All you need

My coworker is going to Taiwan to see his mostly deaf grandmother.
He was worried he wouldn’t remember his mandarin 
I said,” don’t worry…you only need to know how to say four things:
How are you

You are beautiful 

Thank you

I love you”
It’s not just mandarin. Those four sentences will get you very far

What If It’s Mine?

I had a job, and I had it for a while. I was given a van to use. It was my job to drive this van around and take care of the situations at these far locations.

I drove that van for more 10,000 miles before it dawned on me that I might want to set the radio presets where I wanted.

I heard someone talking about how they loved the hymn “This is my father’s world.”

That’s a good one. And I’m not really into hymns, but that’s a good one.

My reaction when I heard her say how she loved it was “It’s not my father’s world. It’s MINE.”

I remembered the van. That only I drove. And how I didn’t feel like I had the rights to it.

If this is my father’s world, I have SOME rights to it. But I better not mess it up. I better not mess up.

My daughter broke one of my teacups when I was moving their case. She didn’t mean to.
It was precious to me, and when it broke I had to be careful not to be angry at her. She burst into tears.

Much later, when required to write an essay for mother’s day, she wrote that she knew I loved her more than a very beautiful cup.

It’s tenuous. She know there are things she should do and things she should not do.

Because it’s my house.

Once it a while, she gets to be in HER space. In her world.

On my vacation I was able to lay down other people’s expectations of me. I got to inhabit my own life more fully. I was very busy, and often tired, because I required of myself that I march (and make my daughter march) through the volcano basins, and see the sights.

I liked the freedom. I liked the space of pleasing myself.

I wondered about the difference—the difference between my regular life and vacation.

I have heard that I should follow my bliss. That the desires encoded in my heart are God’s message.

That I have permission. It is baked into my existence.

I don’t have to squeeze myself into a tiny space to leave room for other people.

This is my world. All nature sings to my listening ears.

I am going to go stretch my legs.

Budget for Amazement

It’s famous. There is a platform with three rows of bleachers in a U shape around it. Yellowstone National Park is famous for geysers, and this is the only famous geyser there.

Old Faithful. It goes off at a regular, predictable time. It erupts frequently too–about every hour and a half.

Geysers are amazing. Even the little ones who only spurt a foot or two are fascinating. Where do they come from? What is happening below the surface?

They built the hotels right next to old Faithful. The architecture is completely original and magical.

old faithfull inn

You can step right outside the doors to walk to see Old Faithful erupt more than 100 ft. into the air. Old Faithful does his thing on the regular, and it can last up to five minutes. And wait a little while, and it will do it again.

This strikes me as very American. As American as Red Delicious apples and semi trucks. Each of these are amazing recurring miracles. So reliable and practical.

There are other kinds of apples than red delicious. And there are one-of-a-kind products that don’t fit into a semi truck.

And, as I learned too late, there are geysers that go higher and last longer–MUCH longer–than old Faithful.

My favorite, which I’ve seen on both trips to the park, is Castle. It goes off in a 90-minute window of time…so you have to wait for it. But when it goes, it blows water for more than 20 minutes and gives off clouds of steam for an hour more. I love it!

I heard of one, which I haven’t seen yet, that sprays in a different shape, and lasts for an hour! It has an hour and a half window. I think it would be worth the wait.

But do you see? I am only talking about the ones who have been mapped. So many of them have not been mapped. We saw some of them as we drove and walked. It was mystical to walk in the woods and see steam hissing up from the ground.

If I had taken the time, I could have explored that region. I don’t think I could have finished seeing the sights that were mapped if I had taken a month. And the unmapped sights were even more numerous.

My tiny vacation was my budget for amazement. We went around to all the sights we could find, dragging ourselves onward even when we were worn out to drink in the magic.

It is important to escape from the demands of structure of daily life. To go and wait on big magic. Thank you, Old Faithful, for being so reliably, industriously magical.

And especially for reminding me that there are even bigger sights to see if I will let myself wait.

Shooting stars

So I am in Yellowstone. The first family vacation. Veronica has enjoyed the bison and the other animals we’ve seen.

She does not seem to love the geysers as much as I do,

She complains about having to walk so far, not about the walking itself, but somehow she gets starving on the way.

She likes the visitors centers.

I keep wanting to show her the stars. There are way more stars in the sky here, but there only show when it’s dark.

And dark is late.

