Friday, December 10, 2010

Ta-da....finally, right?

Well, the sewer hose broke again. It compelled me to finally write y’all an update. Not that I am implying that thinking of you, my treasured friends, makes me think of doodie; but that you have been with me through all the ups and downs of this monumental journey and when this “down” came crashing upon me (literally) I felt the need to reach out to my loyal support network. Thanks for being there, buddies, I feel better already. (Well, that and the shower helped tremendously.) We have been rolling along through the middle of the country since I last posted. I would love to post some pictures to go along with these stories, but my camera is choosing to be difficult again this week. (If any of you would like to pursuade Torben to buy me a new Nikon for Christmas, I would be eternally in your gratitude). We spent some time in one of our all time favorite campgrounds, and while I am opting not to divulge the specific location, I will tell you that we love the open expanse of nature near the heartland of a beautiful welcoming city. (My only clue: if you want really spectacular camping; check out the Army Corps of Engineers sites). In an effort to keep some of the gems of this country underdeveloped and open to the true wilderness aficionados that lurk among us, my lips are sealed. But it was fabulous. We hiked along wooded trails near a huge river. The dogs chased squirrels to their hearts’ content. (Don’t worry, all the squirrels successfully escaped.) Torben and his family have held football season tickets at the University of Florida for nearly 30 years (if not longer). (Secretly, I chose to marry him based on this premise- I love, love, love football.) Being away from the intensity of the Swamp was something that I knew would dampen his spirits come fall. It did not, however, squelch any of his emotional intensity for the game. We have often talked of the pageantry of the college games that we miss attending, but have been EVER SO HAPPY not to be in attendance at this year’s catastrophic games. Some of our friends are a little superstitious and are convinced that our empty seats have mojoed the Gator winning streak. We have the satellite TV package that allows us not to miss a game, but still there is a big difference between watching a game on TV and attending one live. The roar of the crowd, the blare of the band, ninety thousand people cheering in unison, it’s all so much fun to get caught up in. So we ventured to Arkansas State University for some tailgating and football. We parked the bus right in their parking lot, and walked the dogs around the track, which certainly turned a few heads. The tailgating was pretty poor, we were told it was due to the fact that it was the opening day of hunting season (boo!) We did meet some lovely people, who had Allegro Buses just like ours! (Although minus the critters, theirs smelled a bit more pleasant). It was great to be welcomed with such enthusiasm and meet people who love RVing and football as much as we do. We must have rubbed some off that Gator mojo on them, because they didn’t win either. From there we worked our way back up through Kentucky, which I am not ashamed to say always surprises me, it a good way. Being from Indiana I often heard jokes that referenced our southerly neighbors in a non-too-flattering way (think wheat grass poking through the hole in the mouth where the teeth used to be). And, ok, so there is a little of that there, but there is also much more. One of the prettiest state capitol buildings is in Frankfort, Kentucky. The history in this little-big town is overwhelmingly impressive. There is a rather large river that flows (and sometimes floods) through town and an idealic cemetery perched on a bluff overlooking the river and the town. Let me just say, I love cemeteries, some people may find that a bit morbid, but I have always been drawn to the mystery that lies beneath the headstones. Blocks of marble carved with loving sentiments as an ode to the lives once lived, regal names etched in stone that mark the date of their birth and death, and I think, surely that cannot be the synopsis of their lives. What happened in between? Isn’t that the juicy stuff? The things that actually make a LIFE? As a child I was often baffled by this void, so I would make up my own stories about the people whose names I read. I thought that if I audibly spoke their names, that I could somehow evoke an image of their long forgotten lives or in some way pay homage to their everlasting spirit. Childish or not, I loved the connection this gave me to the people of the past. The cemetery in Frankfort is particularly old and all but rolled out the red carpet begging me to explore the dates of the headstones laid across its sloping hills. Guess who we found? In the loveliest of spots, under a blanket fallen leaves and overlooking the westerly river and hills was none other than Daniel Boone and his wife! That was one headstone I didn’t have to make up stories for. No doubt your head is also swirling with images of the rugged and brave frontiersman who helped claim the boundaries of this nation. History is so cool. We often frequent happy hour a local establishments to chat it up with local folks to learn about the area. We struck it lucky at a bar in downtown Frankfort. My mother always told me “you never know who you’ll meet, so be nice to everyone”. Thanks for that lesson Mom, we scored big! After talking football and history with a guy for nearly an hour his wife walks in and tells us about the family bakery. BAKERY? The music seemed to skip a beat and my husband’s sugar radar went bezerk. Charlie and his family have run Magee’s Bakery for several generations and they make the good stuff, all from scratch, the way it all should be. We were invited to stop by the next day for some mouthwatering and assfattening treats. I still salivate at the thought of one of their donuts fresh from the fryer, or better yet their cheese danish…reason enough to return to Kentucky. I am sooo serious. Good ol’ Charlie also pointed us in the right direction to a small city museum where we learned that Frankfort was the backdrop for many a movie and childhood home to Johnny Depp (step off ladies, he’s mine!). Charlie, how can we ever repay you? By the way, have I told you how much I love fall? This is the one season that I have truly missed when living in Florida and I had hopes that we would catch a glimpse of its production this trip. Winter, nope, you can have it. Spring, it’s ok. Summer, well everyone loves summer. But fall, oh glorious fall! When the air turns crisp and it seems easier to breath. When the leaves glow with extraordinary splendor. If I were a tree I would want to be a maple. If I have to go into hibernation each year, as many trees do, I would want to go out with a bang, and a maple does. The pointy spread of a five fingered maple leaf turns from green into a tribute to the colors of fire; ever bold deep red and magenta hues with subtle golden glows. It is one of Mother Nature’s finest performances. I found a spectacular leaf that had every color from green in the center to yellow, orange, red, and purple on the tips. I watched it turn brown before I could photograph it to share, and although I wish I had a visual to make the beauty of the leaf last, the experience of being able to actually watch time pass and the leaf fade reminded me that A.) I need to stop procrastinating, and B.)even our finest moments are passing, might as well give it all we got while we’ve got it. You never know who you may inspire. I love the feeling of connection I get to the cycle of life every fall when I behold the changing of the leaves. Although the leaf will decompose, it will one day become nourishment in the ground that the tree will use to live on…and produce more astonishingly beautiful leaves. It’s the compassionate cycle of time passing. I spent an entire yoga session meditating on just that and was ruptured by the enormous sense of love I felt that God was trying to show us in his display of fall. Did you feel it too? From Kentucky we voyaged on up to Cincinnati, Ohio. I haven’t spent much time in Cincinnati, but I remember it being much more welcoming than it currently is. Sorry, sad but true. It has developed into a strong industrial transportation hub, utilizing its highways, railroads and rivers to disperse goods in mass quantities. We didn’t get the warm fuzzies from Cincinnati. I am sure there has to be something wonderful about it…if any of you know, will you fill me in? We made a quick stop in Indianapolis where I caught up with an old college friend who invited me to a hot yoga class. Ever done yoga? In the heat? I adore yoga, but the element of heat really pushes me beyond what I perceive my limitations to be. If you’ve never done it, I wholeheartedly recommend sweating yourself silly while twisting yourself into a pretzel on the mat. Genuine detox, nothing like it. I could hardly walk the next day, but if given the choice, I’d go back for seconds. After an hour and half of treating my body right I was ready to fill it back with toxins, so we shared some wine and caught up on each other’s lives. She has recently been inspired to write a musical. Who wakes up one day and thinks “I want to write a musical?” Laura, that’s who, and it’s one of the many reasons I love her. She’s a journalist and asked me lots of intelligent questions about our journey. I explained that throughout the trip I kept waiting to uncover some huge epiphany that would change the world, and that while the trip was incredible, I was somewhat disappointed by my lack of an earth shaking revelation. She just smiled and said, “well, maybe that’s the revelation.” Simple clarity. After I caught my breath I chewed for quite some time, and not just over dinner. Here’s a good time for a break if you need one, go to the bathroom, stretch your legs, feed your kids, pretend to work so your boss won’t catch you slacking off, whatever….don’t worry, I’ll hold your place. Here’s my quick and dirty position on the holidays: Christmas is a little too commercialized for my taste (I love the essence, but somehow that seems to be lost in the hubbub of shopping) , Easter is a blessing, but a very subdued blessing. Memorial Day should be somber but ironically we party ourselves into oblivion (to remember or to forget?) The Fourth of July I celebrate as the day I met my husband, not for the independence of our nation (although that’s pretty cool too), Labor Day is under celebrated, Halloween creeps me out, but Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving is by far the best. Think about it, one day dedicated to gratitude for the bounty in our lives, a day to spend surrounded by and actively loving our family and indulging in gluttonous overeating. Add in not having to shop for, buy, or wrap a gift, pure joy I tell you! My family always celebrates this holiday with a passion, well, we eat with a passion, who doesn't? Also my mom’s birthday falls in the same week. This year we planned a week long party to celebrate the queen’s birthday, Thanksgiving, and the third (and final?) of Kelly and Troy’s wedding receptions. (Seriously, how many days does a bride get?) We were so fortunate that we could pull up into my parent’s driveway and hang out for a week, instead of the usual dine and dash we have to employ to get back to let the dogs out. My parents still live in the huge house my sisters and I grew up in, in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The fact that the city actually has an old fort is one of, it not the coolest, of its marketing points. When I was living there, the people on our side of town were outnumbered but the stalks of corn. (p.s. Indiana sweet corn =nothing like it, yum!) And I was happy, yet somewhat jealous that a gas station, grocery store, liquor store and yoga gym opened up within a few miles of my parent’s home. Where was all that cool stuff when I was a kid? (not that the liquor store would have made my childhood any sweeter, but you know what I mean). My parents were so excited to have us all home that they had a special electrical outlet installed so that we could hook the bus up for the week. How thoughtful! It was a busy week. Since the family lives all spread out through the country we try to squeeze as much togetherness as possible into our visits. At times it can be a little too much togetherness, but on the whole, I tried to soak up every minute of it. I was able to hold little Beau again and suck in the sweet aroma of baby shampoo (and of course pass him off when the aroma changed to something else). Four year-old Jack and three year-old Bella were in awe of our “house on wheels.” I think to them it was akin to a tree house. They came prancing out early in the morning, still in their footed-pajamas with wild child bed hair to say good morning and set up their toys in our living room. Torben was in heaven playing cowboys and Indians with Jack while Bella made the rounds loving the dogs, terrorizing the cat and curling up in my lap. Every moment I spend with those kids is a miracle. We pack a whole lot of loving and playing into one day. I’m not saying that I love all kids that way, but if you are an aunt or an uncle you know the unconditional love you can shell out for those little munchkins. Somehow the fact that they are an extension of my sister gives them a direct link to the core of my heart, they automatically get to pass Go and collect $200. Every time we’re home my sister’s and I have a secret tradition. As one of us bids adieu to the rest of the family we sneak up (or down) the back stairs and reclaim them for a special middle of the night celebration, just the three of us. I love my sisters in a way I cannot find the words to explain. I adore their inner beauty, I celebrate their joys, my heart breaks for their pains and even through tears they can make me laugh so hard I nearly pee my pants. This gathering was much like the many from our youth, we laughed, we, cried,…we snuck in and out of the house so Mom and Dad wouldn’t hear us...just like old times. Thanksgiving was full merriment-isn’t it always? I roasted our traditional Tofurkey. What? That’s not traditional in your family? Oh, well, welcome to vegetarian feasting at its best. That would be a tofu turkey, and although not quite as big as the two birds my carnivorous family fried, it provided Torben and I with a fulfilling feast that didn’t harm another creature. In addition, we welcomed some new vegetarians to their first meat-free Thanksgiving. Hopefully my cooking didn’t scare them off. (If you’ve ever tried my cooking you’ll know that it is entirely too possible.) My new brother in law was (a little too) excited to start cooking that morning and came into the kitchen exclaiming with vigor “let’s cook this S.o.b. turkey!”