This is what quality time with my son has looked like over the last two weeks. To clarify, this is the most time with him I'll probably have the pleasure of spending for most of the month. I haven't raised them to keep them under my thumb. They know how to think for themselves. I'm letting them test their reason in the real world. He'll be back on the 8th, which gives him four days to spend with his sister, M— before she flies off to the Orient. In between, L— spends a week at her first year of Young Women's Camp. Summer is the epitome of my parental juggling act, the first taste of life with "helicopter" children—land at the pad just long enough to refuel and take off to confront the world again. I know it's the right way to do it because it is exactly the opposite of what I experienced as a kid. That resembled falconry, with the tethers still firmly tied to the ankle. And, hey, my kids are happy.
They check in. We evaluate. I give advice. (I had the porn talk with E on this particular drive, so he didn't sleep the whole time. Thumbs up. Who knew it could go so smoothly, or so well?) We express love and validation. They make new plans and take off again.
Imagine you are a 38-year-old single mom that seems to attract guys in their late 20s. Imagine learning the greatest control, the diplomacy of giving advice, monastic flirtation avoidance, and the art of passing notes to young gazelles in behalf of the twenty-something guys. It's not that bad. It's not. Now convince yourself that this may be your calling for the rest of your life because you've had your turn. Three times around.
Last day of summer school taxied. Personal trained. Thrift store shopped. Monsters U watched. Shower taken. Domestic violence group attended. Creative Writing Club officer's meeting at the Pie Tin met.
I couldn't decide whether to go to the gym or to let my body rest. I went to the gym and watched more than half of My Best Friend's Wedding, which is and always has been terrible, while I cycled and then hiked in place. This hour of cardio signifies a "light" day, and therefore I have rested.
I want to go to Sunstone. I have a cousin at LDS University of Choice who wants me to go with him. I am legitimately invested in the topics being addressed, especially the treatment and doctrine behind mental illness/disability within the Church. One of the sessions discusses this in depth. One of the panelists during this session is Mr. PNU. I asked M— what she thought I should do. Her answer: "Oooh. Can I go? We can sit on the back row together." I will probably go. I will probably also take my 16-year-old daughter. I will try to feel both justified in being there and also awkward about being there.
I am reading four books at present. It's frustrating having this kind of ADHD interaction with my literature, but it's always been this way. I am in love with M. Scott Peck, Sherwood Anderson, Marilynne Robinson, and Robert Hass, which is sadly demonstrative of my ability to stay focused in relationships. Or is it indicative of my polyandrous inclination?
I am not writing poetry.
L— and I stormed Deseret Industries this afternoon, where she found that the women's clothing is more fitting than the children's, and I rediscovered my love for discarded men's t-shirts.
M— is preparing to leave for Japan in two weeks. E— is in SLC preparing via text for his mother to drive him halfway to Idaho this weekend. I should man up and drive all the way; it's been some time since I visited my friends in the North Country. But then there is the issue of my mother, which does not ameliorate. She seems to be fine not speaking to me if it means she doesn't have to accept that she is human and no more in possession of all truth and knowledge than I. I am wondering how I will manage 10 days of silence once M— boards her flight.
B— went to his first Cub Scout activity, a day camp, this morning. I am feeling my age rattle the air around me. He did well. Isn't that just what I'd hoped as he hugged me repeatedly before the den leader's van door closed and he drove away with the "normal" little boys? He's told me lately, that when his brother and sisters have moved out he hopes I'll buy a motorhome. We can live together in that. I love the idea, but the healthy mother in me hopes he'll lose interest by the time it's just the two of us. Or at least I try to want to hope for that.
I don't know if anyone who reads Wings now remembers The Bun--it's since been lost to a place in the ether that only the NSA can plumb. But while I was maintaining that blog I wrote a series on fitness, Average to Amazing in 12 Weeks, that also made it to Fizzy Cranium. You can find it here.
That was about three and a half years ago. I was dancing professionally, teaching ballet, and at a muscular 140 lbs I felt I didn't look my best. Sadly, I've returned to that point and gone seven pounds over. It's aging, and the fact that I love Mexi-fries, movie theatre popcorn, and tortilla chips. None of those taste so good that they justify feeling unhappy with how I feel and look. I'm at frump stage. It's disheartening.
Last year, just after I climbed Timpanogos for the first time, I bought a personal training package from the gym I frequent. I was in excellent shape then, and really had nothing to conceivably lose. I did it to try and fill the emptiness of my marriage, hoping that I might transform myself in some way that would render me more desirable to my husband, more worthy of his love, kindness, attention, and yes, I was trying to kill the desire to have a child. It was a desperate move, and one that lost steam before it took off. I'm glad now, however, that I had the initiative then to make the purchase.
