Thursday, September 3, 2015

His breath was sweet

Her breath was sweet.

I had always wondered what that phrase meant when I read it in very old English poems or heard it in the hypnotic lyrics of Celtic music. Why, particularly, would the lover mention the fair maiden's breath? Certainly, it must make a kiss more pleasant, but who ever heard of truly sweet breath, to taste and to inhale the scent of?

I was destined to discover.

When I met the one I had no desire at first to kiss. It was no chemical attraction to the tall, quite lean man with no facial hair and light brown eyes that contrasted strangely with his black hair. (Black, I called it. He claimed it was brown, and that the sun clearly revealed its true shade to the discerning eye.)

Though I did not feel the instant magnetic pull so religiously touted in every silly romance book, I played with him, played with my words, kept him guessing about my still emerging feelings. Or so I thought. Now I realize he saw the game and the individual maneuvers.  He saw the story I was projecting as I rode the wave of my thoughts onto our patchy experiences. For the most part he was unflappable. Not so for me. I was trying to invent and choreograph the story, reacting to my own dictation.

We held hands, and I remember it well, an important moment. Curious, no doubt, by the progressive standards of "romance" now. Where, alas, is the I want to hold your hand experience anymore? Barely worth a mention on the way to more intimate things, perhaps skipped over all together, all the subtlety of romance, the slight but jolting touch, the sensation of fingers gliding against fingers, the arm loosely around the waist - all in death throes in a hyper-sexualized but romantically insensitive world. But I remember we held hands. We were teased about it, because we had so stoutly asserted that very day that we were mere friends.

The first kiss happened shortly after, only he kissed my upper back, because I turned my mouth away, unsure. Too nervous, I didn't notice the taste or perfume of him yet.

I can't pinpoint it at all, but during one of our kisses while we were dating, I realized: his breath is sweet. Not the breath from his mouth but from his nostrils. As he exhaled with his mouth on mine, the scent of his breath was sweet, entirely unique, incredibly alluring. And I knew what those long-dead composers meant. It wasn't an empty idealized statement that had no basis in reality, such as the exhausted we made love all night line in a thousand different love songs from heavy metal to easy listening. This particular vignette of love I had experienced with my own tall, dark, handsome man.

During the many kisses that we shared thereafter, did he wonder why I sometimes lingered, my lips locked on his, not moving against his own but pressing there firmly as I breathed deep?

His breath was sweet.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Short, Mostly Unedited: To Fulfill or not to Fulfill

After just over two weeks at home in this house most of the day by my lonesome, I have come to a slightly greater understanding of myself and what I need as a person.

I need purpose, and I need fulfillment, whatever the heck that really means.

All I really know thus far is that housework is not fulfilling for me. I really thought it could be. I have wanted a clean, orderly house for so long. But, nah. It really does nothing for me to do, fold and put away loads of laundry all in ONE day. It really does nothing for me to trash a bunch of old receipts, recycle papers and get all of the trash out of the house on trash day. I have yet to get a high from really mopping my floors for the first time in months or maintaining an orderly, clean kitchen.

Housework is not fulfillment.

Yesterday, I spent the day folding laundry while listening to a self-help podcast. That is not fulfillment. That is desperation. Dangerous desperation. In fact, no one should ever read, listen to or watch self-help media unless they have a good friend or selfless family member sitting next to them who can hit them up side the head every few minutes while warding off their own desire to doze. Yes, I got my laundry all taken care of while in the throes of other people's problems, but I also got a severe case of soap-opera head during which I imagined I had, have had or will have all the problems discussed by the expert and his woeful guests.

That is not fulfillment. That whiffs of paranoia.

But I don't just want to abandon this house. I do not believe a job would necessarily be fulfillment. Working outside the home just so we can have extra money has never appealed to me. I am not money-driven, and a job just to pass the time would not be fulfillment for me or my family.

My husband - good, steady man that he is - says he wants me to do what will make me happy. My dad suggested I write a book. My big sister Vinca advocated volunteering more and catching up on my sewing.

I don't sew (well), but I would love to write a mystery novel. Though I have read dozens of them, for some reason I still feel ill equipped to write one. But I need a challenge. I need a new adventure, and that would be a great escape, something to test my mettle, my fortitude as a writer.

Volunteering? Absolutely, I should give some of my hours to helping others. I did in fact volunteer at my kids' school this week, and I was struck by just how important the work is that is done at the side of a little student who needs more attention, more assistance. I was impressed by the idea that such kind and patient intervention could make a huge difference in the life of a child who may be struggling in more ways than one.

