Family Moab

Family Moab
In Arches National Park

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Ray of Light and Plastic Plants

I've been watering a plastic succulent in the backyard for at least six weeks and congratulating myself on it staying green through our variable summer weather. The realization knocked hard against my head last night when I watered it - and then pinched the leaves only to finally realize that they are NOT REAL. A fine blow to the ego, that was.

It's good to be humble, but I am sending a plea to the universe to stop reminding me of my imperfections. Could I maybe just go a week of pretending that I can do this "adulting" thing? Sure it was hard to send the kids back to school but my brain should still remember how to function - I've been shuttling them off to fall semesters for the last sixteen years.

Age, or denial? Who knows what's really at fault. I do know that I had a blast last night at our "Willowstock" neighborhood festival, catching up with friends (though we had to search a while to find the people in our age group) and then drinking adult beverages and spontaneously singing along to "The End of the World as We Know It." The band played a few more covers like "The Rain King" by Counting Crows and others from the 1990s, which indicated to all that the bandmembers were around our age.

And a little beacon of hope, a ray of light courtesy of my brother Michael's announcement that he and Pam are having a baby in February - convinced me that I still have little ones to hold and christenings to attend.(That are unrelated to my own children / becoming a grandmother very early). A harbinger of hope and youth, a reminder that life is always joyful right around the corner, plastic plants notwithstanding.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

College Drop-off, Take Six

My hands clenched in white-knuckled tension around the steering wheel of the U-haul as Daniel and I carefully cruised the Boulder streets on our way to move William into his new apartment. I exhaled gustily when I turned the corner into his street and saw my daughter standing and waving in the nearby parking spot she had reserved for us. She lives two buildings over and had volunteered to help with moving. 

We successfully unloaded with the help of multiple sets of roommates, Aden waving at friends and performing introductions as we carried in mattresses and headboards, coffee tables and kitchen appliances. I blessed the luck that put William's apartment only one flight up, and we managed to unload and return the U-Haul within a few hours. Then Daniel went to work assembling a desk and coffee table while William and I unpacked the dresser and side table in his bedroom.

The apartments are spacious and each person has their own room; a much easier setup than the dorms. William now has to feed himself, which will be interesting, but at least his sister is close by. The toaster, rice-maker, blender, microwave, kettle and coffee pots standing at attention on the kitchen counters should also help. I didn't have that many appliances (or room for them) until I had been married for five years. 

Exhausted, we fell into bed early on Saturday night, a good thing since wake-up the next morning came at 4:30am. My last tri team race of the season was an all-women race held about an hour north at a reservoir and park in Longmont. I carpooled with the other coaches and set up the group tent, counseled nervous first-timers, and cheered on our group as they successfully navigated the legs of the sprint tri. My eyes welled up at the mother-daughter duos that ran, the 80-year-old finishing on her birthday, the brothers, husbands, boyfriends and fathers of the women who ran through the transition area holding their phones high as they recorded the athlete while simultaneously screaming and cheering and exhorting them on. 

The overall impression from the busy weekend was of the importance of community, friends and family. "Many hands make light work" may be dated and trite - but it's still true. We had help moving in and we volunteered our strained backs and weary arms to move in other roommates and friends. On Saturday, as our family ate takeout on William's newly assembled kitchen table, we felt grateful for the mutual support. Rob and I high-tailed it out quickly after dinner, wanting to leave the kids to their new lives and confident that they were in (their own) good hands.

Monday, August 15, 2022

No Longer a Front Yard

All the grass is gone from the front of our house, replaced by gorilla hair mulch, beautiful granite boulders, pale cobble stones and native plants with pink, yellow and purple blossoms. The landscapers followed our carefully-thought-out plan to conserve water and host pollinators, though I nearly had a heart attack when we took out the old sage and salvia - right out from under the legs of happy bees. Fortunately, I have already seen a few return to buzz around the new purple blossoms. We don't know what to call this front area now; it's no longer a yard or a lawn. Perhaps "front garden"?

Of course the sprinklers aren't yet fixed and Rob and I hand-watered our baby plants over the weekend, carefully assessing their health and well-being. The landscapers are returning this morning to (hopefully) rectify the watering issues. As every home-owner knows, a project is never complete when the contractors first drive away.

Here in Colorado, sterile green grass lawns are rapidly becoming dinosaurs. They rebuff our desperately-needed bees and - if sprinkled with pesticides - harm any wildlife that traverses the bluegrass. High water bills remind us of the precious nature of water, water we are supposed to share with seven states that rely on the Colorado River. Slowly, we are phasing out the old lawns. Rumor has it that - beginning next summer - the state may have funds to pay people to remove their green grass.

So we jumped the gun by doing it this year and missed out on a possible rebate, but our new native plants are on drip irrigation and we plan to use much less water. This year we've been blessed with monsoon clouds and some afternoon rains, so forest fires haven't yet loomed large on the western horizon. We count these blessings daily, after suffering from heat and poor air quality all last summer and fall, but never take the moisture for granted. It's a new normal here, and our beautiful native not-yard will hopefully be part of a healthy trend.

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.