Fire and Fog

[In full disclosure, this post was written over a couple of days, with intermittent and international wi-fi coverage...and by now it barely makes sense to publish it at all. And yet, here I am doing it anyway.]

Thursday morning

I was going to share a photo on Instagram this morning, but found I had more to say than the little caption box is designed to hold.  Instagram is not really my preferred format anyway, as evidenced by my pitiful collection of photos. Given the choice, I will choose the 1000 words over the substitute. Every time.

We just passed the 45th parallel, exactly halfway between the equator and the North Pole, and I am carsick.  Out of practice, I suppose. 

The green hills and bouncy clouds of Oregon look exactly as we left them nearly four years ago.  Keeping vigil until our return.  The grasses are slowly turning into pines the closer we get to the Pacific.   No wonder Lewis and Clark kept going. Every mile is more beautiful than the last.  Of course these hills will be shaved bare again before we see the tides.  I love the dressing and undressing of rolling hills.  These road trip stripteases never get old.

Friday

Early last evening we made it to the northern end of Washington, Oregon's dark, foreboding cousin. The greens are deeper, more menacing, and capable of swallowing you whole if you step too far off the road.  It was a shock to step out of the car into the damp and the chill and David and I were forced to climb up and untie the car-top carrier to find jeans and socks and close-toed shoes.  (Though on the morning news they were talking about the heat wave and I couldn't stop laughing.)

We woke this morning to somebody blowing the fog horn over and over, long and low, and the gulls calling.  It already feels like we're in a foreign country even though we haven't yet crossed the watery border a mile or so into the Pacific.  We are headed north.  As far north as we can get.  When your backyard is as hot as the surface of the sun, the only thing to do is head north.  And as Caleb reminded me in southern Idaho, the earth turns slower the closer we get to the pole.  Just what I had in mind.  More time together, more savoring, elongate each gorgeous, precious moment, roll around in it.   I am determined to make the sun stand still.

I feel like I ought to say something about my long absence from blogging, rather than dumping you directly into our vacation.  My life seems pretty magical when the posts go from holiday to holiday, eh?  (Look, I'm already speaking Canadian!)  But now there is too much--too much to say, too much to remember--and the last few months have been like a wildfire, burning out large swaths of my memory and leaving only a few stubby highlights among the smoldering, smoking ruins.

There was school and work and church and lessons and school musicals and finals and an endless lineup of orchestra concerts. Though to say it in one sentence like that does nothing to convey the heat and terror of the firefight.  I also happened to throw an Indian-themed wedding for my youngest sister.  I didn't sleep during the entire month of May.  Mostly from searing and unrelenting fear.  My own mind can be a fearsome thing at three in the morning.  You will be surprised to learn that this made me mildly difficult to live with.  Despite my worries (and David's collateral suffering) it turned out lovely.  People who happened by slowed down and got out of their cars to crane their necks at all that love and beauty. 

And then finally, blessedly, the fire was out.  Summer was here and puzzles and games and movie marathons became the most pressing issues of every day.  And slowly, I have learned to sleep again. Ten minutes more every day.  Soon I will be downright slothful. 

Best of all, here we are in line to board the ferry to British Columbia.  We are headed out to sea, straight into the fog.  North, like I said.   Inside my head they are playing a rousing rendition of "O, Canada" and outside my head the earth is slowing down as it arcs along its orbit through space.

One slow, lazy, glorious turn at a time.

Transient

There's Nothing Wrong With Your Eyes

I have been decluttering. The drawers, the closets, the cupboards.

And finally, the blog.

Last and least. But finally, done.

When I went to clean it up, it was in a woeful state. Apparently, I had long-since stopped actually seeing it.

Over Christmas break, I drove Caleb down to the DMV to get his driving learner's permit. Before he took the written exam the woman at the counter said he needed to take the eye test. She had him press his forehead against the machine and then said, "Read the second line."

Caleb was quiet.

"Read the second line."

More silence. He looked up at me. Confused.

"Just read the line," I said, helpfully.

He put his head back in the machine and pulled it out again. "It's blurry," he mouthed at me.

I said, "Just read it." I am nothing if not helpful.

He started tentatively reading.

The woman looked at me. "Are you his mother?"

