I’ve been ignoring my blog. This happens. As much as I love to write, I become entrenched in my daily life, ignore the tugs of the blank page, and take to filling my days with teaching, acting and reading soul-stirring writing. Well, I’m back, for a moment, to check in and connect with my own writer’s soul.
In the fall, I took a road trip from Seattle to California bringing along all three of my incredible daughters. It was hands-down the best thing to happen in 2016. We left Seattle heading south, our first stop a night in Ashland, Oregon to take in a play at the popular Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Our plans were in constant flux so we arrived without tickets with the intention of getting them on sight.
A friend of Susanna’s said that we MUST see The Wiz in the Elizabethan outdoor theater. No thanks, was my response. But he said that the play “changed his life.” That is an intense thing to say about a piece of theater so I was intrigued but still not excited. Heading into the box office that evening we found that everything was sold out EXCEPT The Wiz, which had standing room only tickets. Was this fate? Were our lives going to be “changed” by standing for 3 hours in the back of a 1000 plus seat theater?
The short answer is no. I was tempted to leave at intermission, all of us were exhausted from travel and the stresses of getting out-of-town for vacation. But we stuck it out for the second act and it was sparkly, but not in any way life-changing. Maybe it doesn’t take much for some people to turn life on its ear? For me it takes more than some flashy song and dance numbers. It takes being with my daughters on the road! We all shared a hotel room and car for 9 days and I was entranced by the women they have become.
I made them see the new Pete’s Dragon movie with me (the old one was such a part of their childhood), and we stopped for terrible snacks, drank lots of coffee and put on temporary tattoos as we listened to a playlist of all the albums from our various road-trips over the years. We sang and giggled and remembered many a joy as we spent the hours in the car.
Yosemite National Park was the goal of this trip. My favorite place on earth and I had never taken my daughters there. If you’ve followed my blog from the beginning you will remember that Yosemite is a place of magic for me (One touch of nature and Our natural beauty). It was the place that birthed my love and respect for nature and opened my heart to the joys of spirituality and self-knowing. I have always wanted to be the one to see my girls’ faces the first time they encountered Yosemite Valley.
I had a plan outlined for our days. Arriving our first afternoon we explored the valley floor after checking into our room (complete with bunk beds and view of the glorious glaciers from our sliding glass doors). It had been a dry summer so sadly Yosemite Falls was not flowing, but we wandered around the grassy fields, watched deer and craned our necks along with them to the giant granite cliffs above us.
We had reservations on the 8am bus the next morning that would take us up to Glacier Point, to look down on unparalleled views and start our hike to the valley floor. Lowell Young suggested this hike for us and as usual he steered us in the perfect direction. The views all along the Panorama Trail are astounding. It descends 3200 feet in elevation in about 9 miles. The published material on this hike says that “one day you’ll look back on your life and split it into its ‘before Panorama’ and ‘after Panorama’ periods.” Looking back on it now, I can agree that it is one of the most spectacular hikes I have had the joy of doing.
Half Dome is the focal point along the trail, staying in view from many angles and reminding me constantly, with complete awe and wonder, that I slept on top of that rock when I was a senior in high school. Hikers are no longer allowed to do that so I feel like one of the rare and happy few.
We had gorgeous weather and pranced our way down the mountain, stopping every few hundred feet to oohh and ahhh. But adventures are rarely carefree. I had newish hiking boots, worn on a few short hikes, very comfortable, so I thought. I had plenty of moleskin packed in case of blisters, but not even a mile down the trail I started feeling hot spots and sat on a boulder and doused them with moleskin. Back on the trail we zigzagged our way to lovely Illilouette Fall, where I again cared for my now blistering feet. Still optimistic that I would be able to doctor them enough to keep them from being an issue and denying that they were hurting, we started the ascent up toward Nevada Fall, which gave my toes a break.
Halfway up, Susanna started having trouble with altitude sickness with a pounding headache and nausea. So we found another boulder, plied her with Advil and snacks and tended our wounds together. She started feeling better and the views were so beautiful that we made it to Nevada Fall without too much difficulty. We perched on the edge overlooking the Yosemite Valley and the gently flowing waterfall. In a dreamy state we opened up sandwiches we had brought along, ready for a much-needed rest, only to be swarmed by yellow jackets! We quickly threw our food back in our backpacks while squealing and waving our arms around. We could hear the cries of a gal sitting near us getting stung and we moved as quickly as possible back up the trail. I’m not sure what the deal was with the yellow jackets, they were aggressive in certain, more populated areas and it made me cranky.
My feet were getting worse with every mile. I had to borrow Audrey’s walking sticks to get me down the last steep descending miles. Every step was painful. My feet were bloody and there was nothing to be done, but grin and bear it, put one foot in front of the other and keep going. To escape pressure on my feet my knees were taking the brunt of the verticality and also hurting with every step.
Stress, pain and growth, still the lesson to learn throughout my life. But we were still smiling even if a bit battered when we got to the bottom bus stop and we all looked forward to showers and rest.
The next day was recovery time, more exploration of the Valley, picnicking, drawing and journaling along the Merced River. It was so relaxing and beautiful, the mirror image of Half Dome reflecting in the river and my heart. I kept thinking how lucky, how joyous, how divine to be here with my daughters. It doesn’t get much better than this! It is the prettiest place I have ever seen, majestic and magical granite walls.
We had a special evening planned for a birthday dinner at the famous Ahwahnee Hotel. So we gussied up and headed over. By now our bodies were feeling the soreness from the 9 miles the previous day and we were all moving stiffly. But the old hotel is a beauty and we strolled around the first floor admiring the woodwork and timbers and sunset views. Dinner was elegant, complete with pianist playing a grand piano and we had many secret giggles about a not-too-competent server, feeling much like misbehaving children in church.
As in often the case when we are together silly things happen, the fortune of having 3 beautiful, fun-loving daughters. After sitting at dinner for a few hours our bodies started seizing up from the exertion the previous day. We stood up to leave in view of about a hundred finely arrayed diners and it must have been like watching the Three Stooges doing a slow-motion routine. Alicia was in front, wearing 3 inch high-heeled shoes and obviously working very hard and carefully to slowly put one foot in front of the other without falling over. I started giggling hysterically knowing exactly how she was feeling , me with my blistered feet and sore body, and then the pianist started playing the theme from Chariots of Fire. It was all I could do to keep it together until we reached the doorway, then we all burst out in uncontrolled laughter as we stumbled our way past the front desk and out into the parking lot.
It was the pinnacle moment of our trip, one that almost rivaled the scenes of natural wonder that we experienced for 2 days straight. Laughter straight from the belly at our inability to walk even remotely normal! If I had a video of it all, it would definitely be accompanied by the thumping electronic pulsing of Vangelis’ Chariots of Fire Theme.
Before the Panorama blister free and fine…
After the Panorama, closer than ever to the three most cherished women in my life.