Fulfillment. Defined as satisfaction or happiness as a result of fully developing one's abilities or character.

Don't we spend our entire lives chasing it? People start gardens, embark on new careers, simplify, volunteer, bake compulsively, have a mid-life crisis, buy time-shares, push their children to succeed, travel, and, yes, write novels or take up painting to seek fulfillment.

I want to fully develop my abilities and my character. As Dad would remind me, it's such hard work, though. Persistent work. Continuous work. I have to work really hard for my fulfillment in becoming a better writer and a better person. (Perhaps being a conflicted person would help with my writing, but being a calmer, humbler person would certainly help far more with life.)

Do I have a point? Yes, I know. All my posts seem to be circling like vultures over this one idea of, Where do I go and what do I do now? But, you see, I received a blow when my baby left me for kindergarten. Part of my purpose and fulfillment evaporated; my identity changed, and I felt a little deflated. Top that with the fact that I did not work as hard as I should have on my writing this week and that I felt trapped inside my own head in an empty world throbbing with anxiety, and you'll understand why I have gone on and on. I need fulfillment in a brand new way now. The time has come for something new.

And I can't just stay here. My world, the one that feels like it shrunk, freeze-drying over my stagnant goals this week, needs to expand again. I need to join a writer's group or at least hang out at a book/coffee shop while I write sometimes. Staying here every day, all alone, all day could drive me batty if I never see another friendly, creative face.

I'll figure it out. I'll seek my fulfillment like all my fellow humans.

I'll start my mystery novel.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Mother, let thy children go! (and then cry a little)

Today was the first day I didn't walk my Daniel Sam to the tot lot at his school and then spend half an hour watching him play and hugging him periodically when he came and held his arms out between the rails of the kindergarten playground.

I've been sad on and off for the past two weeks since Danny started kindergarten.

The first few days at home alone in this house, the silence I had been craving for so long was so oppressively void of companionship that I was driven to distraction. I missed having a little person in the other room as I wrote, watching PBS and opening packages of cheddar cheese or calling for me to play cards or get him something. But on the flip side of that was my counting of the hours to gauge how much longer I had in peace to write and complete projects. For I have quickly learned that the hours still fly, no matter the tasks or noises that fill them.

An era of my life is over. Just writing that I can feel the tears surfacing. Have I relished my time with my little ones while they were little? Many a time an older woman in the grocery or discount store admonished me to do just that, to savor the moment, their age! But have I? Did I? So many times it felt like I was chaffing, like I was negotiating for more freedom, more peace, more quiet.

Now I may still say to my beautiful children often "Come on, Babies!" or "Time to go, Babies", but I know that none of them are actually babies anymore. Not even my forever baby, Danny Sam. He may kiss me and press my hair into his face in front of schoolmates, but he's not a baby any longer.

There have been many instances these past two weeks when I felt the change in my life and mourned the passage of time:

when Daniel's eyes got moist as he was lining up to walk into his classroom for the first time

when I walked through the mall in the middle of the day to return clothes All By Myself, feeling like I'd lost part of my identity

when Daniel lost another tooth

when I read some of my old posts about the kids to edit them and didn't remember the things I wrote about, then wondered how many opportunities to record their wealth of funny or adorable antics I had squandered

when I couldn't remember the hilarious way in which little Daniel ribbed his big brother, just as brothers should, several days ago

when I talked to the volunteer coordinator at my kids' school and told her I now had time to volunteer regularly, because all four of my children attend school

when I read Dear Boy by Susannah Lewis yesterday and got all choked up

when I dropped my oldest boy, Berto, off at middle school again this morning

So often as mothers we want to get past this stage or that in the lives of our children, because it is just so demanding or exhausting. But when we do get past it, because it slides almost imperceptibly into our rear view or parades out of sight with lots of fanfare, we wish we could have experienced all the joys - and, yes, even the challenges if it means we could have coped better - of that developmental stage a little longer. Sometimes, we wish we had simply appreciated it and soaked it in more, all its messiness and all its glory.

But then we remember that our middle schooler still says "I love you" when he gets out of the car; our eldest daughter still holds our hand and talks to us on the walk to her classroom; our tomboy of a second grader still offers her cheek for a kiss and calls us, "Mama"; and our littlest, the forever baby, excitedly runs over to us, grinning, when he gets out of school.

Then we realize there are things to savor now and more joys and heartache to come, and we'll survive, for what a blessing it is to watch them grow up.

