Tuesday, August 26, 2008

All About Papo!

My daughters arrive early to prepare for the bridal shower they are giving their sister. They have the babies in tow. Aiden now 2 ½ and Paulina at a 17 months don’t get to visit each other very often. They are eyeing each other suspiciously. Then there is a bit of poking to check each others tolerance levels. This escalates into a debate over the ownership of the big blue ball. Each child with palm against chest is tapping “mine” in baby sign. The tapping becomes more insistent and develops into verbalization with each insistent pat-pat-pat of the chest.

Aiden looks as if he’s not too sure of this sudden turn of events. He is typically the only baby in the house. Paulina is watching him intently. She does not get deterred easily and holds her ground. Suddenly, Aiden spies his grandfather through the window. “Papo, Papo!” he exclaims. The excitement not only lights up his face, but in true childlike nature, infects his whole body. Arms going, and little legs hopping, he is all about Papo.

The girls go outside with the babies to see Papo. I’m busy making a pot of beans. When I finish my task, I look out the back door and find that a train set is being set up in the back yard. Aiden is very interested in the train. It chugs and toots and whistles, but doesn’t move along very well. The girls are trying to help their Dad get the tracks right, but in the end; a few pieces of pressed wood are laid out for the train to travel along. The train occupies Aiden for a good long while. Paulina is in and out of the house in the morning before guests arrive.

When the guests do arrive, I’m not sure where to put my attention. I want to be a good hostess, yet, I have my concerns about leaving Aiden alone so long with his grandfather. Some of the injuries my children sustained in childhood, when I thought he was watching them, pop into my head. The result is that I spend my day halfway between the back door and the company. At intervals, I look outside and check on the pair to make sure all is well. Here is some of what I witness:

Aiden and Papo are standing facing each other. I see one small person looking up into the face of the other. The small figure is covered head to toe with brown, very wet looking mud. In fact, it looks to be more of the muck consistency. The small face has an expression of waiting for the next shoe to drop. The other has an expression of “what do I do now?” The small figure is ushered over to a rain barrel, where the taller person proceeds to wash away the muck. I calmly walk over to the smaller person’s mother. “Papo and Aiden are getting along well. I just hope you weren’t expecting to get your child back clean.” She shrugs as mothers of young males do, knowing full well that boys will be boys.

Meanwhile, Paulina will have nothing to do with nap time although she is cranky and sleep deprived. She clings to her mother and will not be consoled by anyone. Her mother is in a quandary as she is the party giver and has some duties to attend too. I pry Paulina out of her mother’s arms, thinking I will walk a bit and maybe get her to sleep. When I reach the back door, Papo is there saying he will take her. I start to protest saying she is very cranky and won’t go to anyone. Paulina makes me a liar, by instantly halting the crocodile tears and putting her arms out for Papo. Now it is Paulina who is all about Papo.

When next I look out the door, I see three figures seated at the picnic table, their backs to the door. Only the tops of heads are visible above the chairs left and right. One dark curly head is to the left, and a light colored head, spiked from outdoor exertion, to the right. A taller figure is in the middle. There are three plates lined up in front of them, but there is no ownership of plates. I see little hands reach across and sample whatever strikes their fancy from any plate on the table. All is quiet as the sampling continues. I leave them to their feast.

Now any young mother can handle one child, and even manage two fairly well, but I have my doubts about a grandpa, who hasn’t seen kids in the house for long while managing two small active children without trouble. When next I look out the door, I see Papo bent double and looking squarely into Aiden’s face. He is trying to impress something upon Aiden. I can tell by the look on Aiden’s face, which I have seen many times over the years on his own mother’s that he is having nothing to do with what Papo is saying. It’s a look of stubborn defiance I have come to know so well. While I’m chuckling at witnessing this expression, Aiden peels off his shoes and tosses them over the stone wall into the woods. Papo has to retrieve them, which isn’t as easy as it sounds, since Aiden’s “shoes” are a pair of camouflage crocs. Two little children make a break for it. I keep my eye on them, but Papo has the situation under control.

Aiden likes to run run run. There is no stopping him. Paulina is as quick with mischief as Aiden is fast. No problem for the magnificent Papo. He has devised a scheme of his own. In his hand he is carrying a stick about an inch think and four feet long. Whenever Aiden starts in a direction that could be trouble, Papo holds the stick out and redirects him. Who knew you could herd children like livestock? I watch and this works well with Aiden. Paulina… not so much. She will not be herded like cattle. She grabs hold of the staff and a tug of war ensues between her and Papo. She won’t let go, and Papo can’t. If he does, the grip Paulina has will send her flying. I’m not sure how this works out as I’m distracted by the festivities inside.

By the end of the day as Aiden is strapped into his car seat for home, he is nearly asleep before the car is even started. Paulina doesn’t resist being buckled in either. Both have had a full day with Papo. As we wave them goodbye, I realize what a tremendous help Andy has been to us that day, and it is my turn to be “all about Papo!”