. The penguins of Antarctica could have heard my sister scream as her precious little son skipped around the kitchen singing about the S.o.b. turkey. Whoops. Ah well, no permanent damage (that’ll come with adolescence). The day ended with 13 adults crammed into a bathroom watching three kids play in the bath. If that’s not Thanksgiving, what is? The grand finale of the week was the gala reception party for Kelly and Troy and their friends and family that couldn’t join us in Mexico. It was a fun excuse for Kelly to wear her dress again. How many of you brides got to wear your dress twice? (By the way, there is a new wave of “dress” parties in which all the ladies bring their long ago wedding dresses or bridesmaid dresses out for another whoopla – anyone interested? I’ll rent the margarita machine!) Anyway, she looked beautiful, again. She got a little help from Troy’s cousin who expertly airbrushed her make-up. Yup, I said airbrush. I have to admit I was a little nervous about being airbrushed, with the fear that we could look a little like a ripe orange, but thankfully, no fruit were resembled in the outcome. She did a fabulous job on all of us and I would love to post her contact info, but I forgot to get a card! Also, it was a great reminder of how much WORK it takes to look glamorous and why it is such a rarity for me. The party itself was like reading chapter after chapter from the book of our family’s past. From the O.B. doctor who delivered Kelly into this world to our family dentist, all the family friends who inhabited a story of our lives showed up to cast their love and joy upon the marriage. What a beautiful testimony to my sister. And my parents. My parents have amazing friends. At one point I looked around the room and counted no less than four other couples who served as surrogate parents during my youth (you know, the people who disciplined you when you were young and you actually cared what they thought). And of course with that comes the surrogate brothers and sisters that we used to beat up on , or vice versa. My Dad owned that dance floor like nobody’s business. Jimmy can shake it! It was a great band (though my Grandfather would say a little too loud) and everyone boogied the night away. Bella was shy at first, then took to the dance floor like a fish to water. Even after the band had long gone home she twirled in circles and jumped around with the tambourine sashaying across the dance floor. A girl after my own heart! Torben and I crashed after the reception, thankful for the quiet seclusion of our home. The next day I learned that the party continued on well into the wee hours of the morning, my family plotted to hold hands around the motor home and sing kumbaya to wake us up. Ok, now you know where I get my bizarre nature, the apple apparently doesn’t fall far. When we finally pulled the bus out of the driveway I was so full. The tofurkey leftovers packed in the fridge next to my Mom’s mouthwatering sweet potato casserole, and I was so stuffed with love and an abundance of merriment that I thought I was going to burst. Not only from my own immediate family, but from our old friends and our new in-laws (who are way too cool to ever be called out-laws). It’s funny how when you give love it seems to come back to you, only exponentially greater. It’s one of the great mysteries of the universe, which I hope you too may revel in. Oh, I forgot to mention that I caught up with a high school friend, Ryan. She is beautiful, yes she. Every time she calls Torben gets a funny look on his face when the caller ID says “Ryan” is calling. She assured me that that was nothing compared to the fiasco her husband had when trying to plan their wedding (“um, I am sorry sir, but we don’t do those kinds of weddings”)! Good thing she has nerves of steel. We were in gymnastics together, she was infinitesimally better than I and can STILL do back flips, handsprings, and a host of other physically impossible tricks. She now coaches our high school team. It is so fun to see what people from your childhood have grow into! Want another break? You’re half way there (almost). We stopped for a few days in Louisville, Kentucky. Torben got a huge chuckle out of the way we say Louisville, that sounds something like lulvl (with a gag). Some people call it Lou-wee-ville, that’s ok too, but Lou-is-ville is totally unacceptable. Just so you know. Ironic since the voyage of Lewis and Clark started on the river there that separates Indiana from Kentucky. On the Indiana side there is Clarkville, and over in Kentucky, they’ve got Lulvl. (Well they seemed to have missed the boat just a bit-go back to that image of a wheat eating toothless man for reference). We toured the Lou-wee-ville slugger factory and got to see how they make the famous baseball bats. I had no idea that each player who signed on with them had a specially made bat. Who knew bats could be tailored to the millimeter? We also toured a few museums. Actually we toured the gift shops because we were too damn cheap to pay admission to the museum. One art museum let us peek for free anyway. They had a great toy collection on display, and guess who was gushing like a kid? Do I even have to tell you? I nearly had to drag him out like a protesting little half-pint. There was also a whole floor dedicated to the artwork of children with cancer. Much of it was heartbreaking, but there was a photo collage that one of the nurses made. She asked the kids to make a face at cancer and Torben gloriously pointed out the big middle finger that a hairless young lad waved with a smirk of confidence. Take that cancer. We had our first experience with the white stuff in Lulvl. Torben has not been privy to the snow since he was six!! That’s right, six. (Go ahead northerners, curse him to your hearts’ content.) We took the dogs for a walk and the flakes started to float among us. I say float, because it did not fall directly down to the ground, it more swirled around and danced for a while in the air before settling gently on the ground. We practiced catching a few flakes on our tongues. The good times lasted only a few minutes before Torben started to panic about driving in it. The next morning I had to climb on top of the bus and sweep off the snow and ice from the awnings before we could bring the slide-outs in. It was by total accident that a big heap fell right on top of my husband. Hehehe. As if there is any question….we headed further south, stopping to stretch our legs at the Corvette Museum. I am not all that impressed with shiny fast cars, but hey, I gave it a go. The newer cars were just cars to me (sorry, a car is just a car, it gets you from point A to point B) but the older cars were genuine pieces of art. My favorites were from the earliest models in the 50’s. I was surprised to learn that the company hired a team of women to work on the design elements of the car. Not surprised that the women were designers, puh-lease, surprised that in the 1950’s women were given such reverence in the origination of something so iconically American (and actually given credit for their work). We happily set up camp in Nashville, TN for a few days. As one of my friends called it: Nash-Vegas baby! And it totally is. I have been to Nashville on many occasions to visit my friend Jaime, but we mostly spent our time drinking chai lattes and catching up on each other’s lives. Torben was determined to see the real deal this time. Some of you may remember that when we first pulled through Nashville somewhere at the beginning of our trip the city was flooded. It was a horrible natural disaster, and the city is still only now coming back to life in the most heavily flooded areas. We toured the state capitol (with a private tour courtesy of our friend Wade, who happens to work for the state). Upon hearing of the famous bathroom in the Heritage Hotel we of course had to tour that too. Who knew a bathroom could draw such a crowd? It was the men’s room, and it is still in use, but y’all know I have no couth. ( I have a great picture for this one! Damn!) Nashville has a pulse. A great current of music and everyone seems to walk to the beat. The vibe is very contagious. We traveled to a groovy little bar where one of Torben’s high school friends was performing. Will Barrow was really good! We had a few drinks and got his CD for later listening. We also managed to score floor tickets to the Grand Old Opry. We were so close that if one of the singers sneezed, it would have sprayed us (thankfully no one did). The Opry is still the longest running radio show on air. It was funny, during the show the performers had to pause for commercials. We saw several older performers whom I am sure were something in their day, unfortunately that day was long, long ago. But some newer artists also made their debut. Newer artists like Bo Bice (I admit it, I am an American Idol junkie) and a jamming family band called Cherryholmes, who are up for a Grammy nomination. And I was given the gift of being able to fill an entire day with Jaime, drinking chai tea and catching up on each other’s lives, which in my opinion, was by far the best part of Nashville. I am a firm believer that a good friend is worth more than her weight in gold. She’s one of those authentic gems who isn’t afraid to tell me the truth about myself, and love me in spite of it. We’ve been best friends since the first day we met. I love it when our lives overlap for a day or two, even though it never seems long enough. Her daughter Ruby is adorable and undoubtedly the most well behaved three year-old on the planet. I am infinitely amazed at the work and dedication it takes to raise a well rounded child in today’s world. When we talked about all the influences out there and how to teach a child right from wrong it dawned on me that parents have to become super heroes with a larger than life sense of morality, acting twice as good as they ever were in hopes to raise a child that is a least half as good as their highest expectations. It has to be exhausting. I am not sure I could outthink a three year old every waking moment of the day. My hat goes off to all of you Moms and Dads. I was given the trusted (and awesome) job of “tubby time” with Ruby. If you haven’t played with a child in the bath recently, you really ought to (well, get permission from their parents first, otherwise that would be a little weird). Ruby and I splashed and played, tossing her dad’s poker chips into the water for full splashing effect (hey, whatever works). Every time she squealed with glee it made me want that moment to last forever. After we dried off (how do you parents keep from getting soaked too?) we curled up for story time and turned on the most awesome display of nightlight projections I had ever seen. Being a kid today is padded with some really cushy stuff. The threat of snow moved us out yet again. We happily loaded up our crew and moved further south. With cold snowy weather on the way there is only one place to go: Florida! We held hands as we crossed the border to the great Sunshine State. I was all smiles as we pulled into the Williston Crossings RV Resort and hooked up our rig. The park is complete with tennis courts, a dog park, hiking trails, fire pit, shuffle board and if that's not enough; we plan to have our first line dancing class on Monday morning. Yeah, I feel a bit like the retired gray hairs that descend upon the state every year, but it’s a pretty good life. We’re headed over to Mama Madson’s house for a happy home cooked southern meal. My stomach can hardly wait. We plan to spend some time cleaning out the car and the bus. Somehow the pizza boxes have piled up and I am pretty sure there is something growing in the back seat since Kentucky. We’re gonna take a respite from our travels for the holidays….maybe. It will be interesting to see how long we can sit still. We'll probably then head up the eastern seaboard and explore the outer islands of Georgia. Wanna come along for the ride? Love and kisses, Sarah

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Oh Mexico..

