Family Moab

Family Moab
In Arches National Park

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Camping at Collegiate Peaks

With twenty-eight hardy souls around the campfire, our circle grew so large that I could barely make out Rob's face, lined up with the other dads across the flames from me.  A deer ran by, looking askance at the one dog in our group, and periods of light rain fell, causing a cropping-up of umbrellas. No one moved or drifted away until the 10pm quiet time fell, and even then folks lingered to put out the fire, finish a few last stories, put the trash in the cars so bears wouldn't be tempted to join.

Our Saturday dawned bright and blue-skied, and in a remarkable feat of logistics we managed to get five cars and twenty-three people to the Harvard Lakes trailhead before 11am. Wildflowers lined our path and the pine forest carpet glowed a delightful shade of green not often found in August wanderings in Colorado. With the dirt trail soft underfoot and the conversation of the college kids lifting high in the thin air around us, we moved our caterpillar train of campers up Harvard peak to the lake, where Ozzy Dogsbourne (the pup) went swimming and the rest of us sat and recovered what oxygen we could find at 10,000 feet.

Post hike and lunch, our amoeba shifted again from the campsite to a hot springs down the road. We were informed that the artesian springs would benefit our mind and souls even more than our bodies, a loftier goal than that of the sulfur springs found in other locales. A pool in the river offered 55 degree temperatures to reduce inflammation and various other pools, ranging in temp from 98 to 105 degrees, offered relaxation and (recovery from the river). William found his happy place in the frigid river water and floated there for fifteen minutes, while I could only dip my head for mere seconds. 

Wild sunflowers waved at us while we cooked in the water and an employee walked around burning sage. Electronics were banned - even watches - and we lounged and conversed in pleasant denial of the passage of time. Only hunger pains spurred us to departure - although for Rob, the failing light also signaled a need to rush set-up for the cornhole game before players lost sight of the boards. 

We cooked sausages over the fire and shared access to camp stoves to warm hash browns while the other families assembled Mexican dishes along the picnic table bench. The youngest among us was asking for marshmallows before dinner was concluded and his needs were soon met. Though rushing clouds obscured the stars, a half-moon made its appearance over the mountains and conversations turned to communal topics like first concerts, birthplaces, favorite camp songs. With full bellies, exhausted but clean bodies and happy hearts, we even managed to sleep a while in our second night at the campground. 

As we took down camp and packed the cars on Sunday, chipmunks scurrying around us to scavenge any crumb left behind, our 16-year-old finally admitted he had fun. "I'll even come next year," he said. So I'm putting it in writing, but I think the happy memories will be enough to bring everyone back again.

Monday, August 1, 2022

Wake Up Now!

 “Life is fleeting. Don't waste a single moment of your precious life. Wake up now! And now! And now!”

― Ruth Ozeki, A Tale for the Time Being

Summer slithers by like a young child on a wet slip-and-slide, now catching on a rubber wrinkle, but then writhing free and rocketing out of my grasp. It's only been a week since Rob's 5-0 shindig and we just finished the last of the caterer's leftovers - the extra beer and cocktail cans are still sweating it out on the porch in their cooler - but experiences continue to pile up like the faded geranium petals in my planters.

William attempted last-minute camping with friends and ran into two persnickety Colorado problems: finding an available campsite and having an off-road-worthy vehicle. They solved both problems and finally set up the tent in pitch dark, only to shiver the night away thousands of feet in elevation higher than they had planned to sleep.

Meanwhile, Rob and I went to see Los Lobos and the Trucks + Tedeschi band at Red Rocks, a spectacular venue we hadn't visited since pre-pandemic times. Tailgating in the red dust of the parking lot with old friends, chatting about retirement dreams and menopausal challenges while drinking and looking out over the foothills and the city floating away on the plains, we thought, "here we are again, at last!"

The annual family camping trip beckons this weekend, a trip promising more normalcy than we could deliver in the last two years. In 2020 we went and tried to stay at arm's length, as no one yet even trusted the outdoors, until the cold evening drove us into a huddle around the campfire (no COVID resulted). Last year nearly every family had a college freshman planning dorm move-ins and the trip was abbreviated with many folks only tripping up for the day. This year we plotted a farther drive and a longer stay, scheming way back in February to reserve our 7 sites for this weekend and persuade our adult children to drive down with us for the full three days.

Each sunny-bleached moment of the summer seems familiar but different, as if I'd heard the melody before but it's now in a different key. I don't know if the pandemic altered our routines or the passage of years has changed the way I perceive things, but as school beckons from it's start date in three weeks, I'm startled and challenged. As Ozeki says, 'Wake up now! And now! And now!" For soon it will be gone again.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

A Milestone Birthday for Rob

Our skinny black scaredy-cat, Jack, hid in the closet behind Rob's dress pants for the last four days as extended family members roamed our house. The high-pitched voices of our young nieces and nephews particularly triggered him to slink his belly down low to the carpet and crawl into his dark space, only coming out for water and the occasional bowl of kibble. For the rest of us, however, Rob's 50th birthday party / Dravenstott reunion was a festive celebration of friends and family.

As the youngsters (four little ones under the age of 7) dug out our old toys and built forts on the stair landings, the adults engaged in countless games: board games, all manner of card games, "remember when" games. Connie helped me stock up at the supermarket with barbecue fodder and lunchmeats while Rob ordered an entire shelf full of chips. Our coolers ran over, sitting on the back porch and sweating out their excess over sodas and sparkling water, not to mention a variety of beers for Rob and his brothers and some hard kombucha for me.