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Crib

My granddaughter will be spending the night soon, so I had Andy take the crib out of the rafters and set it up for her. When assembled, the room started dancing with memories of rosy cheeked, sleepy eyed children that one by one had once claimed occupancy of this bed.

Gouges along the head and foot boards chronicle the eruption of baby teeth. The plastic covering, that protects the side rails from these same sharp teeth, is brittle and crumbling. The kick rod that drops one side rail is bent with over use. The mattress, purchased for the last occupant, still in reasonably good condition, yet gives up a few ghost of its own.

My minds eye is seeing the tousled heads of each of these children. I see their little faces and each individual expression as I lift them from their confinement so unique to each, is clearly remembered. This one with sensitive skin has yet another red rash on her cheek, struggles still with such troubles. The other, insistent that she climb from this bed on her own, defiantly self reliant today. The last, with a riot of curls as unruly as she, and befitting her personality, is as if dropped into the wrong decade, a flower child of modern day.

I am anticipating seeing yet another cherub face looking up at me with wide eyed innocents. Harried mothers don’t often realize how fleeting time can be. This mother, having an understanding of this on some intellectual level, was unprepared for the kaleidoscope of emotional memories one crib could evoke. The chasm of time between then and now seems immense, but in my heart it was but yesterday.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

You Know You’ve Arrived When…

Milestones. It seems people chronicle their lives by the milestones they can point toward that give validation to their lives. The types of milestones are as varied as the individuals that walk this earth. Personal goals, accomplishments, overcoming obstacles and adversity, conquering challenges, and any of the subcategories that could be listed under each of these can be viewed as milestones in our lives.

When it comes to motorcycling, when do we know we have “arrived?” Is it when we pass the Rider’s Course or get our motorcycle license endorsement? Is it when we conquer the twisties and hairpin turns successfully that give us a sense of accomplishment? Do we ever feel we have truly arrived or is each milestone just another step on the journey to perfection?

It was at the hairdresser that I overheard another woman rider express how she knew she had officially become a true motorcyclist equal to any on the road. “I dropped my bike! Rode in the rain! Ate a bug!” she exclaimed with pride. I felt a kinship in the words she spoke as I have had these moments as well.

It’s been a few years since I overheard the remarks at the hair salon and they come to mind each time I realize that I’ve reached yet another milestone when it comes to riding. Unlike the woman at the salon, I have come to realize that there is never any arrival. Each milestone is but a junction in the road, a marker on the journey.

Recently, I had an opportunity to reflect on a two specific moments that I secretly feel motorcyclist enjoy as bragging rights. In my decent from the Rocky Mountain National Park, an officer stuck his hand out the window and waved me to slow down. I felt quite smug in retelling this story to my traveling companions. With hands on hips and head held high I announced that I was told to “slow down!” ME!

Today as I was riding into work, I became aware that Jade was in need of emergency repair. I remained calm, worked through the problem in my mind, and made my way to a safe spot. Without my usual anxiety, I assessed the trouble, and successfully wrenched my own repair. I took great pride in this, and mentally envisioned myself standing there with hands on hips proclaiming to my friends that “I wrenched my own bike!” It was another milestone indeed, yet hardly the end of my journey. The woman in the salon comes to my mind again. I wonder if she too now realizes that eating a bug was just the beginning.

Monday, August 11, 2008

In a Funk and No Time for It

noun: a depressed state of mind.

I have been in a particular state of mind I like to call a “funk.” It’s not a deep depression, or an anxiety, or even just tedium, although I think that’s a factor. Since I have returned from my vacation, I can’t stop dreaming about Green River Utah. This little oasis in such a vast expanse of some of nature’s most glorious vistas and natural formations sits like an emerald in a craftsman’s setting. I dream of living there.

In reality, I would need to win the lottery to move to Green River. Green River has a population of about 900 people. The only work, for the most part, is service jobs that support passers-by and tourist on I-70. In my dream of living in Green River, I don’t worry about money, and each day, I head out to Arches National Park to explore.

When Ben, our friendly host at the Best Western River Terrace, pointed us to Arches National Park, he emphasized that we may want to take a look at a particular stone structure as it was doomed to the same fate as our “Old Man of the Mountain” in New Hampshire. We nodded obediently, our eyes wide as he described the wonders we were in store for that day. We fully intended to view and photograph Wall Arch.

If you have followed this blog, you know that Canyonlands National Park took a larger chuck of our time than we anticipated. When we reached Arches we didn’t have the time to ride the 40 or 50 miles into the park to view the Wall. We settled on some other well known formations closer, with the intention of visiting one more park before the days end. In Ben’s description of the crumbling wall, I envisioned that a few more years were all it had. How wrong I was. In last night’s news broadcast Andy and I saw this:

Stone arch collapses in southern Utah park.
Wall Arch fell sometime last week, though no one reported seeing it fall.

Somehow this small news segment has impacted and given validation to the thought patterns that have plagued me for a few years now. There is not enough time left to do all I need to do. I am not alone in this thinking. I was reading a rider friend’s blog the other day and in the words he wrote I felt as if he were in my head. Here is his quote “Maybe it is my age, where I feel like I don’t have enough time to do all the things I want to do. Funny thing is I don’t know what those things are, but I am sure they will come to me.”

