Our Winding Road

This afternoon, just at gloaming, we took David's favorite drive. The mountains were covered in a bright blush of orange and red and the clouds were low and thick, as if the flaming, changing leaves had actually caught fire in the sunset. The higher we climbed up Timpanogos, the thicker the clouds became, until the aspens at the top looked like ghosts in the mist, their black knots a thousand evil eyes keeping watch from the edge of the road.

It was eerie. It was breathtaking. It was bewitching and enchanting.

Caleb and Ethan stretched their arms out the windows to touch the cloud and imagined they were hobbits, climbing the mountain closer and closer to Smog's lair, right into the belly of the beast.

Savannah clutched her seatbelt and asked David over and over to be careful.

Olivia sighed about how it looked just like being inside a book.

David, who has driven this road dozens of times, reminisced at every bend in the road, recalling the picnic here, the nap there, the test he studied for while he sat in the sun on that lovely outcropping of granite.

As for me, I tried to memorize it all, to write it in my heart, and engrave it on my bones. That when these leaves have fallen and disintegrated into the dirt, when these giant boulders have been weathered by the wind and water into dust, when this majestic mountain itself has risen and crumbled and been swallowed by the earth, this moment will still remain.

The first time I drove this road with David I could not have predicted this other moment, more than eighteen years later--with my children's dreams and fears and fantasies swirling around in the car with us, mixing with our throbbing memories--and yet they seemed to be one and the same. That first drive inevitably lead to this one, like two points on the same road, a road laid out for us long ago.

I craned to see the bends and climbs and views ahead, but it was all fog and clouds and dragon smoke. I settled back and looked at David, content to sit next to him, as the road continued its slow and beautiful revelation of our mysterious future.

The Slope of the California Sky

We were home for exactly 18 hours.

Just enough time to wash the clothes, repack the duffle bags, replenish the snack box, and strap the bikes on the back.

And pick up David. (The most important part.)

This time we went west. As far as we could go, to the very edge of the continent as it were.

I know what you're thinking. This is too much. How much vacationing can one family do? Is this a blog or a travelogue? David was a little concerned as well. He worked extra long hours all week, getting caught up and getting ahead, but still felt a little guilty about missing another upcoming week of work.

It can't be helped, I said.

They're growing up, I said.

This summer is one more in a very limited number that our children will spend with us.

Gotta make the most of it.

Tonight David and I walked down a lovely stretch of beach. He was holding my hand. Delicious. It was among the nicest moments of my life. We watched the sun sink down the slippery slope of sky. As it neared the disappearance point, it seemed to speed up, falling faster and faster the closer it got to the horizon.

See? I said.

At sunrise, it seems like you've got forever. In the middle of the day, you're too busy to even notice the slow, steady track of the sun. But suddenly, at the gloaming, the sun is all out sprinting for the horizon. The colors on the clouds change faster than you can describe them. Then boom. You're standing there a little stunned that it's over. Wait. Wait!

See? I say. It goes so fast. We have to make the most of it. And even though he doesn't say it, David squeezes my hand because he knows I'm right and he feels that urgency as keenly as I do.

Tonight as we were readying for bed, David gestured for me to come see. I peeked out of our bedroom to see my children kneeling with their cousins among the air mattresses and pillows and quilts, a nearly indistinguishable mass of limbs and bodies and bed coverings. My younger brother was offering the prayer. Petition and thanks, simple and heartfelt. Their heads were bowed. Their eyes were closed. The ocean waved behind them in rhythm. My heart tugged. The earth turned.

And another day passed out of sight.

I am happy to have been here, right here, when it did.

A Letter from the Riverbank

Dear David,

Once upon a time there were words to go along with these pictures.

Twice actually, there were words.

I retyped my post after I lost it the first time. It was clever both times. I wish you could have seen it.

Now though, I've given up.

Just know that after we dropped you in Chicago, I drove our beautiful children all the way across Illinois, and passed thousands of acres of cornfields along the way. (Much to my delight. Oh those rows!) We made it to Joseph's beautiful city last night in a reverent gloaming and slept up on the hill next to the shining temple.

Caleb said the prayer last night when we went to bed. It was so tender it would have broken your heart. He finally stopped when he ran out of synonyms for gracious and kind. You know how he is. And especially last night, after being to Carthage, and driving the road next to the mighty Mississippi, we were all feeling the spirit of this sacred spot of land.