Rob doesn't typically like attention - or birthdays - but 50 is a milestone and valued connections with friends and family help to ease the sting of the high  number and replace any misgivings over age with appreciation for a loving and supportive community. I turned 50 in March of 2021 and my friends and family threw me a "walking party" along a nearby path, reluctant to gather critical mass either inside or out. The cards and photo album that I received filled me with gratitude and I was able to get vaccinated and fly to see my mother, sister and brother at the end of that month, for the first time in over a year. My happy memories motivated me to provide Rob with a similar feeling and sense of fulfillment. 

For this 2022 pandemic celebration we were able to gather and sit together under the shade tents, avoiding light rain and the rare outburst of sun, less concerned about COVID and excited to see neighbors who have been buried by work or family obligations. While the youngsters shrieked with joy on the nearby park, cornhole sets rotated through countless teams and the thud of bags on the wood were punctuated by cheers and groans. More barbecue disappeared from the catering table and Rob made a lovely speech over two cakes - a chocolate CostCo confection and a vanilla gluten free globe (home-made). As our niece angled for two pieces of cake, Rob thanked everyone for coming and for helping us raise our kids, enjoy happy times and survive the hard ones. Towards the end of the evening, as lightning flashed in the west and thunderstorms threatened, all remaining party-goers pitched in to help clean up. All in all, a magical evening to celebrate a milestone.

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

July 5 Reflections

 A few reflections on July 4th, which turned out to be a lovely day where we were fortunate to safely celebrate and reconnect with friends and neighbors. We watched the local bike parade and chatted with good friends at the pool, my two older kids lounging with us at their first real "adult swim." In the afternoon, we received terrible news via our phone notifications - information about the violence at a parade outside of Chicago. If I had a flag flying, I would have put it at half mast, but I could not even summon the energy to hang the United States flag this year, though it is my country - our country, too - and I won't give it away.  I found this quote motivational, though I couldn't act on it:

It should not be so unbearably hard for justice to prevail, and justice finally gained should never again be at risk. But this is the country we live in. The fight for freedom will never be over. And, God help me, I will not be one who gives up. This is my country, too, and I will not surrender it to a vocal minority of undemocratic tyrants.

- Margaret Renkl, New York Times, "The American Flag Belongs to Me, Too, and This Year I'm Taking It Back" July 2, 2022

I failed to fly the flag despite Renkl's empowering words, but I will return to them as a rallying cry when I abandon the distraction of pessimism and double down on my own efforts, however small they may be. But it will be a minute. When William asked me pensively what I thought was "truly American," I pled the fifth, not wanting to give him any top-of-mind answers that accrued over the last difficult weeks.

Saturday, July 2, 2022

A Loss of Freedoms on this Fourth

 "All rights that have no history stretching back to the mid-19th century are insecure."

-Dissenting justices, Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization

Growing up, I never found my place on the ideological battleground between "pro-life" and "pro-choice." Raised Catholic, steeped in the lore of the virgin Mary whose portrait hung on the painted cinderblock walls of classroom where I had weekly religious education, I defined myself as someone who didn't think they would have an abortion (though how can we ever really know?) but would never enforce my opinions or religious principles on another person. 

So I was pro-choice but joined other marches (for immigrant rights, for child safety, for the environment) instead of the pro-choice rallies. I read a few articles about the potential for a conservative court to overturn Roe v. Wade, some of which suggested that women's rights would be safer in the hands of state legislatures, that using a Supreme Court decision as basis for freedoms was dangerous. I even managed to be hopeful that we could turn a prospective overturn to our advantage. I was slightly disengaged; I was optimistic.

I was wrong.

A friend told me yesterday that optimism and pessimism are on a continuum, and at either end of the spectrum they are both merely distractions from reality, which of course lies in the jumbled middle. My attempt at optimism was a flimsy shield against the reality, that women's rights have been rolled back over a half-century, and other rights around the issues of who we love, how we build our families, how we decide for ourselves, are greatly endangered now in the hands of a politicized Supreme Court majority. The conservative justices claim to be originalist, to hearken back to the founders' intentions as expressed through a document that is hundreds of years old, and which was created in a time when men owned their wives and human beings with black skin only "counted" as a fraction of a person. 

Jefferson himself said, "Laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind as that becomes more developed. More enlightened, as new discoveries are made. New truths discovered and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances. Institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors."

In my reading last week I (much too late) became convinced that Roe and the succeeding case, Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), which established the right of women to choose to have an abortion before viability, were attempts by the court to balance the freedoms and right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of both the mother and the unborn. They were compromises, attempting to recognize the delicacy, the emotional complexity, of such an intimate decision. There have always been some restrictions on abortion, and two separate courts levied decisions that bolstered both restrictions and rights. But a half-century of tempered jurisprudence was thrown out in the Dobbs case, when no attempt was made to calculate the right to life and liberty of the mother. All of the rights go to the unborn child.

Abortion could soon be prohibited in half the states in our country. Tens of millions of women will be judged if they miscarry, will face criminal charges (against them and any friends or family who help them) if they seek an abortion even in cases of rape, incest, or dangers to their health. If they have a miscarriage they will be scrutinized, as will their doctors. That is a fact - it is already happening. 

The Supreme Court decided that it was acceptable for states to take away these options for women, to criminalize an act that was enshrined as a right ten days ago. The day before the Dobbs decision, the majority decided it was NOT acceptable for states to limit a citizen's ability to carry a gun - that right is now important enough to be embraced by the court and placed out of reach by the states, on the upper shelf of rights that somehow "made the cut."

I am heartbroken. This blog hovered in my mind and on my fingertips for much of the past week, but I couldn't bring myself to type, to put words down in black and white, admit my grief. In so many ways our country seems to go backwards, and we swim now across a dangerous current while sighting for a distant shore, not to advance the rights of women and others, but merely to grasp the sand in places we used to stand.