Last weekend, we took advantage of the unseasonably gorgeous weather in Seattle and went on our first of 50 City Walks in Seattle. On one of our many garage sale exhibitions this summer, we discovered a box of cards that invites you to explore undiscovered gems hidden in neighborhoods and parks of the city. As master geo-cachers, the summons to find hidden treasure was an offer we couldn’t turn down (not to mention the box of cards was about $.50 – another reason not to refuse).
So, after Peter’s early soccer game, we laced on our walking shoes and schlepped up some snacks and were off to discover what nuggets Schmitz Preserve Park had to offer.
Schmitz Preserve is the city’s largest old-growth forest. 53-acres of lusciousness is neatly tucked away inconspicuously near the popular Alki Beach in West Seattle. We accurately followed the map to our destination. However, surprisingly, houses surround the park on all sides, so we missed the simple entrance and had to be redirected to the stone gates that marked the trailhead. Once we confirmed that we were in the right place, we headed off on our adventure under a canopy of changing multi-colored leaves and on top of a carpet of thick green moss and ferns.
One step past the gate and you see giant trees toppled over ravines and roots the size of your thigh twisted and mangled sprouting new saplings. Tree limbs that were seemingly on a trip down to the ground have made U-turns and are headed vertical once again. Bases of trees have been uprooted and their diameter is wide enough to be a circular dining room table set for eight. Having lived in the arid climate of Colorado most of my life, I am still perpetually shocked at the verdant environment I now call home.
We walked along a prepared path admiring the Douglas firs and red cedars. It was only a few minutes before the sounds of the city disappeared altogether. What remained was the gentle whirl of a small creek that ran through the middle of the forest. Overlooking a ravine, we saw that the water was only about 10 feet down. But the slope was steep and wet, and having just started, we weren’t interested in getting muddied up yet. We decided to stay on high ground until we came to a giant tree that had fallen across the gulch providing a bridge across the bubbling brook. With a trunk at least 2 feet wide and covered in thick green moss, it seemed like a comfortable byway to the other side.
The kids and I immediately hopped on the tree and suggested that we use it to cross over the water, stay dry, and explore the other side of the forest. Karl has no love of high things and suggested we could go on ahead and he would find another way around. So, Lucy and Peter followed me onto the trunk and together we walked until we got just past the ledge of the trail and were above the chasm. There, I quickly discovered there were no other trees on which to lean or branches on which to hold. My bravado swiftly escaped me when I realized I was standing over a 15-foot drop to a very shallow body of water. There, a terrifyingly awesome feeling flitted in my belly. Something akin to fear had me insist that we all back up slowly and get off the “bridge.”
Once my young were back on land, safe from danger, I exclaimed, “It’s so scary! But…I want to make it all the way across!” Karl, naturally, shook his head and asked, “Why?” I replied, “Because I love that feeling. I want to have it again!” That terrifyingly awesome feeling I had in my belly was unfamiliar. I don’t regularly practice taking risks, seeking danger or chasing thrills. Sure, I’ve had my raucous days of skinny dipping, cow-tipping, TP-ing, and Truth or Daring. I’ve even been skydiving! I’m not immune to wanting adventure. But, I don’t make it a part of my everyday life. And I miss it. What amuses me most is that I knew that feeling – it wasn’t entirely foreign. It had just been a long time since I had felt its presence and I forgot how exhilarating it is. And like rekindling a friendship after a long separation, it takes a moment to get past the unfamiliar before remembering how wonderful it used to be and is again.
After some hesitation, I decided I would cross that moss covered tree trunk bridge to get to the other side. I chose to engage that part of myself that had long been forgotten and invite the exhilaration of fear to be a part of my life once again. With Karl still shaking his head and my kids squealing in anticipation, eager to see their mom do what they themselves were longing to do, I set one foot in front of the other and with great commitment and concentration began the gymnastic act that was an attempt to cross a slippery balance beam made up of bark and bristle…
Our family just got back from a nearly three-week long vacation. We drove from Seattle, through Idaho, Montana and Wyoming down to Colorado. We swapped cars at my parent’s house and went on to Kansas to be with Karl’s dad before he went into open-heart surgery. After his dad made it successfully through the surgery and was in recovery, we drove back to Colorado for a relaxing week of visiting friends and experiencing some of what I know and love about my home town: Water World, Beau Jo’s Pizza, Casa Bonita, Colorado Mills, Heritage Square, the Renaissance Festival, The Market on Larimer Square, Lucille’s Creole Café, Snooze and much more. When we left Denver, we headed west to go through the ski towns of Keystone, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Vail and Beaver Creek and on to Glenwood Springs where we stopped off just long enough to introduce the kids to the natural sulphur hot springs the town is known for. We finished our trek through Colorado by driving through Grand Junction where I spent my freshman year of college and there I was also able to show Lucy and Peter the grand glory of the Colorado National Monument at sunset.