I have 20 training sessions accumulated that must be used in two months. I don't know if I'll do a full 12 week program, but I committed today to 2-3 days a week with my trainer until the sessions are gone, and I made plans to cut my body fat by 5%. I'm not terribly concerned with my weight as long as my BF% is between 20-22%. So, besides climbing mountains on the weekends, I'm dedicating my summer to re-establishing myself as a rodent.
This seems to be the question that most concerns L—. I rehashed Saturday's Mount Nebo hike in great detail this morning, describing the construction of the mountain as a cone, flattened at the top in three pinched peaks and flared beneath in a circular array of pleats.
The trick was finding access to the pleat, or ridge, that adjoined the three peaks. Both my climbing partner, Tom, and I were under the impression that the Monument trailhead lead to this ridge, and we began with full gusto at 8 a.m., climbing above the tree line to a fairly consistent altitude of 10,000 ft.
By 10:30 a.m., as we still had not established any prolonged elevation gains or links to the ridge in the number of miles we'd weaved in and out around the bench of the mountain, we began to worry that we were off track.
Coincidentally, we came upon a pair of brothers, backwoods, simple young men, who said they spent a good deal of time hunting the mountain and that there wasn't a trail to the peaks, but that the ridge must be accessed by bushwhacking up a series of steep rises. Once these had been scaled we would have to traverse a steep meadow above a waterfall, then scramble over a rock face to the western aspect of the mountain where we would find the narrow saddle linking to the ridge of peaks. The trail we'd been following, they said, petered out in the woods. In hindsight, believe that these boys "live" on the mountain for the game, but they do not know the peaks, nor the trails.
So Tom and I spent the next half hour working our way without benefit of a trail 400ish ft up the steepest grade I've ever hiked. Once we'd topped one rise we worked on the second until Tom spotted what appeared to be a trail on the other side of the "fold" we were climbing. He suggested we backtrack, cross the avalanche field below, and follow the trail in hopes that it offered a more logical approach to the saddle. The way the mountain is folded we'd encountered one or two smaller avalanche fields already without problem, so I worried more about the descent than the matter of crossing several yards of unstable snowpack. I evaluated the progress we'd made and the matter of crossing the top of the waterfall. The work of climbing without a trail was arduous, exhausting. The matter of the waterfall and scrambling up a rock face still a mile away seemed completely out of reach. Following Tom to the obvious trail seemed the most reasonable option if we were going to continue, even if it meant a significant elevation drop. We bushwhacked back down the ridge into the gully and crossed the avalanche field to the adjacent "fold".
We found the trail quickly and with renewed excitement resumed the pattern of up and down, in and out of the rises and gullies. I found myself continuously looking up toward the peaks for any sign of access to a saddle linking to the ridge. I never found it. By 1:30 p.m. we had reached the south end of the mountain, all three peaks well behind us, the west aspect of the mountain in view. It was disheartening.
Tom insisted that if we climbed the rise on the southernmost end that it would take us up to the ridge. I didn't have that kind of energy, especially considering that Mount Nebo's summit is the northernmost peak. We hummed and hawed for about five minutes before mutually agreeing that hiking from the north to the south point of the mount was hike enough for one day. We took a few anticlimactic shots and then turned back to the trail.
I have since learned that we hiked from beginning to end of Trail #117—Mount Nebo Bench. It is 6.8 miles one way. With our bushwhacking excursions we easily put in 14 miles, returning completely beat to the Monument trailhead at 5:15 p.m. I've gone over trail reports and maps and I know exactly now, where we should have gone, and that to reach the north peak is nearly half the distance we covered. Is this frustrating? Yes. Do I feel defeated? No. But I'm still not certain whether to let this count as climbing Mount Nebo this year, or if I'm up to battling for the peak again in a few weeks. For now, emotionally frustrated and trying to physically recover after a valiant effort, I'm going to say it counts.
I'm climbing this beast tomorrow morning,
with a hiking partner—Tom—whom I've yet to meet face-to-face.
Yes, the prospect of putting 10 miles and 7 hours
of heavy exertion in with a complete stranger is odd.
I'm grateful for the number and safety factor, however.
Mount Nebo is not the hardest,
but it will be the highest mountain I tackle this summer,
and the most remote.
Almost all 3,500 ft of elevation gain will be above 10,000 ft.
It stands as a huge oxygen challenge.
I'm all nerves. I need sleep for sure.
On a side note: In the last 20 years,
men in their mid to late 20s haven't changed.
I've found some hiking animals. They're allowing me into their pack. I've been promised peaks a plenty, (including Lone and Cascade) and heights that will keep my tummy in a bind all summer.
Question for myself: Why is it that when you are hiking you are the happiest, most peaceful soul on the planet? And how is it that the anxiety and tension and anger grow within you in proportion to the number of days since your last foray into the mountains? Why is it you can pray openly in the woods, but can't find the carpet with your knees at home?
