Thursday, June 25, 2009

Crescent Meadow

Isn't it strange how we are drawn to some places in our lives over and over? Does that happen to you?

Sometimes it is a block, or a part of a city. Sometimes it is a stretch of beach, or a trail. Sometimes it is a restaurant. Sometimes the time between visits is so long I no longer remember where it is or how to get there, and then I arrive there again, and the memories come flooding back. These places are like magnets, my energy poles on earth. I have them in Tokyo, in Los Angeles and in Connecticut and California.

This past weekend we went camping in Sequoia National Park. I had been before. I knew that. I had seen the big trees and dipped in the glacier lakes. I went there with Natalie, probably about ten years ago. My memory of our trip was vivid. We had stayed in a campground alone. Ranger vehicles had swung through the park at night, their lights shining through our tent wall. She had cooked me campfire gado gado, gourmet wilderness cuisine, learned on her outward bound summer.

The campground was so deserted we scared ourselves, convincing ourselves that Cary Stayner, the then notorious National Park killer, could come upon us and stab us in the tent. We were more scared of him than bears.

We hiked into the back country singing Sweet Honey and the Rock songs and talking about love and life, and camped on the front porch of a ranger cabin under the stars. It was before she had cancer. She said she wanted to be a one hit wonder. Like Milly Vanilly I asked? Yes, she said. I want one beautiful song that everybody sings, that changes people's lives. One song that no one ever ever forgets. I think about that now, because that is sort of what she was--the song you cannot get out of your head. She was one tune. But she was unforgettable.

The second day we hiked high high into the mountains, and skinny dipped in a glacier lake. Then we lay naked on the rocks to dry. I, of course, carried my journal, and wrote a letter of love to myself that changed my life--a pledge that I would take care of my soul. I still have it in a box in my closet. The only part of the house that is truly, 100 percent all mine--piles of old sweaters, pictures, art and pieces of my past life. It is the clutter of my soul.

Anyway, there we were in Sequoia last weekend. We were with the Markos, our very favorite camping adventure friends. We tried to do everything you could with four children under the age of 7. We hiked to see the General Sherman tree and looked for bears. We went to see the Crystal Cave and climbed inside the Sequoias to feel their ancient primal energy. We clambered up rocks and dipped our feet in streams that Theo declared "colder than snow."

We were trying not to overschedule, but I demanded that we go to Crescent Meadow. The camp map said it was the most beautiful meadow in the park, and a sign by the meadow had a quote from John Muir calling it the "gem of the Sierra." And it was. To me it looks like heaven.

But here was the strangest thing. As soon as we drove up I knew that was where I had been with Natalie. I saw where we camped, and where the High Sierra trail split off from the meadow. I remembered the hollow tree and the beauty of that place. I had forgotten its name or where it was, but here I was again. And once again it felt life-changing.

This time we saw a bear cub try to eat a red-checked table cloth, and then four more bears out in the meadow. We walked out on the immense trunk of a fallen Sequoia into the middle of the meadow and stood in that sea of green, looking at the purple wild flowers, the towering Sequoias and the lumbering bears. We picnicked with our children and savored the perfect, magical beauty of the place. If there is a heaven, I think it looks like the Crescent Meadow.

And there, once again, I felt Natalie. I remembered her words, and felt her pulling me up the less travelled dirt trail to the High Sierra path. I heard her laughing and congratulating me for getting my boys out into the wilderness. I felt her shooting pictures and singing with me.

And there I was again. I suppose it is one of my important spiritual pilgrimage spots. Who knows why. I will put it on my list. I got back and began methodically planning my summer (so hard for me!). I turned to July in my Sierra Club calendar and there was Crescent meadow--again! Theo had drawn himself in the middle of it. So strange.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Brotherly Love

Yesterday was Theo's final day of Photography class after school. (I am 42 years old and have never taken a photography class!!! So jealous!!!) But anyway, during this class, his favorite so far, the students got cameras. They shot outside and in, they shot action and still-lives. They shot things that were blue and things that were red.

Then they mounted their pictures and made tiny photo albums. They made a cover, and dedicated them to someone on the first page.

Theo dedicated his art book to Benji.

Benji thought that meant it was his, which it wasn't.

"No, Benji," Theo explained. "I dedicated this to you. That just means I love you."


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Hello dear readers,

I have missed you, and I have missed my blog. I have been so busy teaching other people to write, that I have had no time to write myself. But from within that teaching experience (which I have loved...more on that when I am really and truly finished) one huge realization has emerged. I LOVE writing. I need to write. Just a few more days. I am shedding responsibilities like a snake. Last night, good-bye Larchmont Charter Board responsibilities. Two more weeks, check off the teaching duties. Complete.

But briefly, o so briefly, here is my thought for the day.

I think Somewhere Over the Rainbow is one of the most beautiful songs ever written. I have always loved it. Always. Even if the whole Judy Garland obsession has gone a bit over the top.

But we just watched The Wizard of Oz again with our boys. (Benji's pick, as a reward for good behavior). I myself had to wait until I was about 12 to watch the movie in our TV free house. But I did listen to the album over and over and over and over. I knew it by heart. Every last word. I could do the witch imitation, laugh like a munchkin, cry like the cowardly lion, and be earnest like Dorothy. And I would hold the giant album cover in my hand, peering at the main characters skipping down the Yellow Brick Road for hours and hours as I listened.

Benji loved it so much we got the CD for his birthday, which he listens to over and over in the morning, at top volume. When the wind starts blowing he shouts out: "Here comes the Nortado."

But for me, the shock is how beautiful that song is. Every time I hear it, I cry. When I sing it to myself in the car, or as I walk down the street, I cry. It was in Baz Luhrman's movie Australia (which I loved, because I love anything Baz Luhrman does. I think the man is a genius.) I sang it to Benji in the tent when we went camping. And Judy Garland's voice, simple, pure, soaring and unadorned really does melt your heart.

That song, to me, is one of the most beautiful things there is.

In fact, I think I will go listen to it just one more time before I begin grading my students' work. Listen to it, my friends. It will make you weep and dream. Is there anything better?