Just my luck, I lost memory space on my camera 30 minutes after landing in Mexico and haven’t yet got a replacement. If you wanna see some great pics of the wedding try Kelly and Troy’s wedding site or one of the fam’s facebook postings. I know, bummer, but you’ll just have to use your imagination on this one, sorry. It was fabulous, by the way. Idealic would my word of choice. My whole family (minus my husband who had to stay behind with the bus and kids) converged on a seaside resort in Cabo San Lucas. I realize that we are L.U.C.K.Y. to be able to experience something this incredible. I was admittedly a little confused because where we were looked suspiciously affluent, well taken care of, absent of smog and full of chains like Costco and Home Depot. I have no idea what percentage of tourism dollars actually trickle down to the local economy; but it was nicer, much nicer, than many places I’ve been in the states. I learned the Mexicans can do two things quite well: service and drinks. We were pampered, doted on and after every interaction they replied, “it’s a pleasure.” I don’t care if they were lying through their teeth, do you know how nice that is to hear? (Especially when last night’s tequila is hanging like a cloud on your morning!) For example: “May I have some orange juice?” “It’s a pleasure.” “Can you add some rum to it?” “It’s a pleasure.” Can you tell me where the nearest bano is in case I need to puke?” “Just to the left, it’s a pleasure.” Where else can you go where they offer gratitude for you losing your lunch in their toilet? Not that it happened, well, I can only speak for myself, my liver was used and slightly abused, but she held in there well. I think we only lost a few soldiers, say 3 people in our 40 person group. Not bad. We’re not amateurs. Traveling with my family is so different than with my husband. With Torben it’s all about the adventure and finding our own way. We travel like it’s our job. With my family it’s much more relaxed. Some other main differences include eating at restaurants that actually have table cloths, and my favorite: valet parking. In a word: spoiled. Dad, I cannot thank you enough for slaving away for 30 years inside other people’s dirty mouths so that we can enjoy such splendor. Muchas gracias Papa! And now that your last little girl has been married off, perhaps you’ll get to slow down and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Jen, my other sister, and I never had Bachelorette parties. Me, because I planned a couple weddings before I actually got married (my friends had a hard time determining whether this one was “for real” or not), and Jen because she was already knocked up So we really had some personal making up to do for Kel’s night out. Perhaps it was a little cliché and tacky but I dragged my husband (yeah, right, dragged) to a XXX palace before I left to find the latest and greatest in bachelorette paraphernalia. I was determined to do this thing up right; spare no expense, this was, after all, my last little sister to get married. We practically had to get a line of credit from the bank to cover the expenses of the chocolate and strawberry body paint, two foot penis squirt gun and oodles of other anatomically stretched dohickeys. I carefully wrapped each prize and packed them in my bag. I have learned long ago never to check my luggage on airlines, the fact that I was flying to Mexico doubled that commitment. So I carefully stashed my week’s worth of clothes, the XXX goodies and my sister of the bride dress (I refuse to be called matron of anything) in my backpack. My eagerness to join my family for a week’s worth of playing on the Mexican coast blinded me the morning of my departure. My head was floating in the clouds…until Mr. I’m Too Uptight and Hate My Job Transportation Security Officer brought me back to earth with a little “bag check”. It’s hard not to blush when someone pulls a penis out of your bag. But let’s be real - I had a suitcase full of one eyed soldiers in every shape AND color, blushing is not the word. I think I added a new color to the rainbow. With a lot of unnecessary huffing and puffing he unwrapped, and not delicately mind you, ripped the pretty paper off, held the damn things up to the light, waved them around for all to see. Then with a judgmental eye asked loudly so that passengers boarding ten gates away could hear…if I was a call girl! My mother would be so proud. What’s a girl to do? So I said yes and told him I had a little extra time to kill before my flight and was he interested? I was quickly cleared. This all made for a good story later at the bachelorette party, especially while donning out semi-wrapped gifts with wrapping paper hanging on by a lone piece of tape. Ok, so perhaps giving my Grandmother a glow in the dark penis ring toss game was a little over the top, but she was a terrific sport (thanks Grandma!) The girls traveled to Cabo-Wabo, an internationally known bar, owned by Sammy Hagar. I felt like a dork that I had to go ask who Sammy Hagar was. If you don’t know, go look it up, you too can share in my embarrassment. Not to worry, alcohol numbs all feeling. We danced like maniacs. Even my Mom, post knee surgery, was able to get out and do a little movin and groovin on the dance floor. (Not that she should have, but she did. She probably shouldn’t have had that punchbowl cocktail that was potent enough to strip paint off the wall, either, but, well, you know.) We were smart enough to schedule our girls’ night out several days before the actual wedding, so we could recoup. I got to spend lots of time snuggling up to my three month old nephew, Beau. He is the happiest little chunky monkey. And my grandmother (the aforementioned recipient of the glow in the dark ring toss game) was in her prime taking care of him while the rest of us floated in the pool. My grandmother is one of those people who has the “gene” for mothering. I don’t know why some people just exude the confidence and enjoyment of nurturing and some don’t, but she definitely does. Wonder why it skipped me? The wedding itself was impressively emotional. The ceremony even had the fathers wiping their eyes. My new brother-in-law bawled like a baby when he saw his bride for the first time. It was pretty moving…until he gave her a handshake because he didn’t know what to do.. Classic. I think everyone cried harder because it was so damn funny. Seriously, though, Kelly and Troy are wonderful for each other. As individuals they are incredible people, as a couple, they are even better. It is such a blessing to know your sibling has found a lifelong mate…though Lord knows I probably would never have guessed she’d pick the younger brother of a girl who threatened to beat me up in high school! We can joke about it now, and thankfully neither of us can fully remember the what and why of the issue. But seriously, in high school, I would avoid certain hallways so as not to come face to face with her, and when I first learned Kelly was dating Troy my first words were, “Oh shit.” Sorry Lisa, you’re wonderful!. The entire Shaffer family is awesome and whether they like it or not, in good times and in bad….they’re stuck with us! Coming home was an experience…I don’t want to even get started on the process of US customs and immigration and why those of us holding a valid passport had to wait twice as long as those who didn’t. Nor why my uncle has the tendency to always get taken to a “special room” for “special questioning” whenever he flies internationally, despite the fact that he is as American as apple pie. Or that some of the customs and immigration officials spoke no English. No, I won’t even jump up on that soapbox today. When I first moved to Florida I remember smirking as I threw out the window de-icer scraping tool that had been in my trunk since I first got my license. Good riddance, I thought, I won’t be needing that anymore. The moment was long awaited, but my foresight was short…of course. Our pipes froze last night. Ever needed to flush only to find the water isn’t flowing? Good times. Not that a de-icing scraper would have been any help, but it made me wince at the sign of things to come. We’ve seen some incredible things this trip. Perhaps none will rival the most recent incredibility. The other day we awoke to find stray dogs running through our camp, cute as can be, we thought they were doing a special little booty shaking dance. After a few minutes we looked a little closer…they were stuck together, well, actually they were frozen together, doggy style. I imagine there was a real missed photo op when I scrambled around on all fours behind them trying to warm the necessary parts while Torben poured warm water on the extended appendage and we helped them pry loose. More good times. The fun continues…guess where we were all last week? You can’t beat an exciting adventure to…the repair shop. Yeah, again. We had to have our engine rebuilt. We’ve been entertained with flashing lights on the dash for several weeks, which we were reassured by the manufacturer was “just faulty wiring” and didn’t mean anything was wrong. Even you know better! We had one monstrous fear before going on this trip; that we would somehow have to leave the motor coach and bear the fun task of finding a hotel that would allow the whole barking shedding lot of us. Ugh. That day came. I couldn’t even find the humor in the situation as I sat day after day in the hotel room smaller than our RV, begging and pleading with my kids not to bark at every noise. There are only so many hours in a day one can hang out at the dog park. Thankfully the Marriott Residence Inn in OKC (that’s city slang for Oklahoma City y’all) not only tolerated us, they hosted a daily happy hour. God bless free beer. The engine is now running better, but we have a list a mile long of other things they couldn’t fix. The recommendation, you won’t believe it – go back to Red Bay, Alabama. Our home away from home. I nearly shit my pants. So we finally moved back into our big ol’ rig and we try valiantly everyday not to think of her as a rolling disappointment. But sometimes when I open a drawer and the bottom falls out I can’t