Today we will churn butter and fire horseshoes and eat a picnic lunch among the ghosts and memories and bricks of Nauvoo. And here on the banks of the Mississippi, I will mother my children in this lovely, holy city where my mothers once mothered theirs.

Love you, darling,


Ahem. A Note and a Letter

the new Jackson County temple, in an early 2011 gloaming 

So I'm sitting here eating my three-minute-egg, that techinically went closer to four minutes this morning.


But that was because I got distracted reading all your kind comments from yesterday (or the day before...I've lost track now) and it made me a little wistful (gosh I love that word) and the tiniest bit weepy from all the good wishes.

But I also realized I owe you a note of explanation.

David did get a job offer in Missouri (or Misery as Olivia has renamed it).  This was a "get the wife's approval" trip to see the town, look at the schools and the neighborhoods, wander around and see if I could picture us in the library or on the baseball diamond or sitting on a blanket next to the river.  And also, to hopefully get some answers from heaven.  Nothing has been finalized.  We haven't accepted or turned down.  We are thinking and praying and vexing and venting and making "decision matrixes."  (I am so not kidding on that last one.  Heaven help us.)

So.  Mostly I've been wishing that I was either Brigham or Julie Brilliant Beck.  I could use a vision about "the right place" or the enviable skill-set of being able to receive revelation.

But yesterday on our way out of town, David and I stopped at the Liberty Jail.  There is maybe no place in the world better to go when you think you've got it hard.  It puts everything in perspective pretty quickly.  Talk about trodding gladly into the night.  We sat in the semi-darkness listening to the accounts of the saints leaving their prophet in the worst of conditions while they trekked through the dead of winter with their little children, and wept.  For their faith.  For their sacrifice.  For their example.

And now for the letter.  (Those of you who already received our Christmas letter this year can stop right here and go do your grocery shopping.  Could you do mine too while you're at it?  Shopping (of any kind) is always my Waterloo.)  For those of you who are not on my mailing list, I am posting this Christmas letter here for you and also (mostly) for my record.  I know it's late.  I know we are past tidings of great joy and on to resolutions and new beginnings, but I'm posting it anyway.  The picture I am posting with it did not go out on our Christmas card, but it is a picture from a story I tell in the letter.  And I'm including it, again, for the record. 

Dear Loved Ones,

Sometimes on date night, David and I wander through the bookstore.  (There is no better date, by the way.)  I start stacking books into my arms and breathing heavily, from all the lust and the effort, while David works his way over to the section where they keep the maps, and the travel guides, and the books with pictures of the hundred places you must visit in your lifetime.  I find him later with his best friends by his side--Frommer, Fodor, and Rand McNally.  By then we’re both aroused.

Over the years, David and his travel guides have led us around the entire continent.  This summer we made our way to Banff, and Michigan, and Florida, and California, and back again.  David had spent months planning and reading and mapping and dreaming.  He knew where to eat, where to sleep, where to lie all day and watch the sun turn our children into golden-brown donuts sprinkled with white-sugar sand. 

Then in September, David’s position at the hospital was eliminated.  We found ourselves in an unknown land without travel guides or map.  Where is Frommer when you need him?  When David walked in the door, his face white and grief-stricken, I knew what had happened.  There we were, without a light, without a map, without a sure destination.

We told the children the next day.  They all wept at seeing David’s broken heart.  In the weeks and months that followed they have cried for themselves as well.  For the first month or so, we sat around the dinner table and after we had supped, we would talk and cry, and eventually most of the kids would end up in my lap, sobbing their sorrows into my neck while the food dried on the plates.  Because in their heart of hearts, they knew what this meant…a journey into the unknown.

For years, they have climbed into the backseat of the car, trusting that David knows the way, trusting that he will get them where they need to be.  As for me, I sit in the seat next to David and watch his handsome face as we pass the high deserts, the low mellow plains, the lush green farms and wide barns along the way.  No need to watch the road.  David is doing that.  I sleep, I read, I talk, and he drives.  He knows the way.  In all the years of our roadtripping, I only remember once when he made a wrong turn.

We made him an office at home.  He started interviewing.  Now I pack his bags and he boards airplanes and together we pray.  For light.  For maps.  For a way in the darkness.