Next, it was on to Utah to travel through Moab near Arches National Park down to the corner of the state to re-enter Colorado again briefly to see Mesa Verde and end up at the Four Corners National Monument where we could all experience being in four states at one time. Afterwards, we drove along the outer rim of the gorgeous Lake Powell and ended up in Cedar City, Utah to stay with my dear friend Hope for just a day – long enough to visit the ranch where she works and catch chickens, feed horses, let baby calves suckle our fingers and scout out lizards and beetles. From there, it was a quick sprint back through Idaho and the corner of Oregon and into Washington to get home as quickly as possible as we had already spent nearly eight days driving.
The 10-state adventure was one we won’t likely make again in the near future. One generally doesn’t drive multiple hours to stand for mere moments at the Four Corners, which is out in the middle of virtually nowhere. So, we made sure to capture as much picturesque beauty and wonderful national spectacles that western America has to offer, even if only briefly.
The process was an interesting juxtaposition of saying hello and goodbye at the same time. I was introducing many things to my kids that I hadn’t seen since I was their age. And at the same time, I was saying goodbye to all that had been my familiar home for nearly 32 years, not knowing when we would be back to visit again. There were moments of nostalgia and downright glee, and also moments of pause to acknowledge that what was familiar to me as a child will be different from what is familiar to my own children. They will have different memories – ones of the Pacific Northwest. Instead of dry, desert climate attractions like Glenwood Springs and Mesa Verde, they will remember lush, damp forests of the Cascades and fresh, cool dips in the Puget Sound. I am excited at the new prospects of discovery for our family in an unfamiliar territory. And I am also saddened by the reality that what I now call home is no longer the mountainous, colorful terrain of Denver, Colorado.
I have been pondering what it means to say good-bye. I wonder about the value and significance of those two little words. They seem to hold great meaning by the sheer fact that many people do not like to say them. So, as I am finishing several chapters at once right now in my life, I will be reflecting more on endings and what they mean to me now, and perhaps what I’d like them to mean to me in the future. I hope you’ll join me as I embark on a new journey – the journey of saying good-bye.
“Eat Crow” is an idiom suggesting that the meat of the crow, being a carnivore, is presumably rank and extremely distasteful, and the experience is easily equated to the mental anguish of being forced to admit one’s fallibility. Though I have never tasted an actual Crow, I would concur if they taste anything like they sound.
While I have previously affectionately written about my affinity for a certain band of Crows, the ones who live nearby that wake me up at dawn however, leave me nonplussed. Seattle’s northern latitude draws the sun up at 5:13 AM awakening all living creatures at the same ungodly hour. And since our part of the nation has been blessed with an early summer, I sleep with my window open which invites the cacophony of cawing and coos and clicks from said Crows. Having recently developed a kinship with nature largely via the work of Annie Dillard and her Pulitzer-Prize-winning book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, I am ashamed to be so critical of one of God’s creations. However, my waking might perhaps be more merry were I to be wooed by the melody of the Raven or Western Meadowlark. Even their names ring more harmonic than the Crow’s.
Dillard remarks that “Fish gotta swim and birds gotta fly; insects, it seems, gotta do one horrible thing after another.”
I would like to ask her why she didn’t credit the Crow of doing one horrible thing after another, instead of insects. Insects are often invisible and silent (save for the cricket which I might be critiquing if I lived in another part of the country). The Crow however, is neither invisible nor silent.
And yet, Dillard proposes that, “You see what kind of Creator it is by looking at the creation.”
So, this, then begs the question, what kind of Creator is God to make the abominable nuisance of the Crow? While I am exercising my right to hyperbole, I have seriously been considering what the Crow reflects of God’s nature. Is God’s voice grating, hoarse, high-pitched? Is his presence untimely and relentless? Does God intrude and make himself known during times of rest, peace, Sabbath, barbeque? Does he lurk and linger around the edges of my space waiting for scraps that I just might leave behind because I don’t have enough hands to carry everything? Remarkably, the answer to each of these questions is an unequivocal yes. Yes, the Crow is like its Creator – ever-present, persistent, and percussive. And while I am not appreciative for the Crows incessant perturbance at 5:13 in the morning, I am grateful that the Crow has reminded me of the pursuant love of God that is arresting and unyielding, disturbing and persevering.
