MEMORIES OF EASTER WEEKEND 1979 (Photo is March 2014)
Our family was on a sabbatical year in Flagstaff, Arizona, far from our usual spring in the snowy grips of April in Alberta, Canada. This was to be a different Easter.
We were camping in Organ Pipes National Monument, west of Tuscan. The trip began with serious rain that got under our tent, leaving us with the task of drying wet, down sleeping bags before the next night. Too much rain can be as daunting as too much snow, particularly when we were far from the comforts of home and dry bedding.
Yet as Easter approached, and we’d dried our bags in the nearest laundromat, the brightly colored Jelly Beans I’d bought for this trip became the venue for our first family Easter Egg hunt. Jeff was nine. Neal was five. An element of surprise made a morning hike for our first sunny day more promising, and I’d scouted ahead, hiding the tiny egg-like jelly beans behind rocks, boulders, and the variety of cacti along the trail. We’d never had Easter in a church so our sons weren’t familiar with the Christian version, but it was a time to be together, celebrating new life unfolding after the rainy winter. It was likely our first hike together since the fall before. Our community was the earth, sky, tiny flowers unknown to me, and the marvelous cacti unlike any I’d known from Death Valley days, where there were more flowers, canyons, and strange desert landscapes on very arid soil. We were wanderers in a strange land, with few humans nearby this early in the season.
Honestly, the details of the day are foggy in my memory, but just to be together in the sunshine, hiking easy trails with no maps, but also no danger of getting lost, was delightful. We could stretch our limbs and be silly now that the rain had passed. The red plumes on the ocotillo cacti were cool, and the boys loved the incentive of finding flavorful, sugar full jelly beans to supplement our usual healthy trail mix, triscuits, cheese, celery and carrot sticks. Likely we had some salami too, for protein and fat that traveled well for camping. This was before the days when I kept diaries, though that was common for me in backpacking growing up. Writing became back-burner with the responsibilities of being a wife and mom of two young sons. It would be years before I discovered I was a poet, not just a list-maker and journalist.
“Wow, Mom, where’d you get these neat treats? Chocolate bunnies too, awesome!” Jeff rarely praised my menu ideas, so this felt special. He and Neal were actually enjoying the day, something not always true when they had to share close quarters in our 4-person tent and share with getting drinking water and dishes clean-up.
The storyteller in me was still dormant, but I had along a great book of coyote tales, so before dark we’d read about the trickster and his many pranks while John was out taking photographs. Jeff had a toy camera early on, and I don’t recall Neal’s passions at age five, but he did enjoy hiking. That summer the boys joined us and Grandma Jeanette for their first real backpack trip into the Mineral King area. So this trip was the precursor for the longer mountain trips to come.
We didn’t sing the Halleluiah Chorus or “Jesus Christ is Risen today” but it was a true Easter. We were coming back to life after a hard winter, exploring options we’d never known in our Canadian spring times. To this day, all four of us still love being in the mountains or the desert. Neal’s daughters are learning to love the coast of California instead of cross country skiing. Despite all the craziness we were all experiencing, getting out in the woods or seashore or mountains still gives us all solace and perspective! Thirty-five years later we are rarely in the same place, but the wonders and beauty of wilderness continue to inspire the four of us. I am so happy to say, my daughters, Lara and Meagan, grew up loving sacred places like Yosemite, the California or Chilean coast, and amazing arboretums and museums that expose them to the beauty and historical significance of earlier as well as current times. Being connected to the natural world gives us all resilience and renewal for the rigors we all face, too. Strong roots give us the ability to be both strong and flexible in life’s storms. Learning to weather all sorts of conditions in nature helps us be more confident and capable in our daily lives!