help it. She looks pretty and cost a fortune, but “lemon” is rolling around back in my head. And if everything went smoothly you wouldn’t have anything to laugh at, right? Ignoring bad news is a skill I have perfected. So we kept on sightseeing like nothing was wrong. Along the road we passed the ever extra-terrestrial looking Storm Chaser car. It was barricaded with steel and had a few weather antennas peeking out the top. It looked a bit like a robot. We were ever so pleased that it was driving the opposite way. In Oklahoma we headed out to find the Cherokee Nation Torben’s mother’s lineage was Cherokee and lived in the hills of West Virginia. In the mid 1800”s our swell government made the audacious choice to repeatedly break every treaty they made and brutally remove the Indians from their own land, thank you, President Jackson (please apply heavy sarcasm). The Cherokee tribe was divided, some left with government escorts and walked barefoot through freezing conditions to be relocated to Oklahoma (and those were the lucky ones). Others, like Torben’s family hid in the hills as a final act of self preservation. As a result they were never “formally” registered as belonging to the Tribe, not that it really mattered to that generation: the Eastern Band of Cherokees were not provided US citizenship until 1924. Cherokee Nation does not actually have a reservation like many other tribes. Thanks to their own tribal council disagreement and typical government b.s. they were denied a reservation. What the Cherokee Nation lacks in land, they make up for in spirit. The tribe has a wonderful museum and family history research center. I learned that the Cherokee people were the first Indians to develop written language, which is beautiful by the way thanks to Chief Sequoia, and they built the first missionary school for women west of the Mississippi river. Who knew Indians were pioneers in Women’s equality? Fabulous. We happened to visit during a New Moon festival and besides free admission we got to shoot fake poison darts by blowing sticks through bamboo shoots (come on, admit it, your jealous). Ok, so it was really an education station set up for Cherokee kids to learn about life in the 1600’s, but during their lunch break Torben and I snuck in and played like we were kids. We also got some great souveniers like a CD of tribal music and a book to begin learning the language, not to mention the terrific resources to begin filling in the gaps on Torben’s family history. We’ll keep you posted on what we find. We’re now back to an old favorite destination of ours: Fayetteville, Arkansas. People used to laugh at us when we told them how much we loved Arkansas (right to our face and they didn’t even try to hide it!). Arkansas is like a favorite pair of jeans, it always fits right! We’ve been to half the states in the country and this one still makes my top 5. There is so much to do outdoors and if you look in the dictionary under ‘friendly’ the entire town of Fayetteville should be listed. We’re enjoying the festive fall season with brisk outdoor hikes in the Ozarks and cozying up in restaurants with warm fires in the evenings. We also made friends with our nightly servers and scored free samples of some fine bourbon – jackpot! Arkansas is where we first discovered caves. Not all of you may wax poetic about crawling on your knees in a dark muddy cave, but I get a little misty eyed when I think of all the caves we’ve stepped foot in. And it all started here… romance comes in many forms my friends. Tune in next time as we travel back to Alabama (can’t you hear the banjo playing?)!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Southwest and Four Corners

Please don’t put out a missing persons report, we’re still alive and accounted for! We’ve been on the most circuitous route through New Mexico, Texas, back to New Mexico, up to Colorado, over to Utah, back to Colorado and back again to New Mexico. If you’ve been trying to plot us on a map you might get a little dizzy. Let’s just say we’ve put some good mileage on this bus. The bus, by the way, is holding up remarkably well for the type of living we’ve been putting her through; zigzagging up and down mountains that should questionably be driven in a car let alone our behemoth bus. But she is scheduled for a little maintenance and tune up in a few weeks. We’ve opted for a place in Oklahoma this time (hoping and prayin to avoid the Alabama Vortex).
If you’ve never been to the Four Corners you should really check out what this part of the country has to offer. Again I have been astonished, awe-struck and bewildered that such beauty exists within the borders of our own country. I have to admit my own short sightedness: I believed that the Grand Canyon was this amazing thing in the Southwest and that was about all there was here, save for a few cactuses and tumble weeds. Wrongo The entire range of mountains, canyons and rivers in this area is spectacular. While I feel we have seen a lot, the truth is we have only scratched the surface of the high desert. Here’s a quick recap:
Roswell, New Mexico: place of the ever controversial crash of a UFO. Remember how Torben had us out searching for Bigfoot, well; it’s along those same lines….or so I thought. I can’t even begin to condense the amount of information on the alleged UFO crash that has been accumulated, so I won’t even try. But I will say this: A LOT of high ranking military and government officials have independently sworn to have witnessed or been privy to information relating to the confiscating of the crash material and transportation of evidence. You all know I am the skeptic’s skeptic. It takes an unbelievable amount of evidence to convince me of anything. But here’s the real question I pose to all of you: If life exists on this planet is it not possible that in the scheme of the whole UNIVERSE that life may also exist elsewhere? Even I can’t prove it false. Do your own research, make your own opinions. All I’m saying is…anything is possible. Oh, and the Governor of New Mexico just attended the opening of a new space station in southern New Mexico-the first U.S. station planned to send civilians into outer space…(for the small fee of $200,000.00 you too can fly to the stars!). Coincidental?
We also hiked a mile into the earth in southern New Mexico. Carlsbad Caverns is arguably the BIGGEST and most impressive cave system we have seen yet (and I’m pretty sure we’ve seen a most of them). It was absolutely incredible. If you want to see the inside of a cave but have a fear about being enclosed in a small space, worry not my friends, you can fit about three football fields in there. Oh, and they have an elevator (which we learned about after our hike down). And, it had wheelchair friendly paths :) Texas was a preplanned destination for Torben to attend a conference so we hauled ass to San Antonio for a week. The company was delightful; Torben’s speech went well and as it turns out San Antonio has a pretty cool river walk district. Oh yea, and there is also this little thing called the Alamo. I hope most of you have a better history background than yours truly. (Who’s surprised that I couldn’t for the life of me recall what happened at the Alamo?) Well, they died. That’s about the gist of it. Frontiersmen fought for land, and lost, but they did so valiantly so the landmark is a tribute to their honor. (See, I am a pretty good student, just don’t ask me to remember it five years from now.) In a rather classic noMadson moment we decided to take the dogs to a state park that was five miles away and we are totally, I mean totally, reliant upon my GPS. Sometimes I think there is someone on the other end of that thing laughing their ass off at what a joke it is to send us driving through ranches, rivers, and locked gates. Against all odds, we made it, although I think Torben’s favorite part was driving through the river. He felt a little like Indiana Jones.
We also stumbled into a National Forest that was completely deserted of people. High in the desert mountains in the driest of dry conditions we found this waterfall and swam with joy in its basin. I got a little carried away and shed my bathing suit for a chance to swim au naturale. I love skinny dipping, it is an awesomely freeing feeling, and I indulged in this outdoor oasis. Torben let me have a little fun then got a little paranoid and convinced me to re-clothe. The next thing I knew the caretaker of the park walked around the corner with his camera, tripod and the biggest zoom lens I have ever seen. Great. If you see any nude pictures of my sailing around the internet do me a favor; photoshop the cellulite out of my thighs.
There was an awesome river that flowed through a small town and the city made a park around it. People tube leisurely down the river until they get spat out through these Tube Shoots that are more like white water rafting than floating. Oh, excuse me, in Texas its toobing, not tubing. Texas is a proud state...of everything, especially Texas, but that's neither here nor there. Back to toobing-of course we did not have a tube, but the water was just too inviting to ignore, so I threw on old clothes I had stuffed in the back of the car and jumped right in. We had a blast...until I got the (not so) bright idea to go through the tube shoot. Why I thought that swimming through a narrow bolder laiden canal seemed like a good idea I'll never know. Why my husband laughed and let me is a whole nother. But I have a history of making ridiculous decisions forgoing my safety in favor of fun. Duh. I should just walk around with a helmet, it would probably reduce my insurance premium. That water was so fast and so strong that it pulled me under, flipped me over and smacked my head on a few rocks. Underwater things sound loud, but I swear that thud was heard around the world. As if that wasn't punishment enough for my stupidity the swirling waters held me under and dragged me down stream as I fought for a breath. I couldn't tell which way was up or where I was headed...and I only have myself to blame. Adventure is fun my friends, but sometimes is pays to think twice before jumping in, trust me.
