration is not a myth.

Declan climbed into my bed tonight and laid his head on my chest; he sighed and told me that he woke up last night, away from home (I had evacuated the kids to be with our beloved Barbara who lives across town), in a terror and he thought in his post-dream state that our house had burned and that I had burned with it. He said he cried and then remembered that God hears him and prayed for me to be safe and then believed that I was and would be safe.

Three days... preparing this place - our home/and the life we've built within it's peaceful boundaries - for the possibility of the big ugly attempting to gobble it as voraciously as we've seen it devour a vast expanse of the forests that are a part of the very hearts/souls of the members of this community. 1 billion weeds pulled (Kelton you are a weeding MACHINE!), 2.5 acres mowed with my trusty push mower - capable of taking on cinders, tree-sized weeds, copious amounts of dirt/dust, toys and prairie dog holes - loading/hauling/depositing 2 full truck/trailer loads of flammable items to the dump (where we love the people, and loathe the smell), raking 6 million pine needles, masterfully creating three massive burn piles, clearing beneath every shed and porch to ensure nothing flammable lures the beast, filling every water holding device within range, watering all living plants/trees, mowing down the wildflowers that graced so elegantly about the perimeter of our house - they shall return! - cutting tree branches from the obliging pine trees, removing items near the house to a safer distance - how did we manage to collect so much crapping stuff over such a relatively short amount of time??? - and lastly, but definitely not leastly, treating my people to breve lattes from our favorite coffee shop, which hasn't yet evacuated, much to our delight. If cousin Kaysee and her Max hadn't been on task as workhorses alongside me in Mission Save This Place, this particular mission might well have been a fruitless endeavor. I am forever - truly, forever - indebted. Madigan and Declan are entirely to be credited with the hours of watering that were put into our green and leafy friends.

Pizza. We've eaten a lot of it. Poor Lochlan who can't eat cheese; kinda' turning into a crusty guy these days. :-) Food, and in particular it's preparation, just seems so burdensome and impossible in the midst of IT ALL, so pizza... here's to you. "Thanks" isn't enough.

Airbnb guests: Steve, you brave soul. And all of you more sensible guests, no offense. We'll assume it was the raging forest fire that scared you off. Right??? :-)

The midnight gutter cleaning... special times. Madigan and Declan, you are rock stars sticking with me through the thick and thin (smoke), all hours of the day and night, helping me do HARD PHYSICAL LABOR. You are truly the best men I know. Proud doesn't even come close to what I feel about you.

So, as we wait to find out what morning holds for us, here's to life - this life - and all that it holds.

{For all who have been asking, Kris has been out of town for work}

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Organizing rocks with a cane

 I saw an elderly man on the sidewalk, carefully nudging tiny cinder pebbles away from the sidewalk and more resolutely back into the perimeter of his yard. He painstakingly aimed, shoved, missed, aimed, missed, shoved each tiny pebble, even though no pebble was in actuality outside of the boundary of the yard. They were just dangerously close and, no doubt, anxious to escape onto the sidewalk. The mental image of this scene gnawed at me, and reminded me of how often I get caught in the trap of sorting the tiny, irritating pebbles in my life which are not horribly out of alignment, but rather have fallen into disarray with the perfect plan I have created for myself (my day, my week, my life). Of course I should by this time be pleasantly relaxed and un-flustered when all things (people?) do not fall into place or operate the way I anticipate/hope/expect... but, alas. I am guilty of cane sorting and the full picture of life (much of which I am certain/hopeful/fearful is yet to be seen) eludes me in those wretched moments of near sighted and obsessive (internal and external) puttering.

The unanticipated clouds roll into life and sometimes the beauty is magnified by them. Sometimes, in those cane-wielding moments, my vision is obscured by my perception and the clouds only shadow the sunlight.

So, when the screaming carries on for hours, the door jams break apart from another allergy-induced rage, the frustration of his inability to SAY what he needs/wants/feels reflects in his entire countenance, the vomiting commences for yet another day with no explanation for weeks on end, when the answers elude us, when his loneliness is visible to the naked eye because he is literally locked inside himself with no way out, when he runs away from me in the check out line at Safeway and heads for the open door, when the glass explodes onto the cement countertop as he slams it down in exasperation, when sleep evades us night after night because wakefulness plagues him relentlessly... I must remember to open my eyes and SEE what is before me and to remember that the sun is still shining behind the clouds. 

There is so much joy in his heart. If we but see it we will be forever changed by it.

Hope awaits us over each difficult mountain pass and joy finds us and guides us through the valleys. My beautiful friend(s) lost their baby due to miscarriage today, and the brevity of that loss is profound and real; yet, when I talked with her tonight, she was filled with peace, acceptance and true joy and not in dichotomy to the pain - but in unison with it. We each have our own unique "impossible" to face. What we do with that "impossible" is ours to decide. 

I choose hope. And joy. And delight. And wonder. In unison with the pain.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Some days are hard. Some days are impossible.

