26 January 2013

Yosemite: The Legacy of Our Mothers, Of Our Fathers

The Legacy of My Mom & the Legacy of John Muir

I spent the last 6 days in Yosemite National Park. To know me, is to know that much of my life is a cause & effect from my upbringing. For example, I love the outdoors (much thanks to my dad) but sometimes I despair when things don't go as planned (much thanks to my mom).

However this trip, chaperoning 7th graders on a science field trip to Yosemite, was different.

It was very much a trip that was suited. just. for. me....a place beyond the reach of my father and my mother.  It didn't matter, despite the dire beginnings when the bus we were all on, blew a tire; and then, after finally getting back on the road with the very restless teens, the bus overheated. We made it anyway. We arrived at our destination. Late & tired; restless from having been on the road for more than 12hours. We made it. Somehow, we knew as a collective group, that it was going to be okay. That the bumps wouldn't break our time here.

On this trip I could feel the weight of this past year lift a bit from the tiny place I have it trapped. Here in this place, I could feel the legacy of my mom, the one she didn't leave for me, the time stolen from us when she died from ALS, the guilt I feel for not being a better daughter, the daughter she had hoped for and imagined, the weight of this unwritten legacy, it lifted, just a bit, allowing me to creep out a bit from my mental hibernation and play in the snow.

I know this blog is about something other than the Outdoors, but this past week has been so profound that I find it difficult to not share it here on this conjured notebook of my life.

With every crunching, squished snow step crackling in the silence of a dark and cold morning I felt Life breathing. A gift of being that unfolded: A taking apart and refolding of an origami square. Here in this place I was allowed to step from the threshold of my day-to-day life into the Life of living in the exact Moment.It was not a moment of Carpe Diem trapped in its own juggernaut; instead, this week was a compressed Love, tightly bottled up then shattered across the valleys, meadows and mountains of this wonder, falling across this space, carved out of this rocky place we inhabit.


I must confess, in the beginning, I entered the week with trepidation and a slice of worry. In November and early December I had been excited for the trip. Then suddenly, after the Holidays I became daunted: Leaving behind the tasks and chores and the children I walk with in my every day had me unexpectedly fretting. I didn't want to leave my cup of coffee, my list of things to do, my younger two boys, N and the pups.

Yet somehow I did.

Not to mislead you about who I am, for I do so love to feel Life and all her intensity. But Life for me this past year HAS been Intense.  It was just a year ago when we really began to worry about Mom. A worry that was a slipping away of rocks into a tumbling of fear. The worry that was a whispering mountain, looming over us, over me, judging and wondering. What. What. What has come over Mom.  
In the week before I left on the trip, I let the fears of the past take over. I was afraid of being Exhausted.  Again. Drained. Again.
I worried I would see things and hear things that I wouldn't be able to fix. I was afraid of further breaking a bone that was not even set.  I was afraid that something would fall apart and it would be my fault. Again.
Yet, Life and her taught string, the woven thread that is connected between our heart and our mind, pulled me through.  There, awash in the hushed winter, every step, each sound and small movement echoed the pattern of my own soul.
Though my heart, still broken from my mom's passing, my heart could feel my Mother brushing across the Mountains.

In the Wind, dusting dry snow across the meadow, and pulling the hair across my face, I could feel my Mom, tucking my unruly short crop behind my ear.

My Mom was there, my Mom, who never much liked the mountains (she preferred the ocean, the salt, the crashing of waves), she was there threading the string through the eye of the needle, helping me sew up my loss in my own Way.  My Mom was there: Letting go of what she wished I could have been and what she had dreamed for me to be. I felt safe there in the shadow of the mountains to be all that my Mom had not wanted in a daughter and felt safe to accept the fact that she loved me nonetheless.

I felt safe there, in those looming rocks and towering mountains.  I felt safe there to be just the daughter I was; to be just the daughter, the friend, the mother that I am.

I felt my heart knitting up my darkest sadness and my largest loss.  Every single beat of my breath seemed to drum inside the caverns of my soul and the largeness of Yosemite stuffed my heart.
The largeness of Yosemite filled my heart up
with the snowballs
and laughter of the teens I was with.

Their silliness,
and invincibleness,
and their disregard for tomorrow seemed to watch over me.

Those young teens,
not quite past their 13th year,
those teens and their love of life
and their trust that things will
just. work. out.

Yosemite cracked open the empty remains of my grief and filled it up.

Filled it up again
with the stories of the friends I made,

with unexpected cups of coffee,

and with lively lovely meals made with care.

Yosemite etched my heart with her own story, her own lines, her own patterns.

Something that I learned on this trip is that the preservation of this valley and the existence of this place as a national park is largely due to the man John Muir. His inner being was marked by Yosemite's beauty, by the bounty of Nature herself, and he fought desperately to make sure THIS was here for us (for me!) to enjoy.

I am sure Mr. Muir did not necessarily envision that today over 4 million people would visit the park every year. But he did have a vision. A vision where Nature invites us in and lets us stay for as long as we need or are able.

I have also come to understand, through the brief understanding I have of his life, and the paltry quotes of his writing I have read during this past week, that he did in fact hope that this place would, one day, influence those who came here for the better.

Among his working and dreaming John Muir wrote, "I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in."

When you read his quotes and learn a  little about this man you realize that the course of American history has been changed, for the better, by him. You can taste his passion for Yosemite, his passion for nature and his passion to preserve the beauty that exists there. You remember that there are those who so blindly believe that they can change the way things are, that they actually do just that.  You remember MLK and Gandhi and Desmund Tutu. You remember those who walked before us and left us a legacy. A legacy of caring deeply for our life and the way we live it.

I hope that I keep a bit of this place, a bit of this legacy inside me. A bit of these stolen moments. A smidgen of the peace I felt at night, knowing that I lived the day to the best of who I am. 

Knowing that for now, for this, I have found a quiet peace.


  1. If you find me and like this post, please leave a note. I love to hear what you think.xxoo

  2. Wow.The image of teenagers running reckless by that looming, sublime mountain is great. What an amazing and comforting trip!

    1. It was pretty awesome to see these teens running around. I hope that they carry this trip with them for a long time!xxoo

  3. What a beautiful and touching post. Nature is astounding when we let it touch us the way it intends to.

    I hope you have a wonderful weekend. I am glad you stopped by so I could find you!

    1. Thanks Eleanor. I am glad I did! You have lovely blog and I am looking forward to following along in your posts. Have a lovely weekend as well! xxoo


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