I nodded.

"Um, he can't see."

"Yes he can."

"No, ma'am. He's reading numbers and there aren't any numbers on the line."

He looked at me and shook his head. He couldn't see anything. Too bad. I had such high hopes for that "Mother Of The Year Award" in 2013.

And I asked myself, all the way home, all the way to the optomistrist, how I missed something like that. Blindness, I mean. What else was I missing?   It's staggering to consider.  When we got to the car, Caleb admitted that the board was blurry at school, but that he was "managing."

I protested, "But you don't have to 'manage.' Just tell us and we'll help you."

In the days and weeks since he got his glasses, Caleb has commented that his vision has "deteriorated." David asked him what he meant. He said that now when he takes his glasses off he can hardly see, everything is blurry. Um, exactly. That's how it has always been and he just didn't know that the world could be different than that.

Was blind, but now I see.

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A Day in the Good Life

My Basis kids, Caleb and Savannah, have the whole week off.  Believe me, they've earned it.  They've done the work of an entire year in just nine weeks.  And then some.

My other two, trudged reluctantly back to school today, as I pumped them full of promises of a couple more days off at the end of the week.

Minus David, we all spent the day yesterday playing round after round of Bang! and eating the weekend leftovers.  This morning Caleb and Savannah slept blessedly late and then we played a few more hands and an opening match of Caleb's new game, Power Grid.  Then we went for a late lunch and a lazy trip through Barnes and Noble, mostly just to browse.  It was a near perfect way to spend the day, and I feel nothing but lucky to have them to myself for the week.  Believe me, I've earned it too.  As amazing as I am, chauffeuring and cheerleading and championing has worn me thin.  It is not to much to say that for the past month, the thought of this glorious week in my future has been the only thing getting me out of bed in the morning.

Tonight my three oldest have gone to the temple.  It's Savannah's first time inside.  When I was ironing Caleb's shirt, I overheard Olivia reassuring Savannah not to worry, that she would show her what to do.  And she will. David is on his way home from surgery committee.  He had a terrible day, but I will cheer him up because I could not have had a better day.  I even managed to wash and fold the laundry in between my turns on the game board.  I was fun and efficient.  A near impossible combination.

This morning as I was sorting laundry and doing dishes and picking up pens and highlighters and General Conference notes, I found a treasure: Ethan's careful summary of each talk.  Succinct little sentences of what he heard.  They were a revelation, sweet and tender and unaffected.  Then under the notes from President Eyring's talk, Ethan had written:

President Henry B. Eyring talked about the temple and how you can't see Jesus Christ inside the temple.

Which probably wasn't quite the message President Eyring wanted to convey.

I smiled.  And wondered if there were any talks that I had misinterpreted as well.  What a job those men have!

Speaking of difficult jobs, mine was a very good one to have on a day like today.

Across the River Now

Dear David,

Look at your children. Aren't they gorgeous?

I know I'm supposed to be in bed sleeping. There is a sixteen-hour drive ahead of us tomorrow, after all.

But I know if I don't write this down tonight, it will probably never happen. And sometimes there are days I never want to forget. Today was one of them.

I don't have time to retell everything. Let me just try to say the most important things.

I woke today, to the temple bells ringing, eight steady chimes.

I ironed Caleb's shirt and braided Olivia's hair. (It was so delicious I took my time and made it last.)

And then I took them to the house of the Lord.

They were shining when I picked them up.

We went to the brickyard and and the blacksmith and the print shop (my personal favorite). We ate ice cream and bought souvenirs.

In the evening, we sat under a cloudy dark sky and watched a cast of hundreds sing praises to our God and King. We all wept to be so blessed, and when they lit up the temple, Ethan looked at me knowingly and smiled. He knew it was coming all night.

Tomorrow we take our own trek west. Across the prairies, towards you, towards home. How I am dreaming of the reunion.

As I sat there tonight looking at that glorious temple on the hill, I thought about how that is the very word of all my beliefs and all my faith. Reunion. Reunion here and hereafter. Reunion with each other and with that God that gave us life. Reunion after all. Reunion at last.

We're coming home.

The World Can Wait

The last two days we traded the lazy days of summer for a little bit of industry.