On our next adventure I opted for spectator-only status, I remained dry and on solid ground. Please let it be on the record that I, Sarah Lynn Madson, got out of bed at 5:00 am. (I have a reputation for indulging in sleep, often too much, and short of a natural disaster I’m not getting up for anything.) I figured the Annual Hot Air Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque was one of those “once in a lifetime, not to be missed” ordeals. I was right. In an effort to avoid paying for parking (thank you frugal husband) we parked and walked 4 miles (both ways!) to the festival. Truthfully, I would have walked twice that to see what we saw. I loved experiencing the childlike glee light up the faces of thousands as 500, yes that’s 5-0-0 brightly colored and various shaped balloons took flight into the sunrise. Ladies and Gentlemen…Mass Ascension is an event NOT to be missed.
Did you know that 2,000 years ago people lived on the side of cliffs in the desert? Hard to believe, but true. It took us over an hour to drive up the mountain to reach these remote historical monuments. How in God’s name people walked up this mountain range and hauled their building supplies up there is completely beyond my belief.
Had I lived there, I probably would have been one of the poor villagers that disappeared never to be heard from again after falling off the thousand foot cliff. No doubt not an easy life. The remains of these villages are right out of National Geographic.
Moab, Utah is a rockin good time for the out-door enthusiast. We went there because we both love the name. Moab, it’s just cool to say, right?
We hiked through the red rock canyon lands, across streams, through gorges and under natural rock arches and fell in love with Utah. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. I can’t wait for a return trip.
One of the things I love most about my husband is his spontaneity. We were headed west in Utah and he made a u-turn on the highway so that I could catch up with my Mom, visiting with my sister in Denver. Bless his precious heart; he drove across the Rocky Mountains and over the Continental Divide again just to bring me to my mom! He is saintly, or would be if the curse words stopped flying out of his mouth at every turn. I got to hug my mom. We talked, a laughed, and roasted marshmallows. Perhaps the biggest surprise: Kelly and Troy are going to be married in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico next week. But due to some sketchy Mexican laws they had to have a legal ceremony in the US first. Guess who just happened to show up and spoil this secret? You guessed it: the Merry Madsons! Torben was the best man at a wedding he feared he wouldn’t be able to attend (driving the bus through Mexico is not high on our list of must do’s). It was a special day and despite being delayed due to a 5k race blocking off downtown, locked doors to the courthouse and a tardy judge…my sister was a blushing bride... and I had the perfect excuse to indulge in cupcakes and champagne!
We had to make a beeline south because Denver was expecting snow!
We have met up with some incredible people, old friends and new on this trip and beyond all of the sights we have seen, it has been those shared moments that have really made the trip. Thank you to Aunt Deanna and Uncle Tom for their love and support and one knock-out game of shuffleboard that left me questionably sore the next day.
Also, to soothe our Gator football season separation we have watched some of the games with Gator clubs across the country. The clubs are great (the games not so much). Thank you to the Florida Alum in San Antonio and Denver who extended such a welcome courtesy. My favorite part: my two new best friends, twins Claire & Elizabeth (who happen to be black belts!). The girls refreshed my memory of why I loved my childhood; silly pranks, glow in the dark nail polish, and happy singing hand clapping games…everybody should let out their inner eight year old again.
Thanks Silberman family! And for icing on the cake I got to catch up with a friend in Denver I have known since I was five (thanks Court!). Good company is like a feather that tickles my soul.
We drove OVER the Rio Grande gorge (yikes!) and saw sooooo many tarantulas. I cannot even begin to tell you how creeped out I was…but my husband made it all go away by taking me to Ojo Caliente, a natural hot springs spa in the desert mountains. We soaked in outdoor pools of bubbling water rich with the earth’s natural minerals, while being surrounded with red rock cliffs. It was very memorable. They also had a mud pool, where we slathered ourselves with mud and laid out to dry. Which I am sure would be a great luxury in the nice warm sunshine- but with an overcast sky and a chilly 50 degrees, waiting for the mud to dry was like standing wet in front of the refrigerator. But definitely worth it, my skin is glowing.
Taos, New Mexico is a skiers dream in the winter. Fall isn’t so bad either. We drove out to the National Forest and decided to take an unpaved road (of course). The pay off for bumping up and down on the hole-y-est road was this peaceful seclusion in the fall foliage. After snapping these pictures I laid out a blanket and took a nap while Torben ventured off to explore.
We’re now posted in Santa Fe, which is a town that totally surprised me. I guess I expected the desert to be, well, deserted. Santa Fe is a unique town bustling with brightly colored art and activity, very trendy, quirky and lively. If you want to explore a new city that is rich in Native American and Spanish culture and offers something for everyone this is a getaway destination.
Well folks, that's all she wrote...for now. I'm off to Mexico for the "real" wedding and some tequila damage to my liver. Hugs and kisses to all!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Torben's Bucket List

Lily says "Hi." She's having a great time sticking her head out the window absorbing all the new smells. She likes to think of herself as the co-pilot's co-pilot. In other words, when the bus is moving she has claimed her place on the passenger front seat...regardless of whether or not I happen to be sitting there. To say we compromise is a joke. She won. My lap is her domain for an unparalleled view of what's to come.
Torben wanted to make sure that I mentioned that we drove through Bakersfield, CA and through the intersection where James Dean was killed. There, mentioned. We drove through it on our way to Vegas.
Vegas. The city I have long resisted. I don’t know why. It scares the shit out of me. Maybe, as a woman who opted for a profession which promotes health and balance the idea of being swarmed within a society that thrives on gambling, prostitution, excessive drinking and a host of other lovely addictions didn’t really tickle my fancy. And as we travel, I am becoming more and more drawn to small towns with a more subdued outlook on commercialism. Ah well, Vegas was a perfectly timed pit stop on our route through the desert, and in the spirit of keeping an open mind, I wagered a gamble and stepped inside “Sin City”.
Whoa! The first thing I noticed while driving into the city was the raging assault on my senses. Music of conflicting genres was blaring from every direction vying for our attention, competing with a plethora of erratically blinking and blinding lights, some of which were so bright they left tracer spots on my retinas, and people of all different color, size and shape aimlessly amusing one another through the never-ending pavement which stretches between giant casino playgrounds. I was surprised to see only a small handful of unlucky degenerates humiliatingly getting handcuffed in front of forty-thousand onlookers. I don’t know why, but I expected more. There wasn’t as much sex as I expected either. I guess I had Hollywood enticed visions of hookers prowling the streets and strip joints displaying their wares every 500 feet. The exposure was minimal…just a few hundred non-English speaking folks- flipping their naked promo fliers and stuffing them under my nose every three feet - annoying, but survivable. For any of you who have not been, the casinos really are impressive. They are so grand in scale that it is hard to fathom the enormity of their size, until you try to walk from one end of the strip to the other. By the way, don’t do it…and ladies, those sexy five inch heels? Do yourself a favor and leave them at home. Dr. Scholls would make a fortune if he set up a merchandise stand on every corner. Anyway, each casino has a theme, so to speak, and even when you are outside approaching one you feel as if you have been transported to a different time or place. From an Egyptian pyramid, to a Parisian stroll, or from a knight’s castle to the liquid streets of Venice. Every fantasy is there and it is hard not to get swept away in the grandeur. It is as if time has become suspended. Life is just as active at 2:00 am as it is 2:00 pm. In fact, I believe the advantage the casinos have is that once inside you have no earthly idea what time it is…thus keeping you, and more importantly, your $ rolling through their slots, tables, restaurants and shops. I’m not really a slot playing kind of girl. I can’t quite catch the thrill of throwing my money away at the slim (1 in 11,000,000) odds that I could make a few bucks. The lottery for that matter is another great mystery to me….but clearly I am in the minority here. And in the spirit of “when in Rome”… I dropped five bucks in a slot machine, won $30, and quickly cashed out. Yipee. Mission accomplished. All total, less than three minutes. But for the truly addicted, fear not about losing your streak…you can continue your obsession whilst seated on your throne in el bano. (Seriously. This interactive gaming thing has gone a bit too far.) If you should come out ahead and want to flaunt that new fortune there are no shortages of high end jewelry shops, clothing boutiques and posh trendy clubs to spend your spoils. The ever thrifty Mr. Madson kept a close eye on me and maneuvered my gaze away from several unneeded but curiously enticing and sparkly splendors. Thankfully, there is more than enough free entertainment to keep one endlessly amused. We walked through the Bellagio and felt a little like Alice in Wonderland with this larger than life display.
We were treated to a great dinner by our friends, the Orlando/Vegas transplants, Tom & Michelle Conroy. It was so refreshing to spend time with a couple who are as compassionate about animals as Torben and I are, maybe more (suckers). I had so much fun I forgot to take pictures. Michelle is a hoot and kept me rolling in stitches all night. As it turns out, we had quite a bit in common. Maybe it’s because we both married older men. Maybe it’s because we both saw the writing on the wall and opted to support said men in leaving the corporate grind and opting for a healthier, happier lifestyle that will keep said men around a lot longer. Cheers to a life well lived and the road less traveled!
We lucked out and stayed in a fabulous park in Vegas. It was as ritzy as any hotel. We were a little spoiled with the gated entry and escort to our site, and I luxuryiated (yes, I did just make up that word, and I ought to copyright it) in a private pool for hours while Torben caught up on some lawyerly work. Ahhhh, I guess Vegas isn’t so bad after all. Did I mention Torben won at the craps table?! Enough to pay for our little stay there, not too shabby. We both extend our sincere gratitude to the cute girl from Chicago who threw great dice for an hour and fattened our wallets! Blessings abound little beauty!