Even the impossible days are spotted with beauty and hope. Sometimes, I feel like my life is a canvas with paint carelessly thrown upon it in great clumps and as another paint glop is tossed upon the canvas, leaving it's clashing colors running in streaks, I feel frustration mounting and I am left to fight the beast of discouragement while blindfolded by my own choice(s). Then, I look back (or sometimes, just up) and I see that the morass of paint on the canvas is a work of art, a thing of beauty, a (possibly less than) perfectly spelled out story that is unfolding and becoming. I stand very still, holding my breath and hoping to never leave this moment with this picture in front of my face. It fills me with renewed hope and strength for the coming days/happenings. But, the painter keeps painting...

As I prepared to walk into the grocery store with all four of my charges in tow, the stench of anxiety began to permeate. Ever since I was a halfling (teenager with large feet), I've always wanted to blend in and "Please Dear Lord, help me not to stand out, even though I'm almost 3 feet taller than every other human in the building". The agony of walking into a business with a child who screams incredibly loudly because he can and is fundamentally not able to be corrected by traditional/expected/acceptable methods is actually impossible to describe. Let's add in the fact that if he's not strapped into the cart, he will take off running wildly through the store and usually for the exit, often (to my horror and mortification, and yet much to their credit) with his brothers cantering after him in the hopes of thwarting his success at ultimate escape. Oh, don't forget that he knows how to unstrap himself - congratulations, you're toast Mom! But, let's be optimistic and assume he's going to stay in the cart like the docile child he isn't, he is now tall enough that navigating the aisles with perfect precision is an absolute requirement or items may or may not go flying off the shelves or out of the cart. And when the bag of kale hits the grumpy grandma in the next line over, no amount of groveling or apology can really explain what is going on, what has been going on for "Oh so long", or depict the mountain I'm climbing. It may not even hold back the wave of emotions threatening to drown me in that simple, embarrassing and utterly profound moment. It's not really about the kale, of course. It's about the locks on the fridge, on the laundry room, on the pantry, on the gates... it's about keeping the locks off my heart that try to keep out the hope. It's about seeing the boy trapped behind those beautiful blue eyes that wants to be set free to express himself and be understood. It's about the hope deferred, again and again.

So, when I arrive home from the grocery store, the anxiety and humiliation, the ignominy of being in the unwanted spotlight of "parent's with ill-behaved children" has left me stumbling forward, a shadow of the mom I want to be in that day to all four beautiful humans I have been entrusted to parent. My beloved friend, Kathy, arrives to pass out morsels of deliciousness (cookies, treats, suckers, apples, carrots... I could go on) to each member of the family, four-legged and two-legged alike. Lochlan rushes down to meet her, locks eyes with her and smiles, laughing out loud. He's overjoyed to see her and even digs through her satchel to see what she might be hiding just for him. She reminds me that this is utterly astounding and that his progress is absolutely measurable and evident. She tells me I'm doing something right and that I need to stay the course and keep doing everything I'm doing and she helps me see (really see again) the beautiful painting that is morphing from the glops that have been thrown onto the canvas, even this day.

He is finding himself more each day and to see his joy in those moments when he discovers another part of himself or understands something new in this life, takes my breath away. He is so filled with love and joy... it is locked up, yes, but he is slowly being unlocked. That, my friends, is pure joy in this Mama's heart.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

It's a Secret

Canyon. No, really. Secret Canyon is a treasure to be found in Sedona. We passed only a couple other people on the trail, probably because the trailhead is incredibly difficult to access by road, unless you have a very capable off road vehicle.

We actually took this hike several weeks ago, after copious amounts of rain had filled these canyons with flooding waters. The water damage in some areas was pretty extensive, but the majority of the canyon was unmarred.

Gumpai accompanied us, much to everyone's delight. 

We abundantly failed at keeping our feet dry, as the creek crossings were plentiful and quite full of water. 

The boys have been carrying their backpacking packs on each adventure, with a little added weight to each hike, as we work our way to the Colorado hike in June. Hopefully, this will help the overall weight on that hike to be less daunting for each of them. 

We simply couldn't do it without her.... Aberdeen, you are the best dog in the world. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. 

Man and his dog. Aberfeldy is turning out to be a fabulous dog for this boy and we love him to pieces.

Look at that moon! 

Madigan carried this rock for over a mile. He was pretending that it was a meteor that was flying through space until it landed dramatically into the large body of water (presumably the ocean, but adequately represented by the obliging creek). There were, of course, scads of personnel (both military and civilian) attempting to thwart the course of said meteor and each of these and their role(s) was brilliantly portrayed by Madigan as we walked. 

Paugie has an eye for every heart shaped rock that makes it's way into our pathway, and he enthusiastically collects it for me because "I love you so much I want you to know it in every way possible." Because this rock weighed 900 lbs (or thereabout) and we still had 900 miles (or thereabout) to walk, I convinced him that we could take a photo of the rock to keep for all posterity and future reflection. 

Friday, April 12, 2019

The training continues

As previously mentioned, Madigan, Declan and I are training for a hike in Colorado that we are planning for early June. On most days, Gumbum, Kelton and Lochlan also accompany us on our strolls and we've seen so many beautiful places. It is utterly inspirational to see how this place has infused life and stamina into my mom. She can tackle hikes now that did not seem possible 6 months ago, and each hike she pushes herself a little farther, past the aches and pains into further success and accomplishment. 