So, I suppose in an effort to embody τέλειος, I will regretfully disclose the Crow’s redeeming qualities. Did you know that the Crow is wicked smart? I should have guessed, since its genius has unnerved me in an infuriating enough way that I have dedicated this entire post to their noxious presence. Crows are now considered to be among the world’s most intelligent animals. They can remember your face, thereby practicing proper attachment by avoiding gaze aversion. Crows value community. They conspire with one another and team up to attack your hotdog buns. They also mate for life – an endearing quality, I admit. But alas, I must remain congruent to my original tone with one final dismal quality. A collection of crows together is known as a “murder of crows.” Enough said.
At church this past week, I was given the opportunity to deliver some encouraging words to women on Mother’s Day. I had taken a couple of days and consulted with a few peers and figured out exactly what I wanted to say during the three to five minutes I would be on stage. Talking about anything and everything comes natural to me. However, talking specifics does not. So, I find it much more challenging to speak for five minutes than for fifty. And because communicating a clear message in a short amount of time requires precise, ordered and efficient wording, I have to write down exactly what to say and then memorize what I wrote.
Having grown up attending Sunday School and AWANAs each week and private Christian schools through tenth grade, I was consistently asked to memorize verses with the promise of being rewarded lucratively with candy or trinkets. And because I am part raccoon, I always rose to the challenge. So, memorizing a one-page script is not new to me. And yet, delivering words from memory is so much more anxiety provoking than following a general outline.
What if I forget and have to look at my paper and can’t find where I left off and I repeat myself or skip entire sections and stand there turning red and people stare with gaping mouths wondering what I’m going to do next?
So, to limit the possibilities of that nightmare becoming reality, I decided to get up early and walk the two miles to church so that I could have the time and fresh air to rehearse what I needed to say. Seattle in the spring is beautiful and chaotic. You never know from one day to the next whether you will be wearing your winter parka, a scarf and gloves like I did last week, or if you will be scrounging around for an outfit with the least amount of material so you can endure the eighty-degree heat and no air conditioning, like I did yesterday. While I knew that it was going to be sunny on Mother’s Day, I also left early enough in the morning that I needed my scarf and jacket to cover over my thin dress and keep me warm.
The early morning stroll provided just what I needed. I was getting Vitamin D, my endorphins were flowing, my memory felt crisp and sharp. I walked a little faster than I planned and got to church a few minutes early. So, I took one final lap around the block to practice one more time. When I came around the corner and was then facing the sun, I finally realized that I needed to take off my scarf and jacket. After I took off my scarf and put it in my purse, I unzipped my jacket to find sweat had pooled under the scarf on my chest and seeped into my V-necked dress. There was a U-shaped dark spot right where the wrap of the dress met. My zen-like state that I had just experienced was evaporated in an instant. O, how I wish the sweat would have done the same thing.
I snuck into church unnoticed since it was still early and rushed to the restroom that is more like your bathroom at home than a public restroom. I shut and locked the door and looked in the mirror. To my horror, everywhere I had sweat was darker than the rest of the dress: my armpits, my chest, my back between my shoulders, and above my tailbone. In mere moments, I was supposed to walk in front of a congregation with my back to them and present myself on stage.
Since I was alone in the bathroom, I took off my dress and started waving it in the air. Back and forth, back and forth I was willing it to dry. It was no use, even if it dried it would leave a stain. I quickly called Karl and told him to come to church and bring me another dress! Of course, he was at home getting the kids ready by himself while wrapping Mother’s Day gifts and prepping for our after-church celebration. However, I thought he would still be able to get there before 9:30 AM when the service started. I paced outside (in the shade) trying to keep my backside from being seen and covering my front side with my scarf. Finally, at 9:31 AM, he arrived with a dress in hand.
I scrambled to change as quickly as I could and proceeded to the front of the church to wait. Praise be to sweet Jesus, the worship music gave me enough time to practice my four-square breathing to try and calm myself and get back to the ease I had on my walk. I tried to ground myself in gratitude and praise in order to think straight.
Thankfully, I was so passionate about the message I wanted to communicate that my delivery didn’t betray me. My wardrobe failure didn’t rob me of enthusiasm. Anxiety tried to win, but my heart rose to the challenge. Sweat defeat? Nah…Sweet victory!
When our family first moved to Seattle in the fall of 2009, Shauna was our concierge and showed us where we could find everything from grocery stores with the best produce to the quickest route to reach the highway. She and her family had already been in Washington for two years and were gracious to show us all the ropes. We had borrowed a friend’s Garmin navigation system for the drive from Colorado to Washington, but hadn’t yet owned a smart phone with a GPS. Having never lived long-term outside my own zip code, even finding the nearest Target in Seattle proved challenging.