We washed the sheets and beach towels and cleaned out the fridge.

We spent a good thirty minutes standing in front of the game cupboard, carefully picking out the best games for life at the beach.  (The selection committee takes their job seriously.)

Savannah made four kinds of cookies and bars.  They are sitting on the counter, ziplocked and waiting for their big adventure.

Ethan and I went on a Target run for sand toys and wheat thins and sunscreen.

Caleb found the boogie boards and the beach umbrella.  (Check that big box in the corner, son.  The one labelled "salvation.")

We packed light.  Swimsuits and jackets only.  Oh, and books.  A few bags of books and we'll tie the bicycles on the back. 

In a few weeks, we will be back to rising early and kissing goodbye.  We will be back to packing lunches and practicing spelling words and reading only what they're assigned.  Add to that the anticipated pain of looking around the bus stop and classroom and the lunchroom and not knowing a single soul...and I almost can't breathe.

With the calendar looming, David and I lay in the dark discussing our options.  We listed the pros (salvation) and cons (money).  We discussed directions (north, east, west) and locations (the beach or the mountains).  We tried to figure out how capable and brave I am (on my own) or am not (as the case may be).  In the end, the choice was easy.  My children need a few days of glee, a few days of freedom, a few days of salty air and icy waves, a few days of bliss, to store away and keep for the days that are coming.

And so, I am taking my children to the beach where I intend to make the most of these summer days of mothering, when they are mine, and the world and its sorrows are very, very, very far away. 

Something Like Romance

Are you tired of stories about interviews and plane flights and having faith?  Sigh.  Me too.  Believe me, it is even more tiresome to be living them.  (This morning David said, "How do you feel about Waco, Texas?"  Um, yeah, not exactly top on my list.)  This morning then, how about a story of romance?  Don't worry.  There is little or no necking involved.

On Saturday night, Caleb went to Teen Elect.  He dressed in his new suit and his dad's hand-me-down tie, put gel in his hair and let me comb the back down.  I could smell cologne and toothpaste.

Teen Elect is where you learn about manners and dancing and how to make conversation with someone of the opposite sex.  Olivia has been looking forward to it for two years now.

When I dropped Caleb off, he said, "Aren't you going to come in with me?"  I wasn't.  But I parked and led him inside.  He got his nametag, he found out where to go, he gave me a side-shuffling hug, and disappeared into the unknown.

I picked him up three hours later.

"Did you have fun?  How was it?"

"It was interesting."

"How was the dance?"

"Interesting."

"How were the classes?"

"Interesting.  Kind of boring."

"What did they talk about?"

"Wearing deodorant and always having a mint."

"Did you have fun?"

"I'm not sure.  It was interesting.  And awkward.  Very awkward."

Olivia and Savannah were waiting on the couch for us when we got home.  Waiting with bated breath.  They have been waiting for weeks, truth be told.  They were ready for a story of romance, a story of love and lust, of fancy ballrooms and meaningful looks.

"Soooooo, how was it?" 

"Interesting."

"Tell us everything!  Did you dance?" 

"Of course.  They made us."

"Who did you dance with?"

"Lots of people.  We had to."

"Were the girls cute?"

"I don't know."

"What were they wearing?" 

"I don't know."

"What color were their eyes?"

"Oh, come on, Olivia."

And then Olivia sighed hugely, "Oh, it sounds sooo romantic."

I looked at her.  Romantic?  The way Caleb tells it, it was just this side of painful.

And then she said, "I can't wait for teen elect.  My favorite part is the hip part."

I asked, "What's the hip part?"

"You know, the part when the boy puts his hand on your hip." 

Heaven help us.

The next day we pried a few more details from him.  I asked him if he talked to the girls while he was dancing.

"Of course," he said. "They taught us that."

"What did you talk about?"

"I asked them their favorite color."

"O...kay.  Anything else?"

"One girl asked me what school I go to and I said 'Stapley'."

"But you don't go to Stapley."

"I know, but it seemed easier.  But then she said, 'I go to Stapley.  Why haven't I ever seen you?' and I was like 'Umm, yeah, I lied about that.'"

Olivia gasped, "And then did she slap you?  Oh that sounds soooo romantic."