Well, spending a few years in Green River has “come to me.” I can’t shake it. It plagues my waking hours as intently as it plagues my dreams. Lee asks me to imagine that those who commute through Spotted Wolf Canyon on their way to work from Green River ever see it anymore. He is trying to tell me that the novelty wears off and it will all too soon become routine. I’m sure this is possibly so, however, until I have witnessed the canyons under every possible weather condition, the slant of the sun and its effects during every hour of daylight, or the 365 days of the year loop, then it will be routine. This one thing I do know for sure, it is evident that none of us have as much time as we think we do.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Call 911

On our return trip from the West, Andy and I stop at a Goodyear Tire Center for yet another set of tires for the trailer. With that chore behind us, we make our way to the gas station to fill the tank.

At the next pump station is a tall wiry man filling the tank of his Harley. From wrists to shoulders, neck line to ears, every exposed inch of flesh seems to be emblazoned with tattoos. Dingy denims, cut off shirt and bandanna wrapped head complete the bad dude rider look. As he bends to lovingly rub with paper towel the front forks of the Harley, I see that his thin graying hair is pulled back in a ratty pony tail that hangs to the middle of his back.

He straightens up, tosses the paper towel, spits to the left and without missing a beat, looks directly at us and says "Wooses" in as dead pan and emotionless tone as could be uttered. After a pause, with us just looking over in stunned silence, he says "you ever see my bike on a trailer, you best be calling 911." With that, he throws a leg over the Harley and roars it to life. From the sound of it, I'd bet money he has modified his bike so that no one in a ten mile radius will miss his coming or going. Despite his words however, and judging from the fork rubbing, I suspect that Jade and her companion have seen more miles on the road in one week, than skinny-bad-dude wannabe and pampered Harley will ever see in an entire season.

Guest Blogger Lee Mowatt - Relfections

To all of you,

Traveling means being away from our routines and habits. It means being away from the familiar. In short, it means learning about ourselves as we look out into the world at new things. These new things aren't always outside of us, but inside of us as well. It is always useful to watch ourselves as we experience new sights, scenes, habits, and customs. It is here where we test our flexibility, compassion, and adaptability.

We each took this trip for a variety of reasons. For me, I knew that I would discover parts of me that I had lost touch with. From being here before, I knew I could find a few answers that I had been seeking. I'm so appreciative that each of you was with me on my trip of self-discovery. So what did I discover?

· I discovered new meaning to a lesson I had been teaching my son. Leadership is NOT a position of power. It is a position of responsibility, service and passion.

· I discovered that my bike can no longer do its top speed of two years ago, but my bike is blaming that inability on the owner.

· I discovered, once again, that traveling with friends is a lot more educational and fun than traveling solo. I may be my own best company, but there are severe limitations to what I can learn in that scenario.

· I discovered that the open road on a motorcycle has a way of inspiring introspection and a reflection that tends to provide real answers for the management of my life. I call this Wind Therapy, and this trip provided that in abundance.

· I've re-discovered the power and immenseness of Nature, and have felt appropriately insignificant.

· I've witnessed again, and have learned more about the power of cooperation. We have all experienced the trip of a lifetime, and not one of us could have or would have done this alone. But the level of cooperation needed for this trip pales to the cooperation and coordination it must have taken to achieve Lake Powell Dam, the Royal-Gorge Bridge, or the pass through spotted wolf canyon. I have re-committed myself to the exploration of cooperation and all it can achieve. My version of the golden rule has been and is re-committed to be - If my needs are to be met, then I must contribute to meeting the needs of others. This is an inescapable rule of life in any animal society, including us humans.

· I've discovered that I am very similar to each of you, and yet very different. The similarities are the basis of a bond. And the differences are the basis of our learning from each other; at least that is how differences should be used.

· I've discovered that only in Utah can there be a highway exit that is in the middle of nowhere, that is literally called "No Name". I mean, for Christ-sake, it is the only exit for miles around, and was put there for some reason. Couldn't they at least find a name for it?

· I've discovered that there is so much more to discover about who I am, what I am, and how I am. Along with this, I've re-discovered that the path to those discoveries is facilitated first through my connection with people, then through my energy, and lastly through a motivation to be better. And, for me, better is the cornerstone of my approach to life.

· These discoveries may not be earth-shattering, or deeply profound. And these certainly aren't new discoveries. Everyone knows this stuff, or so they may think. But each time I learn these things over and over, new meaning is given to them and there are new ways these discoveries enrich my efforts and connections.

· So please accept my thanks for being able to serve you all on this trip.


Blogger Host Comment:
Lee has often jokingly referred to us as the "Senseless Six", however, I feel we should be more aptly dubbed the "Sensational Six." Lee's words only scratch the surface of our experiences, introspection, respect for each other and this magnificent place called Earth. Thank you Lee for your contribution here, and the words of friendship spoken from the heart.