Thriving Where It Can

September 4, 2017

“Life thrives where it can.”
--from the interpretive movie at the Arches Visitor Center


Good evening from Moab!

It continues to be crazy hot here during the days, and gorgeously cold in the pond. We pulled off a family hike in Arches on Saturday morning, and Jeff and the boys went for a more in-depth Park Tour yesterday while Eliza and Ivy and I rode bikes to the food co-op for breakfast, and then a nearby playground. (The plan is, next Saturday I get to go out with the boys. Jeff called over to me at 8:45 yesterday morning, “Even though I’m waiting in the car for them, the clock is NOT ticking - until I actually START the car, I’m not relaxing yet!” (Just FYI, Honey My Sweet, not that I tracked the time all that carefully while you guys were gone or anything, but it turns out that I get approximately five hours and sixteen minutes next Saturday…))


A few quick orders of business:

1. In case you want to see even more gorgeous photos of (our children in) Wyoming, Jeff has now added his (photos) to the album:

2. If you want to see some of the amazing scenery here in Utah, here’s the album (new photos added practically daily!)

3. It turns out that it IS possible to make peach cobbler in a sun oven! It just takes a long time to bake, and you should use fewer than eight peaches because it’s a pain in the ass to clean up sticky, baked on peach juices that overflow onto the oven floor. I put sourdough gluten-free biscuits on top of these amazing Colorado peaches we’ve been getting, and we all tried to stuff as much of the end result into our bellies as could possibly fit. I wish you could all come over for a peach cobbler party, because I’m making another one tomorrow!


A Composite Fairy Tale Adventure

Field Trips for our family usually begin in the morning on a weekend day. "How about this?" Jeff will read from his phone. "About an hour away is the worlds greatest trout fishing graffiti art local tomato roasting extravaganza mountaineering trail, where you get to view whales, mountain gorillas AND buffalo in their native habitat! Do you think we should we go before or after Ivy's nap?"

That’s usually as far as our conversation gets before everyone is STARVING for Breakfast...but first we must deal with somebody’s pee in their bed, admire the beautiful sunshine, comfort Ivy because she’s fallen down, help Ivy get her shoes on because she wants to take a walk, help Ivy put her helmet on because actually she wants to go for a bike ride, put away the clean dishes from the night before, refill the water filter, and and remember to turn on the stove under the breakfast pot.

“Mama, do you remember that time I fell off my bike?” “Papa, do you know what would happen if the sun exploded but the camper was far enough away so there was still SOME gases left so it wouldn’t melt OR run out of light?” “Mama, look! There’s pictures of different kinds of luggage in my visual dictionary!”

I pretty much always feel like there is not enough of me to go around, and that probably I’m prioritizing the wrong thing at any given moment. Somebody is now scolding his sister, so I remind him: “Thank your lucky stars that you aren’t the mama or papa!”

“Mama, I have to poop! And I CAN’T go in the bathroom myself, because there’s monsters!”

Turns out Ivy’s already pooping on the little potty. And now somebody gets to carry the whole steaming load to the bathroom. If I’m lucky, there will be a very stylishly-dressed woman standing at the counter with her makeup spread out all around the sink. A Baby Bjorn potty full of Ivy Turd can make such a lady pack up her fifty-five containers of rouge and lipstick faster than you can say “Stinky Cheese Man!” I try never to make eye contact.

I probably have to poop, too, now that I’m back at the campsite with the squeaky clean potty. 

“Mama, can you close the door?” “Can you fix this?” “Mama, I need you!” “Papa, where does this go?” “I don’t WANNA eat breakfast!” “Mama, I’m as hungry as a super hungry person!”

Three hours later, most people will have pooped, eaten, done their chores, fixed a picnic lunch, and packed supplies (“Do we HAVE to wear shoes?!?" asks more than one person). It will be approaching noon, and in addition to all of the above, Jeff and I will have actually sifted through all the amazing local possibilities for scenic wonders and discussed their relative merits at length, and we will have chosen one: usually a playground or a splash park, but sometimes, like today, we choose a state park that is a whole eight miles away, complete with Native American Artifacts.

As soon as we find a parking spot, the most important beginning-part of the field trip commences: it’s time to use the bathrooms! The visitor center is also worth a visit, so numerous trips to the water fountain can be combined with chances to chase Ivy around Fragile Glass Cases of Artifacts, and we can simultaneously read aloud Interpretive Signage to non-reader children who are actually not listening. Oh well; probably the other guests appreciate some narration!

Next is a final visit to the bathrooms, so that we'll be all set for the half-mile hike to the pictograph cave.

Ha ha, fooled you, didn't I?! We're not actually ready to HIKE yet, silly, because we still have to eat LUNCH! During lunch we get up close and personal with the scenic picnic table area, the garbage bins (there are so very many types!), and the resident horse flies.

Ah. Forty five minutes later we've finished lunch, and since it's now a billion degrees out, we're ready to hike up the hill to the caves!

"My leg hurts!" says one child.

"Can we climb up that thirty-five-foot rock face?" says another.

"I wanna hike my own self!" says Ivy, who, since she absolutely hates the baby carrier, has a new stroller for her napping pleasure which she pretty much totally despises only a little bit less than the carrier.

Fifty yards up the trail, a patch of shade. A lovely climbing tree. Plus, a dangerous spot to balance on a giant rock. Bingo! The perfect place to spend an afternoon.

"I wanna get out," Ivy keeps mentioning, even though she’s supposed to be asleep right now. It's clear that our mission must continue. We must head closer to those pictographs, and keep Ivy moving so she will take her nap.

We walk ten yards further up the trail. We can almost see them: a cool cave wall with traces of ancient pigments! We walk closer. The interpretive signs say that the white and black and ochre smudges are bulls, and arrows, and people. Did you know the difference between a pictograph and a petroglyph? The former is painted; the latter is scratched or carved. I am quiet for a fraction of a second. For an even shorter fraction, I can feel them - the spirits of our ancestors, who two thousand years ago lived RIGHT HERE, raising their babies, hunting for food, making necklaces, pounding roots and tubers on ancient metates. I sit down on the bench for the merest wisp of a moment....

"Mama! Mama! I have to poop. Really bad."


We divide to conquer. Ivy and I jog back down to the visitor center. "I really have to poop!" Ivy keeps saying as I jog. "In the bafrooms in da house place."

I am really not a jogger.

“I hafta poop I hafta poop i hafta poop,” sings Ivy.

Until...we reach the bafrooms, and the stall has a handicapped-accessible handrail. Which is perfect for hanging on. And all of a sudden, Ivy's need to poop has evaporated, completely gone away, like the memory of the sage-scented winds of the plains.

But that’s okay, because now it’s DEFINITELY nap time, and surely the ghosts of long-ago babies will whisper Ivy to sleep, over the squeak of the stroller wheels. And we will have this experience of our travels, to hold delicately in our hands like a precious treasure, and it will stay with us always.

Until next time…