And some day, God willing, there will be lots of grandchildren.


I now more fully understand just what my dad was writing about in his popular post, The Wonder (of so many) Years.

You might also enjoy:

My Super Bright Children

Short and Sweet: The Big Bro

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Martyr of a materialistic world

I tell people I'm a frugal Non-consumer, a minimalist, a proud re-user. This is my way of explaining stuff like our ratty recliner that smells like breast milk cheese, our table that looks like its surface was featured in a horror film, and the blocky, two-ton television that for a long time commanded our living room like a time machine designed to drop you back into the 1990's.

One of my oldest son's friends, over for a sleepover, asked why we didn't get a new, sleeker television.

I'm always ready to teach the "everything-released-this-minute-is-better" generation about not being a mindless consumer, so I replied, "Well, in this house we don't believe in replacing things unless they're broken. If they still work, even if they don't look that nice anymore, we keep them around until they break."

The friend responded, "Oh, is that why you've stayed in this house?"


I have lofty ideas about living small, re-purposing and conserving, but these lofty ideas somehow have not protected me from real world derision or from my own self-doubt. Am I really against consumerism, or am I just a homebody who hates to shop? Is it really unreasonable to want a bigger house for our large family, or do I just dread moving? Do I really support re-purposing or do I stink at picking out my own furniture?

I may say that I don't believe in buying things just to have something fresh, sleek, and odorless, that I don't believe in replacing my burgundy couch just because the dog threw up on it three months after I purchased it, but living with my haphazard, used and sometimes stinky possessions gives me anxiety about judgement every time a stranger walks in my door.

Similarly, I routinely say that we're blessed to have our cramped home, that we could stay here until we keeled over from the fumes of rotting furniture and still be incredibly blessed, but the moment I walk into another person's larger, grandly furnished castle, I am ready to pass out in pure, unadulterated envy. How do they make it look so nice? How on earth do they design and maintain their large home so beautifully?

By cavorting with those alluring devils called credit and consumerism, darn it!

New furnishings, tasteful art work that actually contributes to the design as a whole, expensive photography, home remodels, constant cleaning - I have sworn off all those things; they all cost money and require accumulating things. Except the cleaning. I would love to actually pay someone to do that, but only with the currency of cranberry scones and chocolate-chip cookies. And only if they cleaned up the kitchen afterwards.

I'm not a spender. I'm a saver. Not sure exactly what I'm saving for - the apocalypse, investment in the chocolate black market once the world runs out of cacao, a backpacking trip to Ayers Rock in Australia - but it's certainly not a fancy bedroom set. My husband and I have slept on a mattress on the floor and kept our clothes in his childhood dresser for many years now, and we're getting along just fine, thank you.

Yes, I know. Is that called being a non-consumer or just plain cheap? If my therapist and I ever figure it out, I'll let you know, but I certainly love to think I'm a martyr for my cause.

If I don't visit other people's homes, I am quite content with our choices, at peace in my little home. However, my envy in others' carefully crafted, newer, and bigger spaces is such that I am thinking about drafting a questionnaire to be given out to any potential new friend of mine or unvetted mother of one of my kids' playmates. Each question will require a simple yes or no answer.

Have you recently remodeled your home? Is this a habit of yours?
On your walls do you have thousands of beautiful, professional photos of your family in a studio setting looking happier than any human family could realistically be? 
Did you purchase your own decor? Or has it been thrown together from the castoffs of friends and family?
Does your home have a design or color theme that often changes based on magazine articles or the opinions of interior designers?
Do you regularly replace fixtures of any kind in your home, merely because they are "outdated"?
Is your home immaculate? Is that a facade for guests only or does it look that way at ALL TIMES?

Too many yeses quite frankly means that I cannot patronize your home. Not ever. I am really trying NOT to be a consumer here, and you're sorely tempting me with your grand lifestyle. I will become nauseous as I tell myself that I am a faithful representative of what matters and simultaneously swear never to allow you to see my own humble home.

I know I'm supposed to be poor, not just in habit, but in spirit, too. Unfortunately, I'm no saint, so let me know when you move to that tiny house to lesson your footprint on the planet. We'll stop by!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Water for the Navajo Nation

At the little square home in Tennessee where I grew up, our water was pumped to our house from a little, mineral-rich spring that ran at the bottom of the yard beneath some spindly trees and overgrown grass.

