Saturday, August 28, 2010

Into the Mountains

"Come with us" she said. "Bring all the kids and come up to the cabin." I laughed.

"Bring all the kids? By myself?" She could hear the self-doubt in my voice.

"I'll be there. Dave will be there. We'll help you. It would be good for you. And the girls would love it."

I knew she was right. We could pull it off. But I hadn't taken all five on an overnighter yet. Not even with Doug. Doug was leaving town for Virginia and I wasn't sure I wanted to venture out on my own. But I was lonesome for the mountains - more than ready for a change of location. So I churned the idea and within seconds an old energy began to rise inside me.

"Okay" I said. "Let's do it!"

Only a best friend can coax you out of your comfort zone - make you feel confident about doing something hard because they will be right there.

And only a best friend can see what you need before you see it in yourself.

Two Weeks Later

I woke the girls with whispers of horse rides, long pants, and bunk beds. Slipping t-shirts over their heads, I felt the excitement in their tiny bodies. I stayed up until 1AM packing the car, preparing food, remembering last minute items like band-aids, formula, and an extra pair of shoes. We were ready.

I fit the last bowl into the dishwasher, buckled all five car seats, and backed out of the driveway.

We were headed east. Into the mountains.

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After a good hour and a couple washboard miles, we crossed the canyon river onto ranch property. I looked out the passenger window and braked. The car came to a crunching, gravely stop. This is what I saw.

Go up. Go up into the mountain I thought, leaning over the steering wheel. It worked for Moses and Nephi. Maybe it could work for me.

We made home in the wooden cabin. The girls bunked in the flag room. The boys slept with me. Within minutes, everyone was breathing deeper, laughing. Even the boys were content. No tears, no adjustment. Just giggles at their new-found freedom as they crawled out onto the screened porch. We were unusually comfortable. We were at home.

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The next morning we hiked. And hiked. Or so it seemed for little feet. Eliza and Katherine struck out ahead.

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But after a few bends and hills, bright smiles turned to tears. There was major distress over horse dung on the trail and bushes that seemed to attack from every side. (Ali and Sami haven't done much hiking yet.)

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I tried to coerce them along. But they were unmoved. And with Gordon on my back, I couldn't carry both of them.

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That's when she turned back. Came without asking and swooped up a child. Spencer was already strapped to her back so she slung Samantha around her waist. That's how she is - Kara.

She has the most peaceable walk, the most nurturing heart. She would have ten babies if she could. But, like me, she knows what it is to mourn the empty womb.

Still, I hear no cursings from her lips, only gratitude. She loves God for her two children - never takes for granted the gift of being a mother.

And she loves mine as if they were her own. They reciprocate - they love her like a mother.

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We made it to the swing. A log swing that's been hanging in a grove of aspens for twenty plus years. We shared snacks, drank water, and recovered a few lost smiles.

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Saturday was Horse Camp. I pulled the girls' hair into pigtails, sprayed them down with sunscreen and bug repellant, then ran with them to the stables. Every summer Dave's cousins provide a Horse Camp for the kids. It's marvelous, really. And his family is so lovely. They teach the children all about horses. Types, anatomy, how to groom, and of course, how to ride. This was a first for my girls - sitting horseback.

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Eliza was over the moon. I've been telling her stories about Lacy (the palomino I had during my high school and college days) for a while now.

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She wanted to do it all herself - such a big girl. She even learned how to dismount on her own. I chuckled as she swung her leg over the rump, and carefully dropped to the ground. Thud. That girl is one tough cookie.

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I love this picture of Katherine in her flashy red boots, hanging on the fence, waiting for her turn.

It was so nice to have nowhere to go, no phone to answer, nothing to do but take in the vista, watch the kids ride, smell the smells, and soak up this happy new experience.

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Sami and Ali were a little less happy. But with encouragement, Sam rode all by her lonesome.

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Ali needed a companion. And even then she was a little afraid. But they did it. And they were proud.

That afternoon, while all my kids were awake (yes, awake!) and Kara was preparing dinner, she said, "Now is a good time to go. I want to get you out by yourself, even if it's only for twenty minutes."

It really wasn't a good time to go. But I left anyway, found a small trail past the beaver pond and began hiking. I walked quickly, noticing the variety of wildflowers, the welcome patches of shade, and a train of clouds puffing along the peaks. I hiked for forty minutes and stopped here.


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It was hot but beautiful. I sat on a bench and wrote, and read, and wrote some more.

Go up into the mountain I thought again. That's the secret. Somewhere between the cabin and the lake, with all the walking, huffing, and gazing, it happened. I forgot how powerful this elevated ridge of the world is. It's majestic. Whatever was keeping me from the great Creator was suddenly lost, shed, left behind. The process was surprisingly simple. We were in harmony again, reconnected, conversing.