Our next port of stay was Flagstaff, Arizona. I was expecting the dull dry desert. I got dry and desert all right, but it was anything but dull. Holy Cow, I was shocked to learn the plethora of things to explore in this area of the country. The Grand Canyon is close (relatively speaking) and I know it may be sac religious to take a trip of this proportion and not go there, but we didn’t, so sue us. We did explore a cliff dwelling town that was inhabited 800 years ago.
We were able to climb inside the dwellings and see what they would have seen from their front door. Pretty awesome I must say.
The lifestyle must have been excruciating. More than half of the year was spent in a drought – so all water had to preserved and protected. Not to mention, they lived on a cliff! Not a hillside, a true honest to goodness-take a wrong step and plummet to your death – cliff! Yet they surprisingly found a way to survive in the heat and make the most of the sparse plants that grew from the rocky soil. Amazing.
We also explored a volcanic lava field and a meteorite crater. I was transfixed by the colors of the lava field and the delicate flowers that grew in the harsh conditions.
The meteorite crater was over 2 ½ miles wide, though interestingly, not much of the initial meteorite was found after the impact, as most of it burnt up on impact. 25 football fields can fit within its basin. To say it is big is a gross underestimation, hard to fathom something that humongous.
It was cool to see, but hot, and dry... and hot... and dry. By the end of the day I felt like one of those stale cracker crumb fallen and neglected under the seat of the car.
Everyone has a bucket list. You know, those things that you say, “someday I’d like to __ “(fill in the blank). A word to the wise: be careful what you wish for, be very very careful. Sunday was Torben’s birthday, and too bad for him; I had actually been listening. Torben has wistfully, and frequently, imagined the sensation of flying like the Red Barron high above the earth in a biplane. (By the way, one very important detail about biplane: it has no roof.) You can see the irony right? A great match for a man with a fear of heights and a woman who has puked on moving rides in every major theme park and transcontinental flight (sorry about the trajectory on last one Mom). I make no qualms about expressing these concerns, but somehow in all my “birthday celebration genius” I chose to ignore these significantly relevant little facts. My thoughts were, “hey, we’re on this once and a lifetime vacation, why not celebrate with a once in a lifetime experience.” I never cease to amaze myself. If I did not know how to laugh with myself, by myself and for myself I would have probably soiled myself when we drove from Flagstaff to Sedona. I was expecting, umm…flat or moderately flat desert like Phoenix, where my sisters have lived and I have s visited on several occasions. Wrongo. My stomach did its summersault when we began this descent:
At the time T still did not know where we were going. He kept guessing and my anxiety kept rising. The second back-flip in my stomach came when we re- ascended to the airport on top of the mountain. By the time we actually made it to the cockpit I was having a totally out of body experience. I think I was actually laughing so hard when we strapped on our shared little seatbelt (is that really supposed to help?) and fashioned our heads into the flight helmets that I had lost all sensation in my legs. That too could have been that the both of us were squeezed into a single seat and told not to touch any of the pedals or the stick waving between our legs as we could inadvertently send ourselves crashing to the ground. Let the nightmare begin.
So much for being a good wife…under the disguise of a birthday gift, I was escorting my husband down the red carpet to our demise. I remember thinking regretfully that our wills were not up to date. It was the death grip on my knee that brought me back to focus. We were airborne and Torben was clinging to me like a wet leaf. After a few minutes we both calmed down and looked around, agape at what we saw. Never, never, never, in all my life have I imagined or witnessed anything so, soo, sooooo…, that I still don’t have the word. Please let these pictures do the talking.
It is loudly quiet up there. Let me explain, the hum of the engine and the rush of passing wind is deafening, but not distracting, so it makes kind of a white noise effect that your brain kind of drowns out, but it there is no way to talk to one another, so the thoughts in your head predominate. We tried a few comical attempts at arm gestures in our miniature cockpit, but even my theatrical interpretation of needing a barf bag after a particularly strong thermal wind pocket lifted and dropped us wasn’t understood by my copilot. And anything more than a subtle arm wave threatened to flip over the contents of the plane. A strange sensation developed: solitude. I didn’t recognize it at first, but it came on like a wave and spread like a smile. Alone, soaring above the earth, with a view only the eagles know, it moved me, and not just in my stomach. The views on the horizon were legendary. Apart from what I saw, I had absolutely no connection with the world down below and for that small moment, I ceased to care. When the pilot circled the peaks and dove between the canyon pass walls I felt so free from myself and from everything in life that is both constraining and restraining. It was a moment of spiritual surrender, one that warrants the savoring of a long deep breath: AUM, as they say in yoga, is the deepest form of gratitude and connection to our creator. (I offer this breath in retrospect, because at that time my breath was nowhere to be found.) It was a once in a lifetime, and I am glad my earth-bound husband dreamed it and so glad my pepcid-eating self actually listened.
While in Flagstaff we tried another first: Himalayan food. Not too bad actually, with a little Indian flare. To top off the night we visited the Lowell Observatory, which was famous for discovering…(wait for it…) PLUTO! There were several mega-sized telescopes set up and we were encouraged to look at a galaxy-an entire galaxy, some billion light years away. (Billion light years away? I have trouble grasping this, but let’s just say it’s really, really far.) In addition the brightest star in the sky was actually not a star, but rather, Jupiter. And we were able to view four of her moons. Awesome! My personal favorite was the center of a star. Imagine Disney 3D fireworks on steroids: the center of a star is so multidimensional with sparking bursts of light in every direction and depth-cosmically cool! I felt as if our world was as big as a pin head. Relevance is entirely based on perspective, and I LOVE getting mine altered!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Short lived trip through Cali

Ok, I knew all that gloating about our cool weather escapades would come back to bite me, and it has. We are working our way through the scalding heat of the desert. Is that the sweet sound of satisfaction I hear in your laugh? I feel like my feet are frying inside my shoes. My poor dogs are tap dancing across the dusty rocks, in an effort to avoid sizzling their paws and are taking the quickest potty stops in history. I used to be worried they could get loose and run off. Now it’s a mad race back to the cool A/C of the motor home, they beat me every time.
Since our journey was a little delayed by our extended “vacation” in Alabama at the outset of the trip we knew that somewhere we would have to cut the journey a little short. We fell in love with South Dakota, Montana & Oregon, and on those I can confidently say we did not skimp. But, the land of Cali got passed over like a platter of brussel sprouts at a Thanksgiving dinner. Our search for Bigfoot came up empty handed, much to my prediction, my husband’s dissatisfaction. We attempted to stay for a while north of San Francisco – which I have always wanted to visit. But it was not meant to be.
Ever have those days where more things go sour than sweet? That was our San Francisco adventure. The RV park claimed to be “Big Rig friendly”, in truth it was more like a sardine box for Mini Coopers. I stood in the road waving my arms like I was landing a plan as Torben attempted to maneuver the rolling mother ship down the narrow and unforgiving streets. We hooked a picnic table and oh so unpleasantly scratched/dented/fubared a side panel. You can practically hear my husband cursing can’t you?
For those of you who know about his frustration scale; he was at a full F.F.S. For the rest of you, over the years myself and others have charted Torben’s irritability by the level of words he chooses to use and put together. (Forewarning: Adult language ahead!) A mild annoyance, like a mosquito bite you can’t reach, will warrant an eye roll and a single curse word [shit]. Waiting in a long unpleasant line earns a more extended phrase [It’s not rocket science you stupid bastard], while Gator games really torque it up a notch [stupid cock-sucker & crazy son-of-a-bitch]. The winner of the prize cursing competition is always traffic. It helps my husband profess the most provocative combination of words that would make even the most die hard Harley rider suck in a breath. I don’t believe he coined the phrase, but believe me, he has made it his own [Oh, For Fuck’s Sake!]. He’s not a rude or offensive person by nature, but when the limits of his patience are within sight it is best to have a set of ear plugs handy. So as you can imagine I was cringing and thinking of what to tell him as I was the first to survey the damage done to the motor home. The people in the park were watching like a receiving line and got great humor out of watching me mouth the words I thought he would use and hearing his rants on cue. Shining moment for the Madsons, we represent well.
The day continued to improve as we bid adieu to that park and searched for another,not that easy to find a place to park our home, unfortunately. We actually drove the bus over the Golden Gate Bridge, got a glimpse at Alcatraz and San Quentin in the Bay, drove through a white-out of fog, then learned we needed to pay a toll. No problem, if you’re a car. If you happen to be a bus, they charge you per axle, we have five, and we usually don’t carry much cash. I send a heart-felt apology to the poor cars behind us who had to wait 20 minutes until I searched and scrounged up enough change to pay that toll. Patience still thinning, but the day’s not over yet….
Into downtown San Francisco…was this our planned route? I didn’t think so, given the large sum of traffic, ill-timed stop lights, hilly streets and pedestrians. Driving this bus isn’t the most difficult thing, stopping it is. And there was one stubborn bicyclist who almost became road putty. He refused to leave the street. He wasn’t riding, just straddling his bike and defiantly shaking his head as we barreled through the intersection. I’m convinced he had a suicide wish. Marvelously, Torben shifted lanes without taking out any other cars and the stupid bastard (*see above) survived. So, that was about the extent of our trip in California. We’re about 60 miles outside of Nevada.
We actually did do a little sightseeing in between cursings. We took an obligatory drive out to Pebble Beach, a place my father and all fellow golf enthusiasts refer to as “sacred ground”, and drove down Highway 1, through Monterey, Carmel and Big Sur. Beautiful. Gorgeous. Scary roads on peaks that plummet into the sea. Sea lions that bark and stink to high heaven. Lovely. Glad we did it. Totally could have skipped the traffic en route.