The pump required electricity, so if we were unable to pay the electricity bill or a storm came and knocked out power or flooded the pump, we were without running water in our home for days or, on rare occasions, for weeks. At such times we hauled water in five gallon buckets from the lovely creek that ran beneath a culvert halfway down our lane. This water was used to wash clothes and flush toilets. A little way up that creek, on a different path, a more pristine spring gurgled straight out of a ridge, cold and pure-tasting. We used rinsed milk jugs to collect water for drinking, cooking and washing dishes from this precious water source.

Though we didn't mind the topped-off milk jugs, we kids used to hate hauling the five gallon buckets of creek water back up the lane to the house, balancing it between two of us as we shared the handle that bit into our palms as we stumbled along. It was such a chore, especially in the heat and humidity of summer.

Often, instead of hauling water for bathing, we simply bathed in the creek on hot days, taking our soap into the water, not thinking about the microbes we were lathering into our hair and scrubbing onto our skin. It was like swimming....with a purpose...and a more beautiful bathing area could not have been desired.

Looking back now, our family was very lucky to have such a beautiful, sustaining creek just a few minutes walk down the lane from our home.

I thought about this childhood experience yesterday as I watched CBS Sunday Morning, an indispensable Sunday tradition I inherited from my dad. The feature story was about how many people of the Navajo Nation have never in all their lives had running water in their homes. Their water is delivered by a Navajo woman named Darlene Arviso who drives dozens of miles each day in a huge tanker to pour precious water into the plastic storage barrels of homes. 

In the story it points out that most of us use around 100 gallons each day, but individuals of the Navajo Nation get by on a fraction of that - sometimes a mere 7 gallons.

Truly, it's a travesty and an embarrassment that we here in the Phoenix desert flood our grass yards with water, maintain our pristine pools with hundreds of gallons annually and take long, relaxing showers with water sources that were allocated for our needs long ago when the Native American tribes had no say in the rights to water that their people had been using and respecting long before we discovered them. It's astounding that there are people in our own country who would not even have access to drinking water if it weren't for the efforts of a few, dedicated individuals. Even so these people struggle to eek every last drop from their delivered water as long as they can, and what must they give up to do that? Clean clothes? Baths? Refreshing sips throughout a hot, dusty day?

I am a big believer in solidarity, meaning that if we know there are people who go without basic nutritious food daily, we should make an effort to remember them when we crave ice cream and feel like running to the store for such a trivial desire. We should remember them when we want to stuff our faces although we're not really hungry. In just such a way, I believe in remembering the Navajo Nation and so many other tribes and communities on this planet who struggle to have clean sources of water every day, and in thinking of them I choose not to grow a grass yard in the desert summer; I choose not to run the water in the shower as I'm lathering my hair and body with soap; I choose not to just dump "extra" unused water down the drain when I could use it for my plants

Being a citizen of this world means remembering our fellow citizens. I try - though I often fail - to continue to grow in solidarity with others who do not have access to what my family has, and remembering what my family has, I thank God that I have it and try to NEVER take it for granted.

But there is more that we can do, you and I, than merely reflect on the hardships of others. George McGraw, as it mentioned in the CBS story, runs a nonprofit called DigDeep which is endeavoring to dig a very deep well for the people of the Navajo Nation. In contributing to the Navajo Water Project, we can and will support the dignity and right to life of our American neighbors.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

A New Frontier

Each time someone figures out that all my children are now in school, I get peppered with comments and questions like:

"Are all your kids in school now? What are you going to do with yourself?!" 
"Well, I'm sure you'll enjoy all that downtime for a change."
"What will you do now?"

They make it sound like I'm being put out of work, like my "company" is downsizing and has no need for my services any more. I get knots at the thought of justifying my life at home and have so much trouble simply saying, "I'm going to try to get paid for my writing."

It's always the last thing I say after mumbling about projects and volunteering, as if I'm ashamed of it, as if it were not a valid occupation. I hate that I do that to myself, because write is what I'm going to do.

I think.

I've toyed with the idea that though being a writer, paid or not, is an essential part of my whole self and should not be given up, perhaps there is another road I need to take as well. For instance, getting a theology degree is something I've contemplated, but a. I feel like I would be stealing funds necessary for my children's education, and b. I study and read so many theology books and articles at home and never feel I have a complete grasp on the truth. Sometimes I just end up thoroughly exhausted from the effort of trying to understand and reconcile all the interpretations. I love Scripture, but I berate my own understanding. I love theology, but the subject is not an easy one. 

