To Elias on His 10th Birthday

May you build a ladder to the stars

And climb on every rung

And may you stay Forever Young

~~Bob Dylan Forever Young

Dear Elias,

You have been the very best grandson anyone could ask for. I remember when your mother called me with the news that she was expecting a child. It seems like yesterday. In the years that have passed we all are ten years older. Emmy and I were in our 60’s. Oh, where do the years go?

I came to Orting to visit you when you were an infant. Many people were in your mom and dad’s house to watch the Super Bowl. You fell asleep on my tummy…you slept until half-time. Then someone else took you so I could go to the bathroom! I would kiss your tiny head and I nearly cried when my lips touched your warm head. You were always warm.

[Elias has a treat.]

You grew up so fast, Elias, so fast I could hardly keep up with you when I visited you a few years later. I remember how you would always wait by the big window and wave at the man who drove the garbage truck down your street. He always waved back. Someday you may forget doing that, but the driver, I suspect, will never forget the little boy in the window.

Oh, where did the years go?

After you took your first steps, I was able to take walks with you, mommy and Emmy. My legs hurt so I had to try very hard to keep up. Little boys can walk fast.

[Three generations walking in the rain.]

Your father always seem to be taking pictures of you. I’ll bet you a nickel that his Elias Photo File is very full. Every year, in late October, your mom and dad would take you to pick out some pumpkins at a nearby farm. Every year your mom would put you up against a very big ruler. It was a perfect way to watch you grow.

I remember watching you take a very sudsy bath. Your mom would sit on the floor, put her feet up on the tub and play the ukulele and sing Wild Horses to you. When I think of you, sometimes it makes me sad to think how far away we live from each other.

[Elias at a playground in Orting, WA.]

You hiked in the mountains of the Cascades. Much of the time you rode in a backpack baby carrier on the shoulders of your mom or dad. You played in the sand at Cannon Beach, Oregon every holiday trip in many Decembers.

Oh, where do the years go.

[Elias at work on a toy truck.]

Your grandma and grandpa shared many special moments with you. And it makes us sad that we haven’t shared ALL of them. When you came to our house last summer you really enjoyed the Wild Center in Tupper Lake. You even crawled on the big spider web of ropes. I just sent you a microscope late last year. I hope you will get to know the tiny things we often don’t see with our own eyes.

[A new stereo microscope.]

So, I need to close this blog now. At the beginning I used a quote from my favorite poet and singer, Bob Dylan. Your mom and dad will tell you how powerful his words are.

Your are going to be a teenager in a few years. As you move up the grades in school you will learn many things. But remember this: You can grow up to be anything you want. A poet. A painter. A writer. A scientist. A doctor. A lawyer. An explorer. Maybe even a President. But whatever you do in life…make sure it’s your true passion.

But don’t grow up too fast. You are a superhero to your grandparents. Treat others with love and kindness and patience.

Stay true to yourself and please stay forever young.

Travels 13: Always on the Edge of Beauty–A tale of women, beauty, a city and a marred landscape

Once I found myself wandering through the streets of Bruges, a small lace making city in Belgium.  I walked along canals and old buildings.  I began to cry.

“Why can’t all cities be this beautiful?”, I kept asking myself.  “Why can’t every city be a Bruges, or a Paris or a London?”

I’ve always been attracted to beauty…but not the runway, highly stylized and magazine-perfect beauty of Barbie Dolls and Supermodels.  No, what attracted me were the little quirks and gestures of my teenage girl friends and later, the women I dated.

I was sitting at the faculty lunch table of the school where I last taught.  The talk was about the senior girls.

A female science teacher mentioned a student of hers named Karyn.

“Everyone teases her,” she said.  “And to be honest, if I were her age again, I would be among those teasing her.”

I was startled.

“She drives me crazy with her blinking.” the teacher said.

I had taught Karyn two years earlier, in the 6th Grade.

I expressed shock that a teacher would find a mannerism like blinking so off-putting.

“Well, if I were her age, I would probably have a crush on her,” I said to the table of silent teachers.

“But the blinking?”

“Yeah, but I would find that endearing about her,” I said.

The teachers kept silent…hopefully thinking about what they had said about the blinking Karyn.

My girlfriends always had something different about them.  Some little indescribable tick or something that made them less than “perfect”, less of a Prom Queen, but more of a girl-next-door.

I am going to make a major conceptual leap in this post.

I’ve driven over 4200 miles on my journey to Orting.  Now I’m on my way back home.  At this moment, 6:34 Pacific Daylight Time (PM) I am at an RV camp that appeared in the middle of the mountains leading to Crater Lake.  Yes, it appeared.  It wasn’t on the map or my guide to RV campgrounds.  Just when I was growing very tired of the car, there was the sign for the Last Chance RV park.  We’re somewhere in the Rogue-Umpqua National Forest.  There are mountains with slopes as steep as building facades all around us.  The evergreen trees bring the twilight into this little valley quite early.  I’m going to wait up for the rising of the Full Moon…it’ll be awhile because the horizon I saw on the Plains is not here.  Only the dark steep slopes of these beautiful mountains.  This is Bigfoot land.  And, I can almost understand why such a beast (I’m not necessarily a believer) would choose to lose itself in these heavy forests like these.

Which brings me back to thinking about what I’ve seen and learned about this country (the whole country as seen from my selected route)…and to beauty.

I expected some rough edges along the trip.  That’s the way of nature.  But the way of humans is something that is troubling to me.  In an unclothed situation, a woman…a real woman…will have blemishes.  Those little quirks that attract me.  The imperfections that shouldn’t be airbrushed away.  But the landscape I’ve seen is unclothed as well and the blemishes are glaring.  This land, once home to the First People, passed on to the developers and it never left their hands.  Entire mountain tops are scraped away for coal.  I expected much of this, but the pure expanse of raped earth left me shaken.

Then I got to the Pacific Northwest, another haven for Bigfoot and another place where the unspoiled skylines of foothills show the scars of clear-cutting.  Trees unimaginably ancient have been cut away leaving patches of bare earth, like a drunken barber might attack a three-year old beard.

Again, I found myself near tears.  But now my question was why can’t things be left alone?  All cities can’t be Bruges but do we really NEED to cut, split, saw and stack this precious old wood on the shelves of every Home Depot in the country?

A naked surface can be a wonder to gaze on.  But a forest without trees is problematic.

OregonCoast

The Oregon Coast.

ClearCutWashingtonForest

Clear-cutting on the Olympic Peninsula.

ClearCuttingOregonBeach

A tree covered mountain with something missing on the left.