Torben is my connoisseur of quirky things and has a book on haunted hikes/places to visit (have I mentioned it?). We were advised to tour the Winchester Mystery House. Weird does not begin to describe it. Sarah Winchester, widow to the rifle company giant and sole recipient of his estate built her house on over 160 acres of land, that’s about 80,000 square feet. She was apparently haunted by the unhappy ghosts of the people who died facing down the barrels of the lethal Winchester rifles. Her psychic told her the only way to have peace was to build a house that confused the spirits. So she did, for 30-some years, non-stop, 24 hours a day. There are over 100 rooms, three elevators, 42 fireplaces, and of course, 13 bathrooms. Thirteen was her magic number and can be seen in the number of candelabras on the chandeliers, in stained glass gems, etc., 13 is everywhere. Records state that the moment she finished one room, she would tear it down only to rebuild so that it would unknown to the spirits. She slept in a different room every night, much to the confusion of her servants. There are staircases that go to the ceiling, windows on the floor, closet doors that open to brick walls, secret passages, doors with knobs only on one side and a host of other oddities. There is also a room to nowhere that literally drops thirty feet out into the garden. She was very meticulous about the work and money was not a problem for her, so the wood work carvings, the stained glass, the molding on the ceilings were exquisite. Theodore Roosevelt heard of her construction and attempted to visit her estate, but he “did not have an appointment” and she refused to let him in the front door, instead she scolded him and told him to use the rear door, like all of her servants. Not surprisingly, he was a little offended and left without ever stepping foot inside. Aside from being more than a little disturbed, she was also brilliant and engineered running water and irrigation, electricity and an indoor buggy wash, which was unheard of at the turn of the century. The next time you go to wash your car and use the sprayer/wand that rotates from the ceiling, say a word of gratitude toward Sarah Winchester and her ingenuity, and perhaps a prayer that her soul may finally rest in peace, clearly she found none while living.
Well, that’s all she wrote folks. A little gift of brevity in contrast to the last enduring epic I posted…. Until next time….We’re headed to VEGAS baby! I’ll write again when we hit the jackpot or lose all our money, whichever comes first. Any bets?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Well, despite my honest intentions, I've slacked off again and waited entirely too long to post. Now, for punishment you will have to endure this tragically long winded blog post. Feel free to take a few intermissions, I would. For starters, let's talk about berries. I heard a catchy little ditty, a hiker’s motto, if you will: If you don't know and take a chance-watch out! You may s**t your pants! See, catchy right? Apparently I don’t even listen to my own best advice. Torben and I were doing our usual throw away the map-get lost on purpose game near Mt. Adams on the northern side of the Columbia River Gorge and we kept seeing people hunched over on the side of the road. If I hadn't known better I'd have said it was a receiving line of butts. The only thing we could gather was that there was something of value to be had there. Not to be left out we found a deserted gravel road half way up the mountain and began to look for ourselves. Eureka! Hmmm, to eat or not to eat? I was had with the first mouth watering berry that I gingerly sampled (yup, I said it: gingerly, thank you future brother-in-law). Thankfully, no adverse effects. Though the law of averages suggests I won't next time be so lucky. Huckleberries, these little bits of deep magenta candy tarts, are everywhere this time of year and much of the mountain was well picked over. But with our eyes on the prize we secured a healthy helping (all we had was an unused dog poo bag-ah, what ever works) and even Torben reported that he enjoyed the simplicity and joy of berry picking. So much so, that in fact we keep stopping every time we see a new patch. In addition to huckleberries, blackberries are EVERYWHERE, I mean like weeds people. I pluck & eat at least a dozen every time we take the dogs out for a walk. MMmmmmm. I don’t even mind that my fingers from the nails to the knuckles are stained a deep purple. It’s my new summer tan line. We are inexplicably drawn to caves. My fascination with them has grown, bewildering even me. Something about the damp stillness in the dark air is mysterious and invites adventure. If there is one mentioned on a map, we’ll find a way to wiggle a little headlamp exploration into our day. We have seen some amazing ones and I thought we had seen it all. I love being wrong. Ice caves. These volcanic caves maintain a constant freezing temperature and before modern refrigeration local communities would trek up the hill to chip out their ice blocks. This is a real marvel, especially since above ground it was 70-something degrees. We have a super cool flashlight that shines green, so for effect we found this to be the perfect place to use it. Behold!
One thing I forgot about ice…it is slippery. My feet did not forget this little fact. For a moment I felt like I was playing a role in an action-packed adventure mishap movie (oh wait, that is my life). A very ungraceful slip had me sliding on my ass through a narrow passage which swiftly carried me from the main tunnel to a more hidden room. Another thing I forgot about ice (living in Florida has spoiled me)'s cold. Duh. After overcoming the shock of frozen ass-syndrome I laughed with glee and had a blast. Although I was mildly envious; we passed people deep in the cave bundled up in snow pants, gloves, boots, etc. That would have been nice. Somehow we managed to survive in shorts and sandals, but just barely. We surfaced just before the hypothermia set in. The Columbia River Gorge is another must see for those of you contemplating travel to the North West. It's a stretch of land between southern Washington and Norther Oregon, and it has it all. Where else can you see the ocean embrace the rivers, the mountains converge in the valleys, and the lakes reflect the glistening snow on a sunny day? Its 360 degrees views of natural splendor.This is has hit every “oh and ah” button we have. There are about a dozen waterfalls in a 15 mile span. We visited the most obvious choices and enjoyed the view. But the real sight was the one we had to work for. Work, yes I did say work. We had to climb over a true log jam about 20 feet high and 30 feet wide that had blocked the river a decade ago. Then we waded through ankle high water while dancing across the large rocks up the river bed, through the gorge which had to be several hundred feet tall between the mountains. It was at this point when we were already committed that we came upon the final challenge before reaching this promised waterfall…a swim through glacier stream water. Being unprepared for this leg of the journey we shed a few layers to keep some dry for the return. Ten guesses as to what my husband is fashioning as his new hat. But ohhhhh, what a sight awaited us! Somehow the view is so much better when you’ve really earned it. It was exceptional. With no one around to explain we were left to marvel in our own imagination when gazing upon this pyramid of stones created at the basin of the falls. I have no idea who or when, but I send a prayer of gratitude to its creator for providing me with such a quirky pleasure in God’s garden. My husband remains firm in his belief that we will see Bigfoot on this journey. I humor him. As it turns out Skamania County has the highest number of reports of Bigfoot sightings. So we did a little hiking and searching. With so many mossy covered trees and old tree stumps that sprout ferns it is easy to see how people could “see” the image of a big hairy beast. Torben nags that I am a skeptic, but at least I am an open minded skeptic. While climbing over a large downed tree he suddenly turned to me and asked “Why do you think they call him Bigfoot? Shouldn’t we say Bigfeet? It’s not like he’s a mono-ped.” I laughed so hard I damn near fell off the tree and I am sure my hooting was loud enough to scare away every animal in range. I think this is the closest he will get. If you get bored with majestic waterfalls and cascade mountain hikes aren’t your thing, the Columbia River Gorge also offers another one of my guilty pleasures…vino. As they say in Italy, the nectar of the gods. There are so many wineries, you can literally walk, or ride your bike, but I suggest walk, as riding can be kind of tough after the first few, from one to the next. There is a Fruit Loop trail. I swear, I am not joking, a Fruit Loop trail that leads you from winery to orchard where you can literally drink, eat and pick your way into merriness. The hills beneath the mountain are dotted with farms of brightly colored fruit and flowers. It is almost like looking at a patchwork quilt laid out across the earth. I have always loved sunflowers. I find them cheery in a non-pretentious pure sunshine sort of way. I had not a clue that there we so many varieties. I ran through the crop, hands greeting every flower with tears streaming silently down my cheeks. It was as if God said “Enjoy this merry happy moment.” I hope you are all greeted with a similar blessing, whatever your love may be. The feeling of being so connected to life around you, beneath you and above you is inner JOY. Simple, true and blessed. Torben loves cherries. He found his own tender joy sampling four different kinds of cherries, ripe, bursting with flavor and just plucked from the trees. We are both in awe of the magnificence that the natural world offers. Funny, it’s almost as if we are seeing, smelling, and tasting life through new eyes, ears and mouths. We don’t need to do anything fancy, we don’t need to get in the way, just let Mother Nature do as God intended and the result is awesome. One of the best things about travel is that you never know who you are going to meet. For example, down the way there's a woman living in a tent who just sold her house for beaucoup money. Is this a move up or down? We don't know and certainly we're not the ones to judge. Interesting, nonetheless. Back near Mt. Hood we were invited to join a band of rogue women bonding on a women’s only camping trip. Through cocktails, games and laughs I learned a new phrase to add to my dictionary of totally tasteless words. In addition to fart, winder, pooter, barking spiders and fanny burping I can now include butt clapping to describe the ever comical human flatulence. Thank you to the ladies in the Hood Village campground for sharing that beauty. Rude AND charming, I love it. My poor sister called, in a yucky pattern of self-torment, she had rear-ended someone oMy poor sister called, in a yucky pattern of self-torment, she had rear-ended someone on the way home from work. Been there, done that, on both accounts. I tried to cheer her up. My attempts at support and sympathy were well intended but fell a little flat. What really worked was when I reminded her things could be worse, and at that very moment I was currently in line at Wal-mart to purchase yet another sewer pipe to replace the one that just broke and leaked all over my new manicure. The crapper tube fiasco was her remedy. Glad I could help Kel.