There are also so many laudable charitable organizations to which I could give my time in a way that might some day lead to a "job". And that is not a bad option at all, especially since my sense of social justice heightens with each world news article I read. If my family is in such a position that we do not need an income through my own efforts, should I not then give my time to improving the world on a larger scale? As a Christian I cannot view my time as mine alone, and as a mother it is impossible to do anyway.

Yes, volunteering will undoubtedly be a part of this new frontier. I will give energy to my kids' school now and to church as usual. But perhaps there is some other way I can and ought to be my brother's keeper, too - a way yet to be discovered.

As a lover of nature, perhaps I should look into becoming a park ranger. In fact, I have. A little.

I've always loved archaeology, too. I should volunteer on some digs, free menial labor in the cruel Arizona sun.

I understand where others are coming from with their inquisitions about my plans. They get up early each day and hurry to their job. Their jobs are often quite hard and under-compensated, and with that job they must balance family concerns. I think people who ask what on earth I plan to do with myself think I am going to watch a bunch of daytime TV shows while perusing fluff magazines and stuffing chocolates in my face as I compulsively buy stuff online - unfair! Or maybe that's just how my silly pride reads it. Still, I have not been a consumer of daytime television before; why would I start now if I wish to keep my self-esteem? I certainly do not intend to drink Starbucks every day/week or eat expensive chocolate; I am far too cheap, and I make no money. Fluff magazines make me feel bad about everybody. And I hate shopping and errand running, though the latter must not be avoided. 

So what's left? Is it scandalous to be at home, making a home by doing chores and projects that must be done (at least to maintain my own sanity in this place)? Is it shocking to want to write, to work with words? Because it is work, regardless of whether or not I get paid to do it. I have known many people who I believed could write very well, but they lacked the desire or the discipline to do it habitually. That's the difference. Yes, I love it. Yes, I am very lucky to have the time and energy and luxury to do what I love. Yes, I need to work harder at it, too. But it is work, and sometimes the words don't cooperate or simply don't come, and then my thoughts pace like caged, hungry lions in my head as I attempt to tame them. Still I keep trying.

Do not misunderstand. I do regret sometimes - often? - that I did not do as my pragmatic, smart husband did: go to college, get a degree in good time, and enter into a career posthaste after graduation. I don't regret at all that I missed out on college "culture", but I do bemoan the missed opportunities of the classroom, the delicious learning, and I do feel that my husband was the wise one, the grounded one. But I can't go back. 

All these years in the home, I have been truly grateful for the time with my children, for all the laughter and even tears, for the goofiness and craziness and witnessing all the firsts of the early years. I've been happy not to have to report to a different job after nights of seemingly continuous breastfeeding of infants and toddlers. I am so glad we did not have to spend a fortune on childcare or after school care and that my husband and I have not had to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, scarcely having time to say hello to each other. I love home. I love family time. I am so very grateful.

(But I must also here point out that one reason I have been able to stay at home with our children, to drop them off and pick them up at school and sports and other activities is because our family has lived frugally by design. In others' eyes I no doubt lack sufficient ambition, but earning money merely for more money's sake in order to buy more stuff has never appealed to me, especially if we are paying most of it for childcare. I'd rather live simply and stay at home, and I readily and humbly admit it's because of my husband's success in his career that I am able to do so.)

I would be lying if I didn't acknowledge how nervous I am about this new stage in my life when for many years I have been measured by the small children at my side. And being a mother will absolutely always be my most important job. We're forming human beings here who will form society. I feel my failures and mistakes, but I also bear memories of the triumphs and the redeeming moments, of the times I negotiated well with unreasonable individuals. That journey continues. But now it's also prime time for me to be a more productive writer.

Or something else.

I'll let you know.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Wupatki and the Grand Canyon

I feel badly for my city kids sometimes....often, actually.

During the Tennessee summers of my childhood, I swam in a creek down our dirt lane, explored acres of woods, picked wildflowers, ran through buzzing fields with dogs, picked plump blackberries in Mr. Spann's field while his cows stared, and laid on top of hay bales with my siblings, slowly toasting in the heat while the smell of fresh, green things permeated my hair.

Ah, the life! En mi corazon...I am a country girl. (That's part grammatically-incorrect Spanish/part English, but that's how I think it in my head.)

Don't feel too sorry for my kids, though. They've seen nice city parks and crop islands in the suburbs. They get together with friends far more often than I ever did. We have taken memorable family trips to California, New Mexico, Idaho, Virginia and Hawaii. They have splashed in the Pacific Ocean, surveyed the Sandia Mountains, waded in the Payette River, seen the battlefield of Gettysburg and, incredibly, have shared the sand with sea turtles on a North Shore beach thanks to their Uncle Steve.