"Of necessity the first sanctified temples were the mountain tops and secluded places in the wilderness. If we are correctly informed, Adam built his altar on a hill above the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman. At that place the Lord revealed to him the purpose of the fall and the mission of the Savior." (Doctrines of Salvation, 2, p.232)
Spanish Fork Peak — 10,192 ft elevation
4,580 ft elevation gain
10.5 miles roundtrip
7 hours up and back
with a number of stops to compose myself.
A friend just emailed me this quote and asked me what I thought: " Men and women have different but
equally valued roles. Just as a woman cannot conceive a child without a
man, so a man cannot fully exercise the power of the priesthood to
establish an eternal family without a woman. In other words, in the
eternal perspective, both the procreative power and the priesthood power
are shared by husband and wife." —M. Russell Ballard
I read it twice. I thought long and hard, and then I responded that I am probably not the person she should ask at this moment.
I'm not bitter. I'm hurt, deeper than most people guess. And I'm struggling. I'm climbing the first of the Seven Peaks tomorrow morning--Spanish Fork Peak. I'm probably going alone.
He defined it as more than lust, but definitely not a paced search for marriage. He said it was that feeling he gets when he sees an attractive girl and all he can think is to cradle her next to his heart.
Until he started sharing, because he says I am some kind of nexus for people to confide in, I was fine.
I still want to be fine.
I want to not look, to not want, to not feel that same longing he described.
My heart is unruly. It could pack a dozen different maps and not fret over which one I pull from the pack. It doesn't have to be a map to him. It doesn't have to be the one for Mr. PNU. But once my heart feels the hooks, it tugs at the line for a destination, even when I tell it to just stay still, because I can clip the barbs and send the metal back through. Don't struggle; I'll get us free.
I am fine.
I am still climbing mountains.
I am still planning the next three years and whatever else comes after. I'm being completely selfish about it, except for my children's needs, basing all decisions on what I want, what makes me happy. I want to live without regard for these sentimental schematics.
I am back to needing that damned blender for this fleshy, fallible thumper.
I am reading about evil, and self-deception. I don't want to be a liar.
There's an adorable woman in my ward. We're about the same age; I consider her my friend and I look at her and marvel. She's got five sweet, rambunctious children, and the sixth is on the way. Her husband is Choice Athletic Staff, and they have a great relationship. Her house isn't clean, but her children are kind. She has a hard time getting her kids into a routine during the summer, but they are happy.
Today in Relief Society she confessed that every day for the last week she has felt like a complete failure. I felt a crack form in my heart.
I'm not perfect, obviously. I make mistakes, sometimes on an hourly basis. I don't think it's a problem I'm likely to overcome soon, so I've learned to give myself a lot of breaks, perhaps more than I should, because like the hymn says "trust in His redeeming love and try His works to do."
The whole Star Wars/Yoda, "Do or do not. There is no try..." Not buying it. Not one little bit.
I heard this wonderful analogy today about how a pilot, en route from La Guardia International to, say, Hong Kong, China spends 90% of the flight off course. It is the 10% of course correction that gets the plane to its final destination.
I live in a community of wonderful people, and I don't just mean in my exclusively LDS University of Choice faculty saturated neighborhood. (Although, living amongst academics definitely has it's perks.) The people I encounter in town—at the Coffee Shop, panhandling on corners, students from both Choice and Pie Tin, the questioning, the skeptic, the devout—they are all wonderful.
It's true that sometimes I find I need to share from that collection of breaks that I give myself. I call those particular flavors "forgiveness" and I follow up with myself and a dose of "humility." I must remind myself, even when I might have stuff figured out, that doesn't mean I'm perfect. But if I love people the way I claim I love people, living conscious of common molecular structure, the common basic necessities of life, philosophical inherent value, and my chosen belief in our common pre-mortal origins it is not only necessary to hand out the breaks, it feeds my reserve when I need them for myself.
But when I encounter people like my friend, I would be willing to give away all of the breaks I'm saving for myself, just so she can get through the next week and not be so down on herself because she's not perfect. I think she's amazing, and even if she feels stuck in the 90% of off course I bet if I followed her lead we'd nail that Hong Kong landing, hands down.
I believe this applies to most of the women I know.
On a similar note, or at least floating in the same vein, I really think I'm going to do it. I may only have a year left in my English degree, but I have two kids who will graduate in the next three years. My mom may have dragged my younger step/adopted siblings about while she did her grad work, but bless her heart, I am not my mom. So I'm going to become a "Super" Senior. (Truth is, I already am. So this move is going to guarantee me Senior Undergrad "Godhood" status or something.) For an extra three semesters I'm going to relearn French for my BA, and I'm going to snag a minor in Philosophy. At present I'm leaning toward religious studies; we'll see. It's 18 credits of whatever I want to take. Yes, you should see the smile on my face.