We send our sympathies to those of you who are enveloped in summer’s stifling heat. I remember the humid sticky days of Florida, and from what I hear, the Midwest is equally as repressing. So I’ll be sensitive when I break this news…WE'VE GOT SNOW!! Woohoo!! Torben had to fly back to Orlando for the quickest conference presentation in history. We knew about this engagement as we headed out on this trip, but in all fairness, we planned to be a little closer than, well, the farthest point across the country. But, what a small price to pay, considering. Torben can’t get over the fact that he left Orlando’s sweltering sauna and stepped off the plane in cool 60 degree Oregon and an hour later we trekked up Mt. Hood in the snow. It was awesome! My southern bred husband hasn’t seen snow since he was a child, six to be exact. And, clearly he hasn’t grown up much; as soon as I was getting the camera out I felt the first chilly powder ball dust my head. After taking a moment to absorb what had happened, I became smug: Game on. Florida boy went from laughing to shrieking and squealing as he learned why us “Yankees” prefer pants and boots in the winter. I aimed at all exposed skin. Snowball fight over. Score: Yankee girl – 1, Florida boy – 0. I also took a small vacation from our vacation. A trip within a trip. I went home. Home, that sweet glorious word evokes more deep relaxing sighs and wistful memories than any other word I know. Home to me is Fort Wayne, Indiana. A place I spent all of my life growing up to escape…and now return. Fort Wayne isn’t all that bad, it’s not Oregon, but it’s not all that bad. My youngest sister is getting married.
The future Mr. & Mrs. Shaffer, who went to high school together but never dated until they moved like 8000 miles away, were given a lovely “couples shower” [read: kick-ass party by the pool]. My aunt & uncle’s house is like a palace. Seriously, I got lost going to one of their seven bathrooms. Anyway, they were gracious enough to host the extravagant gala and it was a genuine blast. Save for one moment, I had a case of mistaken identity when I thirstily gulped what I thought was my nice citrusy and refreshing lemonade. Note to self, grandpa’s scotch can look a little yellow in the sun. I’m not sure what to do about the chest hairs that have since sprouted. It was supposed to be a surprise that I was flying in for the shower, but I am horrible, I mean absolutely horrible about keeping secrets like this (the good kind). So, I spilled the beans the night before my sister came home. No matter, we still had a fabulous time. The three of us girls stayed up late giggling way into the morning. Sisters are one of God’s greatest blessings. I could go on and on about this, but it is likely a chapter all in its own, as it should be. For now, just know that when I am with my sisters, somewhere the angels are laughing and reconsidering our applications for halos. Also, I was able to meet my new little nephew. The yummiest of all yums! Beau is Jen’s third little pickle and I could not get enough of him. I even changed a diaper, a dirty one, and only gagged once. He was like candy being passed around with everyone smooching his pudgy little cheeks or one of his three chins. With a new baby to celebrate and a wedding on the way, the air was ripe with love and affection. And I don’t care how old you are, no one is ever too grown up to forget the childlike glee that comes with getting hugs from Mom. I even let her braid my hair like old times. I may have even let out a purr or two. Family is undeniably the essence of a sweet home coming. Also, Torben slept in. You have no idea how monumental this is. There was a cool breeze flowing through the morning. The sky was overcast in a lulling way and after letting the dogs perform their early morning duties, we curled back up in bed without feeling guilty, without worrying what needed to be done, without anything other than each other and we slept…finally. I wonder if we are on the verge of something great here my friends. Would I be tempting mojo if I said I feel the forces of my life aligning?
Sometimes I catch a wayward glance and I hardly know who this man is anymore. Rather, I should say, I hardly know the man he used to be. Gone are the neckties and constraints that lead to rising blood pressure. The new and improved version of TSM goes naked in the forest, sings with the dogs and jumps off cliffs to swim in mountain fed rivers. I love this man, his laughter, and especially his new outlook on sleeping in :).
We explored Crater Lake as our last voyage in Oregon. Although I know we will some day return, I was a little sad to leave. This last exploration was a beautiful send-off. Crater Lake was formed after the cone of a volcano eroded. There is now an island of the volcano peaking it's head once again. After several hundred thousand years this baby has transformed into a visual masterpiece. The Native Americans who inhabited the area thought the lake to precious to look upon. It's deep blue waters look as if it holds a million secrets. Considering it's explosive history, I am sure it does. Feast your eyes on this lake of many blues 3,000 feet above sea level, and 1,900 feet deep. I had a date with a bear, a blind date. I didn't even know we were being introduced until I accidentally ate some blackberries which just happen to be his blackberries. Excuse me, Mr. Bear. He got a little bent out of shape about and it and threw out a little attitude. He could have just said, "Sarah, those are my berries," and cool, no problem, I would have left his precious little berries alone. But no, he had to get all riled up and growl like the king of the forest. If you ask me, it was a little overkill for berries, but it was his show, I didn't stick around to argue. After I returned to camp and counted all of my fingers, toes and blessings Torben & I collapsed into the picnic table outside of the camper. Beer in hand, we recounted our brush with the wild, and as if on cue, that large black bear waltzed out of the trees and began to help himself to a dinner of salmon, left in a bucket by fellow campers.
Shock does not being to describe it. As we spoke to other campers, who also had front row seats for the event we learned a very scary thing. The park owners are feeding this bear (could be bears, not really sure!?). Every night they fill the bucket, and come cocktail time its a park wide event to watch the bear have dinner. Our RV is 20 yard away!!!! Does anyone see a problem with this???? It would have been a great little nugget of information at check-in: "Hey, welcome to the park, you're at site #103, the trash cans are to your left, and oh, by the way, our resident bear will be visiting tonight and every night. Keep your dogs and your kids on a short leash." NOOOOOO, they told us to take the trail to the river! That damn trail is a freakin red carpet to their front door. That's where we met the first time! Ok, I will take some small amount responsibility for that encounter, the park did post this sign and I did have to step over a large pile of scat on the trail. I'm a slow learner. Oh, I shit you not, as I write this passage, he is back again and some stupid lady thinks this is the appropriate time to water the flowers 20 feet away. Good grief. She would not make it in Torben's club. Did I tell you he founded a club? He is the self-appointed President for Coalition of People Who Make Sense. It was created during a rather comical and frustrating leg of the road trip. I nominate this lady for permanent exclusion. Any objections?
In an effort to return to Zen, I'll focus on earlier today. The day seemed to glide by effortlessly. The morning began with a light hike through the Fern Canyon on California's Northern Coast. They filmed part of Jurassic Park here! It was such a magnificent way to start the day, the air was crisp and fresh and the gully was seductive with the sunlight streaming through highlighting patches of green all up the canyon walls. The ferns hung with five or six fans and the gentle breeze caused them to wave as we walked by. Ever gotten a wave from a forest full of ferns?
It tickled my inner joy spot. The hike ended on Gold Hill Beach. Upon entering the park several cars were turning around and leaving, complaining that "it was packed". Yes, we thought so too. I doubt I will ever see a stretch of shoreline so pristine and untouched by human hands. There were two sets of footprints going in, and we made two more going back out. The only other beings we saw were a few birds flying out to sea, and a family of seals playing in the surf. One was adorably curious, it kept surfing the wave and looking at us. I think he was just showing off. The waves themselves put on quite a show. Their chorus of crashes against the beach was deafening; the overflow of bubbling salt water crested over the natural hill and soaked my shoes. I've never been so happy to have cold wet feet.
We opted for lunch at home and a little playtime with the kids near camp. Although given our experience last night, my Mama bear senses were on high alert. Our guys were so happy to romp in the sun and cool weather. After belly rubs all around we set out for the second half of the day. Which, believe it or not, nearly exceed the first half, by about 1,000 years. Let me introduce you to one of this planet's oldest inhabitants...Redwoods.
Groves and groves of Redwoods are speckled throughout the already lush coastal forest. Redwoods are also known as Sequoia's, named after a Cherokee Indian Chief who first put the language into written form. Not surprisingly, Torben felt right at home. He is after all, Cherokee (on his Mother's side). And the only thing he loves as much as the animals are the trees. I loved watching him wide-eyed like a kid on Christmas morning. It was beautiful. The trees weren't so bad either. Actually, they were sensational. It is hard to fathom that some of these trees established their root system before Christ walked on this earth, and they are still standing today. It felt celestial in a very earthy sort of way. The trunks are so wide it is nearly impossible to photograph one wholly. They stretch so high with their leaves in the clouds. In fact, most of the rain is absorbed through the leaves and the forest floor is pretty dusty, giving the lower plants a ghostly like appearance. There is definitely a feeling that resonates while walking among the hollows of the trunks. Like a calm, steady hum, that invites one to slow down such that a single breath seems like eternity. It was fodder for a lot of pensive activity for my little mind. The trees which die and fall become the base upon which newer trees grow. Often other trees and animals (we saw elk horns, seriously) can become "absorbed" within other trees, and they all kind of melt together and keep growing. The cycle of it all was impressive. As sad as it is to see a mammoth 1,000 year old tree fall, it provides such a beautiful basin for new life to begin. It almost seems as if the new life and the old life are intrinsically tied. After all, the newer trees were bore from the seeds of the older trees. I bet these groves could run their ancestry line back to the beginning of time. That thought just made my reference to old and new obsolete, if you're shaking your head, I am too. What if it all started with just one seed and is the same tree just recycling itself? What if all life is like that, cyclically connected? What if everything that was, is in everything that is? The beginning of existence present in this very moment? Time ceases to be relevant. In it's place blossom new profound possibilities. I'll let you chew on that for a while, I know I will.
Thank you all who have shared your thoughts in response to these postings. We treasure your comments. Please, keep them coming!! Until next time, be well my friends.