Last night she fell asleep.

But I still wanted to see the stars.
There is a meteor shower happening.

So after 10 I left the hotel room alone and walked outside.

It’s funny how much i rely on chris to have a sense of direction. We e been walking Around here for days. It was dark and i Was alone.

It occurs to me that I miss my husband. We should go away for a weekend.

Or I should go away alone.

We are not only parents.

I found my way to the old faithful viewing area. Every car and lamppost seemed an invasion 

Light pollution.

I left the inn and walked toward the steam plume of a geyser. That must be Old Faithful.

As soon as I got to the geyser area, I saw a shooting star.

There were maybe 10 people out there looking for shooting stars.

I was surprised there weren’t more.

But in the dark, staring a the sky we talked a little bit. Mostly about the sky. 

Me and the stars. Us and the stars.

We saw shooting star after shooting star.

We each saw stars that the others didn’t. Shooting stars are quick and unexpected. 

It was hard to leave.

I walked back, and warmed myself at the fire in old faithful inn.

Why weren’t these people outside?

Perhaps warmth is better than miracles sometimes.

I got to see miracles. I will not forget it soon.

Berry picking



“Look, Veronica. It’s a berry.”
We are visiting Yellowstone national park this week. It’s our first family vacation of any duration. 
Taking her to a national park is an important rite of passage. I suppose it is uniquely American; it may be particularly western American. Not sure what the kids on the east coast do.
It’s a way to get connected with the land we live on.
We have yet to see the geysers, which are spectacular and addictive.
What we have seen is wildlife. The tragic and awesome bison impressed is all. I would love to legally aquire s buffalo rug! Deer antelope and elk.
Let us not forget the wild plant life. The tall straight pines were perfect for building teepees, as I had seen. The northern sage lent the air its sweetness.
And I found a berry. A raspberry.
I picked berries every summer as a kid. They grew thick and I couldn’t resist.
In our part of Alaska, most people liked to pick blueberries. They taste like Nothing else, and grow very thick. But they are ripe only a few weeks of the year, and it varies because of the weather. My mother was not good with time management like that, so we always missed it. 
My berry of choice was the high bush Cranberry. It ripened in the fall and was so prevalent it made the whole forest smell sour. 
I did not have to drive to the forest. It was across the street. I loved the tart clear red cranberries.They were too much for almost everyone else, but I could pick quarts of them.
Veronica does not have a forest. Her sub desert chaparral landscape does not include berries.
Alaska has a lot of berries. Most places have a native berry. When I travel, I try to look and see what kind of jams they sell in the grocery store. Very often they’ll have a kind of berry jam I’ve never heard of. And berries are so delicious!
I would like to find a place where my daughter and I could pick berries.


Bell Jar of Tar

I went swimming on Saturday. Well, I went to play in a pool with my daughter and her friends.

I don’t swim very well. My daughter is also learning to swim. I bet she’ll be better than me any second. Neither of us likes to put our face in the water.

But the real thing I’m trying to talk about is how I felt after. Swimming, even just playing in a pool, is very tiring. I had hoped that this tiring effect would mean my daughter would be low-key.

It didn’t work that way.

She was full of excitement and plans and activity.

I was exhausted–as if I were neck deep in tar.

Yes, I took a long nap. And I still felt immobilized with tired.

I did not want to be so worn out. I had things I wanted to do. I have plans, projects and responsibilities. I can’t just sit this out.

Although the exhaustion levels had varied, I had spent the last few weeks feeling unable to get things done.

Which was strange, because before I had felt so energized and full of purpose–so recently.

Now I remembered that sense of purpose distantly–like sound heard deep in water.

Sunday was come, and the last day of the weekend. I had a committee meeting at church to be part of. I really had to get this stuff together, and so I tried to unstick myself.

I was able to put together my notes during the sermon. What was wrong with me? Why was I waiting until the last minute?

I met with our committee and mentioned how I was feeling stuck in tar.

“Me too!” they all said.

What? How is that possible?

I had assumed that I alone was the one who disappointed herself and couldn’t get moving.

But the other people said that the summer heat and lack of school structure was their reason for lacking oomph.

I still feel like I have a bell jar of tired over my whole body. Somehow, though, it feels better not to be alone.

If it’s not a uniquely personal failing, it’s easier for me to have mercy on myself.

Hopeful self-compassion is a very good place to be in.

Even while I’m stuck in tar.