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I picked wildflowers for the girls. Bluebells for Ali (she loves blue). A wild rose for Eliza (she is strong enough to stand alone). White yarrow for Sami (our free spirit, so pure).

Then I headed down the trail. So grateful for a selfless friend - a friend who knows.

Another Two Weeks Later

With new confidence, I said yes to Kara's offer, but just for the day. I took all the kids up to the cabin again.

While the boys were napping (at Kara's encouragement) I took off for a hike. The day was different, cloudy and rumbling. I found a steep trail to a nearby cabin and with July waning the wildflowers had finally come into full color. Cone flowers, indian paintbrush, monkshood, yellow buttons - fields of them - everywhere.

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A storm was moving in from the southwest but I kept climbing. It felt astonishingly alive to be alone. The hair on my arms stood on end as thunder cracked into the canyon. The sky shook like boulders knocking and I could sense the rain was coming - soon. So I jogged back to the cabin and rounded everyone up.

"It's the perfect time to go. The sky is dark and beautiful and we have to take the kids out before it rains. Let's go!"

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We found a field of wildflowers to traipse through just as the rain began to drop. It dotted the pond, our shirts, our faces. The girls picked flowers - bunches of them clutched in small hands - treasured tufts of color.

Kara carried Sami again - careful to avoid the poison ivy - so understanding of Sam's tired legs.

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Ali picked monkshood. Because it's blue.

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And just as we were about to toss the last kid across the creek, Katherine discovered a fellow traveler tucked safely into the fold of her pant leg.

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She carried him back to the cabin, where Parker made him a fine house.

That night, when we should have been loading everyone into the car to head home, Dave said to me, "Tonight is not about dishes, or cleaning up, it's about enjoying the moment." So we abandoned the messy kitchen and walked out to the pasture for sunset.

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The yellow sun blazed soft as we walked among the horses, fed them, slid our hands down their necks, watched the day wind down.

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Two of the horses kept nuzzling Eliza. She was so giddy she couldn't stop laughing. No fear. Just love.

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And when Dave's uncle offered the girls one last ride, I couldn't say no. So we stayed. Sami found her groove in the saddle and Eliza asked to canter for the first time.

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When I went to retrieve the boys from the pasture, I had to laugh. They were parked in the middle of grass and flowers, four horses curiously milling around them.

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It was just what we needed and only a best friend could have made it happen. Thanks Kara and Dave. It was more than I had hoped for.

Go up.

Into the mountains.

You will find Me there.

17 comments:

  1. that is just what i need...can i get your friends number? even so, i feel better just reading it! lovely pics :) *cami

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  2. This was refreshment just to read! How wonderful to be out in nature with your little ones and dear friend. That sounds so perfect!

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  3. That last picture is by far my favorite. It just says so much! I am glad you got that refreshing of the mind and body, you have some great friends.

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  4. Glorious friends. Priceless. I loved every word and image. :-)

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  5. Cami - Kara's the type that would invite you to come along. I'll introduce you when you move into town! Thanks for reading Cam.

    Steph - Refreshment. That's exactly what it was. Are you (and Margot) ready for Kindergarten???

    Elodie - SO nice to hear from you. I'm just starting Joy School with Ali and Sami and it made me think of you. How are your boys?

    Michelle - The last pic is my favorite too. What a scene!

    Tiff - They are glorious friends. I feel so thankful. Miss you!

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  6. Beautiful! Thanks for shwoing me your blog. You are a talented writer and what a darling family. It's fun to see you Dave and Kara again!

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  7. Kara is just that wonderful. Beautiful words and beautiful people. So glad you had the opportunity to go on that mountain refresher.

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  8. Heather - glad to find your blog as well! and to be back in touch!

    Traci - thanks for reading!

    Mimi - I lost your blog address when I changed the look of our blog. Can you email me your URL?

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  9. I'm pretty sure that's what heaven looks (and feels) like.

    And is it OK that I'm madly jealous of how cute your look in your jeans?

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  10. Michelle - heaven... - I agree. And the jeans? Ha! If I can look like YOU do in jeans when my oldest heads off to college, I'll be feeling pretty darn good.

    Kelleyn - Yes - it WAS lovely.

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  11. I don't deserve all those nice things you said about me. But I loved your pictures and descriptions! Thanks, Cath. Love you.

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  12. Kara - yes you do. Every word.

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  13. This was beautiful! I find myself still thinking about it days later. Thanks for sharing.

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  14. Cath, this post made me all teary. You are amazing with words, and your photos speak volumes as well. We underestimate the blessing of a true friend sometimes when it feels as though we have lots of friends and life is easy and fun at every turn. When life gets tough, our true friends stay the course and bless our lives when we know they have challenges as well. It reminds me of the quote that says, "Hold a true friend with both hands." She's a keeper.

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