The strings to pull are attached to a purse. I just need to locate that purse, but I'm pretty confident I can do it.
And finally, I saw the psychiatrist on Monday. Guess who's back to sane enough? That's right. I get to lower my lithium dosage from 900mgs to 625mgs, because on a scale of 1-10 I could tell him that I was around a 4 what with the anxiety I've been sporting, and because even he can see what lithium carbonate does to my skin. I considered posting a pic, but due to ick factor, I won't.
I saw Anick for therapy this morning at 11 a.m.. Her office window boasts a beautiful view of this mountain. The hiker's body was discovered last night at the base of a 60 ft cliff not far from the trailhead. I estimate he probably hadn't been on the mountain more than an hour before his fall. Early in the session I noticed a helicopter flying along the mountain where search and rescue had been working. It puzzled me and so I watched carefully. Why would they be back the next day when the search was over? When I learned the answer I was stunned.
Every time I step foot on a mountain I immediately become aware of my mortality. Hiking is a choice to gamble with odds that aren't always in my control. Most women my age have grown past the teenage sense of invincibility; I'm still waiting for an adult portion of caution to set in. M— asked me if people were avoiding this trail out of respect for the fallen. I told her that they might, but that my show of respect is different. Hiking this trail today was retribution, taking the threat of the mountain's power and showing it that the human instinct to climb is indomitable. But I was aware, more this time than before, that my feet are just as fragile as any others who've walked its path.
M— and I chose a poor time to leave on our hike. 4 p.m. temperatures on this mountain are sweltering, and I believe most of our time and effort was spent on the switchbacks to the main trailhead and then to the point where the hiker fell, where the trail wraps around the southern aspect of the pass, away from the unrelenting sun. There was a deep feeling of calm along this part of the trail. It is sometimes said that violent deaths are followed by unsettled atmosphere, a malevolence. If that be the case, this was a quick, gentle death. Or at least, and this I believe, this boy's soul is truly at peace.
We pushed on. The steepness of this trail is a challenge. It also takes hikers into bear country—a rest spot labeled "Bear Flats" on the map—and with reports from search and rescue that the animals are abundant in the area we were both a little jumpy, even with the bear spray holstered to my hip. The final length of the trail is devoid of switchbacks. Instead, it charges straight up the back of the mountain at a grade that leaves seasoned hikers winded every few yards. We probably marched 1/4-1/2 mile up the mountain before the light began to give out and M—'s anxiety began to get the better of her and she was seeing things everywhere in the shadows. By this time, 7:30 p.m., we had been hiking for 3 1/2 hours and were probably only another 1/3 mile from summiting, but I called it off. Besides the other issues, which were plenty cause to cut the hike short, we'd promised M—'s dad we'd be back by 9 p.m. I didn't want to give him a scare.
We turned around and immediately M—'s spirits improved. We talked all the way back, discussing what we'd learned from the hiker's death, how it applies to our family, how we worry about E— because he is bold and fearless and won't listen when he is told to stay on trail. We talked about agency and tragedy, about being able to trust in ourselves at the same time that we must be aware that we have little control over other variables in any given situation, about the need to return and report.
There was a perfect amount of light left to bring us out of the deep woods, back to the first bend around the face of the mountain where the hiker fell. There on a rock lay a bouquet of flowers left by some anonymous mourner. It was an image that made my heart momentarily stand still. M— asked if we could pick some to leave too, and so, for a few minutes before continuing toward the conclusion of our gesture of defiance against this mountain, we did.
There's a 22-year-old student somewhere up there tonight. It will be the fourth night in a row he hasn't contacted friends or family. The third night without adequate protection. The first night the rescue helicopters will be searching with infrared technology, in hopes that his body still gives off heat.
I was going to climb this mountain again today. Instead I just felt angsty, which I'm attributing to low electrolytes. But I tried to drive to the trailhead all the same. I found the road blocked off and had a long conversation with the officer standing guard.
I've recently heard a reiterated comparison between mountains and temples.
I was given a priesthood blessing of comfort and direction in December. Besides being told to pursue my education, I was told not to worry, because I am a mother in Zion and my children are sealed to me. But my children have not been sealed to me, at least not in the sense of linear time. I tried to argue the words of that blessing, but they stand, uncorrected. I am coming to understand the promises of the gospel, and the surety that at some point my children will be caught up in the web of Christ's human family lest the Earth be smitten with a curse. I feel that counsel redelivered to my heart just as often as the temple/mountain symbology is given. Perhaps that is why I have such a difficult time coming out of the mountains, or why I love having my children there with me.
This evening, life in our refugee camp became particularly vexing. I mentioned a trail I knew that I hadn't yet climbed, and my kids eagerly loaded into the van for the drive up Happy Canyon. We spent the fading hours of daylight together exploring the Lord's temple, every so often reaching out to give one another a needed hand.