Wednesday, June 28, 2006

From whence cometh my help

Oh, we lifted our eyes to the mountains this month! And they filled us all with such comfort to see them, to be in them, and finally, to place our parents' ashes in them for eternity, to become part of them.

Road trips are such fun, and we really enjoyed this one -- it's been far too long since we had one of any length. Tony and I packed up Hagrid, our big gray Dodge megacab truck, bound for Estes Park. Traveled up US 36 to Susanville, through the Lassen range which is the beginning of the Sierras and the end of the Cascades, where we joined US395 to Reno/Sparks. Easy drives, and pretty ones, although mostly 2-lanes, and punctuated with road construction.

In Sparks, we looked at each other and said "let's keep going," which landed us in Winnemucca, NV. Every place we stayed had wireless internet, so Tony booted up, and I took control of the TV remote, curled up against the pillows, and enjoyed channel surfing -- with no cable or satellite at home, it was fun to see again the different programs, although mostly I concluded that there's just more of nothing to watch. Mostly that's how we spent our on-the-road evenings.

Second night out was in Park City, Utah, in mountains and cool evenings. The terrain is so interesting! From mostly high desert across Nevada, you plunge into broad, flat, endless salt flats right at the Utah border -- it's quite a sight to wind your way down the mountains and see that white expanse stretching as far as you can see. The border town Wendover has a big painted stripe right across the business route with Nevada on one side and Utah on the other -- but there are big casinos on the NV side and dinky old gas stations on the Utah side, so it's not hard to tell where the line is!

Part of the area between Winnemucca and Elko is burning now, and I-80 has been closed at times.

Wyoming, at least the part between the Utah border and Cheyenne, is unremarkable. High desert, miles and miles and miles of it, sagebrush, and little else. You catch glimpses of mountain ranges on either side. We'd planned to stay in Cheyenne, but the part where it joins I-25 is industrial and grimy, and we opted to go 30 more miles and stay in Ft. Collins. We were still there long before dark. In Wyoming, our cell phones just squealed, even with all five bars showing. Jimmy suggested it was from NORAD? ooooOOOOoooo

Our stay in Estes Park was in a lovely adult-only, non-smoking small facility on the quiet side of the city, with Fall River running through the property, not far from RMNP. Jimmy met us there. We spent the late afternoons-early evenings in the mountains all three days, driving up to the high point on Trail Ridge Rd. one afternoon (me with my eyes closed or looking at the driver's side of Hagrid for part of the way -- the road's shoulders are nonexistent, and it drops off abruptly, which is scary to one who gets nervous on the back row of choir risers). The views were worth it. When we left on Friday morning, intending to go all the way over Trail Ridge, we were turned back at the entrance because it had snowed high up, closing the road.

I love the ruggedness of these mountains. The Smokeys are older and kinder. These have high sweeps above the treeline that appear barren -- but we found edelweiss, ice plant, more wildflowers snugged close to the ground or tucked into the rocks. A marmot darted below the observation platform at the pass -- some 12K feet above sea level. The vistas are snowy -- although not nearly what I'd expected for June -- rocky, imposing, uninviting. Majestic. Aloof.

We left what's left of our parents in a little pine grove just below Aunt Fran's cabin at the YMCA of the Rockies. Mother loved to sit on the porch and look at the Mummy Range, and this grove is in that sight line -- and has grown so that it obscures part of the view now.

The Colorado Kershaw relatives, including Aunt Marge, Corky, Ross and Janna, joined us, and Brad and Bonnie were visiting from Texas. The Dahls were represented by Jeannie, still on crutches, and Andy. Jimmy and I each said what was in our hearts -- it was the 60th anniversary of our parents' wedding -- and we both spoke of love -- love for the mountains, love for each other, love of God, and love of us. It was spontaneous, sad, loving, and final. We put red roses there, with a little "love" marker. And it rained that night, so they're cradled deep in the earth now.

I thought I'd prepared fairly well for this, but it was harder than I'd anticipated. They were THERE in so much of what we did and saw. They were in the truck with me as we rode through the mountains, through the sagebrush, through the plains, all the way home. As Jimmy observed, driving down the mountains with the Front Range looming in his rear view mirror, "what a tombstone!" We've now done what needed to be done, the last tasks. It feels very final.

So I've cocooned since I've been home, letting go, remembering, leaky-faced. I just did not want to be with anyone but Tony and the kitties. I'm a little more sociable now, but only in small doses. I feel raw and exposed, much like the rock that's been scoured by the wind up high in the mountains. There are no lichens to protect me yet.

And yet, like that rock, I know my core is solid and strong, and that there is life around me. I am part of that vast landscape, that cloud of witnesses who have borne grief and sadness and great love and great pain, and who have come through it with scars and chips and crevices, but still sturdy, still part of the greater whole.

My parents taught me to love, and I have. I do. I am blessed with great love and with the ability to love greatly. I am grateful for that. That is what builds us from pebbles that can be easily scattered into mountains that stand solidly. That love is the source of our help to bear all things, to endure all things, to stand tall and beautiful and majestic. Thanks be to God.