A couple of weeks ago Caleb needed a specific little snail for his science project, a snail that is found in the Colorado River somewhere south of the dam.  To ensure that collecting conditions were just right, we had to travel in the dark of night, a nine-hour roundtrip. Early one morning, while David packed the lunches and consulted on the morning hairdo’s and made sure Olivia didn’t wear too much eye shadow to school, Caleb and I left Flagstaff and headed out into the dark desert.  We didn’t know exactly where to look, we didn’t know what we’d find when we got there, and we didn’t know how we would manage to collect the snails if we found them.  As I drove along the dark highway, I prayed.  Help us.  Help us.  Help us find the way.  It felt impossible.  But, in the early morning light, we waded into the cold Colorado, the water swirling around our knees, and turned over rocks to find exactly what we needed.  As I stood in that river with my son, holding the heavy, wet stones in my hand, watching the sun rise over the vermillion cliffs and light Caleb’s head like a halo, I remembered Joshua’s stones:

That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones?

Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever.

And I started to cry.  Because He knows the way.  He has led us before.  He leads us now.  He will lead us always.  He knows how to pass over deep water.  His hand is better than a known way.  How many times have we been in the darkness, without a light, without a map, lost and admittedly afraid?  And he has brought us through every time.  He is the Repairer of the Breach.

There are days when the way forward seems impassable, as impassable as the Jordan River and the Red Sea and the whole Pacific Ocean.  There are days when the wilderness seems broader and wilder than ever before, when the darkness never looked so dark.  But even now, especially now, we recognize His tender mercies.  We are witnesses of His love.  He always makes a way for us cross on dry ground.  Whether we need snails or a job or redemption—from small to staggering, He provides every good gift. 

As I watch David stand on the bank of this new Jordan, the rest of us trustingly and expectantly looking up at him, I am reminded that at the time of Christ’s birth, probably nothing went according to Joseph’s plan.  From the miraculous conception, to the difficult journey, to the filthy stable, to the flight into Egypt, the ragged, dog-eared Fodor’s in his bag would have been useless.  And yet, God provided.  He knew more.  He had prepared a way.  The perfect way.  It is the same for us.  And when our children ask their fathers, What meaneth these stones?, we will tell them of the path he made just for us.  This season and always, we rejoice with the angels and cry out with the stones, that He is, indeed, “the King that cometh in the name of the Lord,” and the God of Israel and the whole earth.  He is our Rock, our Foundation, our Stone of Help.  Here we raise our Ebenezer, here by His great help we’ve come. 

With Love and Faith,

David, April, Caleb, Olivia, Savannah and Ethan

"Then the Charm is Firm and Good"

We made the most of our Halloween weekend.  And you can bet we did all the usual verbs in the spookiest way possible: carve, feast, fry, light, roast, dress, comb, watch, howl, dance, parade, read, serve, laugh, kiss. 

We threw a party for our neighborhood that involved more brats and buns and sauerkraut than you can imagine. 

There was a fishing pond, a costume contest, a monster mash, and a dunk tank. 

And my children went to bed believing that their parents are magic, that they alone found the very best tricks and treats, and that the world is a very fine place...even on the scariest night of the year.     






(Olivia was very specific.  And Savannah's make-up was the most fun to do.  Obviously...on both accounts.)

(I am personally responsible for the gun holster and the blow-dry.  Some of my best work, no?)

(In ninety-degree weather, they don't last long.) 

A Glorious Reprise

This morning after I finished my post about the glories of my summer, I went outside.  Savannah was in her grandparents' swing, pumping her legs in and out of the sunshine streaming through the maple leaves.  She was humming the chorus of "Angels We Have Heard on High," the glor-or-or-or-ia part.

I smiled deep.

And just a few minutes after that Olivia was making a "masterpiece" that looked remarkably similar to a ham sandwich.  When she closed the lid on the sandwich with the second piece of bread, she put it on a plate, held it high in the air and said to the room, "Look at my glory!"

David said, "Hallelujah."

Tonight in the last rays of a glorious gloaming, I floated behind my two youngest children and told them to hold on tight to the rope, to keep their elbows tucked in and their knees bent, and then I watched them take their first wobbly ski across a dark lake. 

And it was so glorious that I thought I could probably give those angels a run for their money.