You can't take them with you.

But Nature is not their habitat. The concrete jungle with its token, manipulated plants is. And we do not have a cabin "up North". We cannot ship our kids to a relative's farm in the country for a few weeks every year. We have no - I repeat - zero camping equipment. Yet this summer with nary a family trip on the horizon, we had to do something for our city kids who do not know what they are habitually missing.

For days I searched the web with bloodshot eyes, scouring locations and cabins and National Parks' websites, looking for a deal at the ideal spot, and then it hit me as I laid in bed one night: the Grand Canyon.

Only one hitch. My husband has a traveling philosophy: been there, done that. If you have ever been there and done that then you are exempt from ever having to see or do it again. We have a collection of magnets on our fridge, a proud list of our "have beens". We had been to the Grand Canyon with my sister Vinca's family nine years ago, but Berto and Ana were too young to remember, and Ella and Daniel were not born yet. Native Arizonans all, they had not truly been there and done that. Plus, we forgot the magnet. My husband kindly agreed to go for the kids' sake.

And for mine.

Because not too far from the Canyon is another place, one that has been on my list of "to see" for years: Wupatki National Monument. Not only is it fun to say, but it has remnants of several Native American pueblos. I requested we go, and Matthew obliged.

I then exclaimed, "I forgot this yearning I have deep inside of me to see Native American ruins!"

To which statement Berto retorted while rolling his eyes, "Mama, not even Native Americans go see Native American ruins!"

On Matthew's suggestion we invited dear friends, some of my favorite people in the world, to join us. We packed a picnic lunch bursting with fresh fruit that always tastes glorious after a hot hike, and we caravaned north to see Sunset Crater and Wupatki before our family ventured on to the Canyon the next day.

Cool breezes, persistent smell of pine, tall fire-red and yellow wildflowers and gray volcanic rock welcomed us as we began our first hike at Sunset Crater, a volcano that erupted 900 years ago. Per my habit, I hugged a pine and got army ants on my arms. Ah, nature's varied gifts!

I've never liked gray as a color, but Mother Nature wears it well.
The Native Americans viewed that ancient volcanic eruption as a cleansing, renewal. "Now that," I said to my friend Geraldine, "is optimism!"

Wupatki is on the same scenic loop as Sunset Crater, and scenic is an understatement. The high desert is gorgeous, its many and subtle shades of green in stark contrast with the red earth and sandstone. It will knock you out.

Wukoki Pueblo
Geraldine and I were in awe, but I was pulled back down to earth by the need to tell my kids to stay off the walls and not risk their lives on tiny ledges.

We drove on to Wupatki Pueblo, the largest with a community gathering space, a ball court and numerous rooms.


I found a lavender flower growing in a room there.

Berto found preserved tarantulas in the visitor's center. I've always hoped to see one in the wild.

But the greatest thing I discovered was the blow hole near the enormous ball court. It had a grate bolted over it, but it blew cool air up into your face and hair from very deep underground. The Native Americans believed it was the breath of the Great Spirit. To me it was the true scent of Mother Nature without the perfume of vegetation. It was dank, but I loved it. It reminded me of deep, lonely caverns.

After exploring Wupatki we went on to the box canyon ruins and Lomaki Pueblo. When Adolfo, Geraldine's husband, suggested we could all live in these dwellings by a gorge, they taking one ruin and we another, I agreed. It's nice to dream about existing in such a lovely, lonely landscape, completely dependent on our own will to survive and vulnerable to the whims of Mother Nature.

Box Canyon Ruins

Box Canyon

Lomaki Pueblo in the distance
But such a life doesn't exist here anymore. It's a national monument, preserved for us and future generations, and thank God for that.

And thank God for my darling husband who is always willing to take a hike among Native American ruins just to please his wife.

As for the Grand Canyon? It is what it is, an incomprehensibly huge and beautiful hole in the ground crowded with people. You wish you could free fall and then rise up from its depths on beating wings like an eagle, going off to explore secluded, mysterious places. We walked away from the crowds on the paved path, venturing to stand near the edge several times, clasping Ella and Daniel's hands as we peered across this great divide. Berto, Ana and I did a little rock climbing there, descending onto a big finger ledge. While we scrambled up boulders, an enormous orange butterfly alighted first on Ana and then on me. People pay to go to butterfly wonderlands for just such an experience, and we found it amid the surreal scenery of the Grand Canyon.

Truly, amazing things happen when you get out in nature.