As we've been tackling different hikes, I have been drawn back to a book I have that outlines the hikes throughout Arizona, and my goal is to tackle as many of these as possible, as each one seems to offer it's own unique wonder to be found. 

On days when fatigue clouds my perspective, I sometimes find it less obvious to treasure the smiles, the joy of throwing rocks into the water, the breathless excitement of splashing into the ice cold creeks, the exuberant pride of a boy with his (very own - oh so loved!) dog, the devoted attention and painstaking care that my own beloved dog gives to me. 

Looks like a baptism in progress - it wasn't. :-) 

Humans, look at the camera, please. Aussies, butts please. 

Extraordinary littlest men.

Mt. Elden here we come... 

... but not without you, faithful friend.

Paugie, the strong. Paugie, the gentle. 

And then, the Creation again takes our breath away, in every way possible. Worth it! 

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

If we but realize...

After spending our morning taking care of the daily drudge (chores, etc.) we headed down to West Fork in late afternoon to clear our heads and play in the water. I've been doing the single mom thing for 10ish days and yesterday I felt a little thinner around the edges (not the right edges - only the mental edges) so getting out was so beneficial. 

These little men are so in love with the trails we follow. Tonight, as we went to bed, Paugie said, "Mama, I love spending time exploring the Creation. There are always new things to see and understand and it brings out the best in each of us. I think God made it to show us how much He loves us" 

 Mom had had a rough day, independently of us, so the breath of fresh air was healthy for her, as well. 

That lil McScot was awesome and showed us all what she's made of: something hilarious.

At one point on the trail, we were passed by a Mom and two kids. The Mom and daughter were relatively friendly, but the boy (probably 10) was rude and looked very unhappy. When Paugie said, "Hello!" the boy just looked at him with a scowl and walked on by, as if he hoped none of us would continue engaging him in additional conversation. I reminded the boys that possibly the young man had autism or something similar. About 1/4 mile down the trail we caught up to the same family, as they were crossing the creek over the stepping stones. Lochlan let go of my hand, took off at a run and galloped through the creek. He ran directly to the miserable boy and wrapped his arms around him in the tightest, most sincere hug, laying his head against his chest and smiling with his whole face. We all stood utterly dumbfounded on the opposite shore and the boy's mom had tiny tears in her face and was smiling from ear to ear. The boy stood completely still and did not seem to know what to do, but he didn't pull away. I do not have any idea what happened... I just know it changed us all. The love in Lochlan's heart in that moment for that person was the most beautiful expression of love I have ever encountered. Last night, I overheard Madigan say to Lochlan, "You are such a loving and kind man. I didn't know you could love that much." While all the rest of us wrestled our judgment, Lochlan ran right past judgement and into the heart of that very-possibly-hurting human.

We returned home after dark and as I was pulling into the driveway, I felt a little overwhelmed that I really had no idea what to feed everyone for dinner (#poorplanning #strungout). Right then, my phone messages started coming in, as I'd had it on airplane mode all afternoon. Dearest Kathy said she had bought us dinner from Schwan's - pot roast, mashed potatoes, corn, and brownies - and it was waiting for us at her house. I, again, teared up (seem to be doing a lot of that these days) and thought to myself how insanely beautiful so much of life is, if we but realize it amidst the chaos. I know that I am deeply blessed. 

Sunday, April 07, 2019

The Revolutionary War has come to us

Whilst traipsing along a trail at the base of the Peaks today, we dodged enemy bullets and cannon fire from the British and Hessians. We, initially, evaded their notice by sneaking up a hillside covered in shadow, but it became quickly apparent that our presence was known as the flintlock fire increased toward our general vicinity. Fortunately, we were prepared with a well-trained/armed (with a walking stick) soldier (Madigan), A drummer (Kelton) with his reliable rhythm and trusty drum (coffee cup lid and stick acquired from the obliging meadow), a fifer (Paugie) and his melodic fife (another stick from the obliging meadow), a scout (Lochlan) and his trusty canine detectives (Aberdeen, Aberfeldy and Paisley), and finally our faithful (if perhaps oblivious - I had to be coached through every maneuver and military strategy) Captain, Mama. The battle was officially dubbed "Good Guys vs. Bad Guys". Unforgettable and poignant. Obviously. It was unclear how our enemy had discovered us, and, though we searched with some great effort, we were unable to locate the sea by whence they surely must have come.

Drummer, Fifer, Soldier and Scout (attempting to go AWOL)

Detective Aberdeen

Detective-in-training (DIT) Aberfeldy

Detective Paisley

The battlefield

We located a naturally barricaded fort at the top of one of the nearby hills, made out of lava rock. It gave us the clear advantage over our enemy, as we had a view of every surrounding area and our position was of course impenetrable. 

In my executive report, which you are now reading, I am happy to state that no casualties were sustained on the good guy side and that no bad guys lived to tell the tale.