May 22, 2011
Still here on planet earth and checking in. Harold Camping prophesied May 21, 2011, yesterday, was going to be the Apocalypse. 200 million people were going to vanish suddenly from the face of the earth. They were the chose ones. They would be spared the thundering hooves of thousands of white horses, the earth turned to a smoking pile of rubble. I wasn’t quite sure of this 89 year old Rapture prophet and his mathematical scientific approach to the text in Revelations. He claimed to have science and mathematics behind him. Who can question science? Though, science questions spirituality all the time. Anyway, when I got dressed in the morning, I made sure I put on clean underwear. It never hurts to be prepared.
He and his wife are hiding out in motel somewhere as I write this. Mr. Camping claims he miscalculated. Really the end of the world as we know it will end on October 21, 2011. But then he predicted the Rapture in 1994.
I am back in school. This is my second quarter. My dad makes fun of me for being a “Greener” now. He doesn’t say much more than that to me, though I know he wants to. He thinks this is a hippy school. Evergreen has a reputation. It is not deserved. I have learned more in two classes here than I learned at the UW and at law school in six and a half years. My younger classmates have a passion for learning, and more, they also have a capacity to question. I think of how much different my life would have been, if I’d had the opportunity to go to college, they have now.
I want to tell them, “Do not waste this.” I want to hug every one of them and whisper in their ear, “You are the change we need for the future.” To be with them is invigorating. I listen to their stories, their music, their poetry. I am changed by it. I read to them. I tell them stories about you.
Struck with the beauty and limitations of this life, writing lets me express those images. Writing soothes me. These letters--I feel you with me when I write them.
Yesterday, I went on a field trip. Ha Ha. I am 56 years old on Wednesday, and I went with my class to
. The instructor let me be the driver--even though she, and my classmates, had some concern I might be Raptured, and there they would be in a runaway van. That shows how much they know me. Mt. Rainier
What ingenious planning on the instructors’ parts! To take us up to
Paradise on the day the world is to end. I cannot think of a more fitting place to be.
But first, a stop at Longmire. There were two hikes to choose from—one I was pretty sure would kill me, the other was less challenging than a trip to the mall. After being in hibernation for the winter, I opted for the easier hike. With a fully loaded backpack, carrying enough supplies to sustain me for three full days, I set out on the .7 mile hike across from the Longmire Lodge with my hiking poles. A gray haired couple was just finishing the hike. I met kids carrying Granola bars, running ahead of their parents, and squealing. The birds all took flight catching currents carrying them away from the noise. It was the first hike I have been on since you died.
Walking on the brown path, carpeted with dead evergreen needles and crushed cedar cones, my feet recalled keeping step with yours on other paths. We shared a love for water falling over rock and deadfall, shallow streams, river rocks and alpine flowers. This mountain reminds me how quickly things can change. Nothing is constant. Nothing can be taken for granted. I am left, now, with all your hiking gear. I cannot find it in myself to part with it. Today I wore your hiking boots and the wool cap I gave you on our last Christmas together.
All along the trail, the skunk cabbage raised it startling yellow spathes from a bog. Its four lobed, yellow bracket, enshrined a greenish yellow fleshy flower stalk. I turned to a classmate and said, “I never knew skunk cabbage was so beautiful.”
“It is.” She said “It just smells bad.”
A fat doe hid on the edge of the meadow. Stellar jays saw backpacks and stalked us, waited for any sign of food. I watched a flock of birds I think were quail. They were far away, it was hard to tell. It was enough to watch them. I did not need to name them.
I saw a stump, lying by a stream, with room enough for two to sit. I sat. I listened. The falling water muted everything. I closed my eyes until there was just the sound, the sense of being, and a memory of you and me, sharing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and sips of water from a Nalgene bottle. We did not need to speak. In the stream music, in the cool wet air we breathed together, we connected. Your cells coded by mine. A mother and her child.
After the hike, we all drove up the mountain to
Paradise. A convention of ghosts revealed them selves halfway up, descending on the mountain. Through the crowd of them, visibility was negligible. I drove like a ninety-eight year old woman too short to find the gas pedal. Even I finally said, “Oh my Gosh. Are we there yet?” (And I did say gosh, not God, out of respect for religious classmates and frankly, I was not still quite sure of the whole Rapture thing.)
My classmates were sweet. Someone said, “I am glad we have a careful driver.”
At the top, the only view was the 15 foot wall of snow leading to the lodge. Four feet in front of me my classmates vanished into the fog. It was other worldly. Alongside me, practicing mountaineers scaled the wall, tethered to ropes, their packs hanging behind them.
Entering the lodge, the popping orange yellow flame filled fireplace in the lobby had great visibility. It was warm. People sat in chairs reading books, or doing nothing. Groups sat at three out of the five great, slab of timber tables playing cribbage or scrabble. One group brought out crackers, grapes, apples, cheeses and dips, from a Metropolitan Market shopping bag. Everyone spoke in hushed tones, respecting the majesty of the timbered interior. I visited the gift shop, then, settled in with my thermos of coffee, a peanut butter apple, a notebook and a pen. I wrote nothing.
I passed the time and filled myself with
Paradise for later, when I could be by myself looking out into my backyard watching for Goldfinches and the quail couple. Later, unlocking the van, I saw my classmates watching something. Nobody moved. I walked up behind them. “What is it?” I half whispered.
One of the girls pointed, “I think it is a fox.”
Three of the girls had cameras, and took pictures of the fox sitting in front of the wall of snow, in a corner of the parking lot. And they were all trying to get closer. The fox just sat there, ears perked up, watching as the group approached.
“Careful.” Someone said. “We do not want him to feel trapped.”
We froze. The fox sat there, unblinking. Then it stood, walked parallel to us, never took his eyes and ears away from us. I turned the camera on my phone on and took a picture. I wanted to send it to you. You are not on the contact list, though, on this new Droid phone I got last October.
I have never seen a fox before. Though, this was a red fox, it was black and had silver tips on its fur. It had a long bushy black tail. It looked hungry and confused. I wanted to give it one of my granola bars, hold it, pet it. I have learned, you cannot interfere with nature. This was the foxes home, I was the guest. It was forgetting how to feed itself. Despite the signs all over the park, people still feed the animals.
As I sat in the lodge at
Paradise, a thick blanket of fog blocking my view of everything outside, I am forced to turn my attention to what is inside. Inside these walls, inside of me. I think of all my friends I have met in the last year. Todd, Ami and her daughter Sahara, Steve and his daughter Steffie, AJ and his daughter Suzi. I think of my sisters, Linda and Karen who are more than sisters. I think of my niece Lisa, her daughters Annalise and Alicia. I think of my friend JoAnn and her daughter Edwina. Of my midwife friend Laura and her children and grandchildren. Of Nolana and her children. I am a teacher even when I am not aware I am teaching. In your absence, I am becoming an elder woman. I want to be elegant in that role. I want to be fearless.
And my classmates, I want to tell these other mother’s children, follow your heart, be fearless, believe in yourself. But most of all, I want for them to know they can. They are the change our world needs. It all starts with one person, one idea and the courage pursue it. And a day on a mountain.
You, Andrea, were a woman of great courage. I do not think I told you enough, how much I admired you. As I sat on the log by the stream across from the lodge at Longmire remembering you I gave thanks for you.