One local tidbit that Shauna exposed us to was this fascinating megastore called IKEA. What was even more intriguing than a gigantic warehouse of inexpensive furniture was that IKEA offered free babysitting on site for an hour so that parents could leisurely drink their $1 lattes while perusing all that their wonderful business had to offer. And after your hour of sans kids shopping there was a café right next to the childcare to get everyone snacks after their romp in Smaland. Since neither Shauna nor myself had any family living nearby, an hour of free babysitting was no simple commodity. Hence, long after Shauna and her family moved back to Colorado, Karl and I have frequented IKEA less for their offerings (although rarely can we get out of there without buying several inexpensive things that we convince ourselves we need) and more for their childcare provisions.
However, recently Smaland has changed their policy from accepting children based on age, and instead accepts them based on height thereby excluding Lucy at age 8. Since she takes after her father and has consistently been in the 95th percentile for height, children years older than her and their parents can still receive the benefit of one hour of free babysitting, while sadly we cannot. So, our trips to IKEA are very different experiences now. Once, we could leisurely stroll through the entire warehouse at an inquisitive and curious pace examining book shelves that could also be mounted on walls, and boxes that folded into planks, and yards and yards of fabric that could create virtually anything. Our most favored purchase from IKEA is our current living room couch that has a chaise lounge and turns into a hide-a-bed. It is complete with storage for extra linens and is very easy to pop up and put away (for more on the awesomeness that this couch provides, see my first Happy Hour post). Now our trips through the store are often harried coupled with kids complaining that their feet hurt and asking us repeatedly to just hurry up.
On one such recent visit, we had stopped off mid-way to use the restrooms. Lucy and Peter had had enough of Karl and I’s stubborn attempts at maintaining a leisurely pace and their attitudes had turned grumpy and sour. I asked Lucy if she needed to use the restroom, and with her hands crossed over her chest she adamantly refused. So, Karl waited with her and Peter while I went. When I was finished, Karl and Peter went to use the restroom and I grabbed the back of the cart, while Lucy was at the front resting her chin in her hands with her elbows on the handlebar.
I did as I often do in those moments which was to reflect with my words what Lucy might be feeling on the inside. Putting words to emotions is very therapeutic for children who often have neither the language nor the recognition of what feelings are going on inside of them. It takes some guesswork, but if you can just imagine what a child might be feeling and say it out loud, more often than not, you’re accurately describing their experience. Naming feelings out loud is a way to order their inside world and ultimately give them the language to do it for themselves later on. I said things like, “I bet you’re really tired of all this shopping…” or “It must not be any fun to have to look around for things that Mommy and Daddy need, but not things for you and Peter to get.” Rather indignantly Lucy said, “Yeah! I’m bored. This isn’t any fun for us.” I retorted back, “Well, we could make it fun! How about we dance? I love this song!”
I proceeded with my best entertainer face to lip sync what was playing over the speakers, something like Tainted Love. [Now, let’s be honest. I wouldn’t dare lip sync when I can actually sing, right? So, I proceeded to belt out the words “Some-tiiiimes, I-I-I feel I’ve got to (bump-bump) run away, I’ve got to (bump bump) get away from the pain you driii-iiive into the heart of me…”]. Moving my hips to the bump bumps, I really got into the song and was thoroughly having a good time. And while my daughter had moved from having her chin in her hands to standing erect with her hands on her hips not at all appreciating my efforts, I continued singing and dancing.
“Once I ran to you (doing the running man, of course), now I’ll run from you (doing the reverse running man, naturally), this tainted love you’ve give, I give you all a boy could give you, take my tears and that’s not nearly aaaaaaaalllllll!!! Tainted loooovee…”
At that point, Karl and Peter came out to witness what was my spectacle in front of the bathrooms and Lucy said, “Daaaa-aaaad! Mom’s dancing in the middle of IKEA!” While drying his wet hands on the pant legs of his jeans, without skipping so much as a moment, Karl replied, “And that’s why I married her.”
His words stopped my dramatic dance fest. I relinquished my performance not to shame or embarrassment, but rather to gratitude and awe. Karl has not historically been so verbally liberal with his admiration. I have seen his sideways smile at my antics, but rarely has he delivered his love so precisely and clearly. His appreciation for who I am, and who I have always been was handed to me spontaneously, graciously and lavishly in a short six-word sentence.
I won’t turn away grand gestures of flowers and gifts and romantic getaways. But if I had my choice, I’d choose more moments like the one where I found Karl’s love for me in IKEA.
Have you experienced a surprising and delightfully unexpected moment of love? We’d love to hear about it! Let us know where, when, how and what it meant to you in the comments below.