"You gotta love the Victory Vomit" and other lessons learned in Sedona...

Victory vomit.

My son sent me a picture of it after his ascent to the top of a ancient volcano vent just outside of Sedona Arizona.  I seriously considered posting it. Instead you see the other photo of the magnificent view from the top which followed. 

His journey began while we were returning home from a glorious day in Sedona.  We were sharing stories with our nephew and his wife.  One of which recounted a road trip wherein our son, Matthew, had spent much of his time trying to get us all to guess how long it would take him to ascend nearby yet distant hills.  The usual sibling response was 30 or 45 minutes.  His response to that would always be "No, I could do it in 20 minutes easy, maybe 10."  This would be followed by an argument with his siblings until the next rise when it would start over. 

We were all laughing at Matthew's childhood naivete when he boldly stated, "You know what...I still believe I could have made it in 20 minutes.  In fact, see that volcano vent over there?  I believe I can make it to the top of that in 20 minutes...even 15 minutes."  To that his dad pulled over and said "Go for it." 

This was a ridiculous notion.  None of us could believe it when he jumped out and started across the desert.  His first obstacle was a large barbed fence he would need to climb in shorts and tennis shoes.  (I should mention here that it was this very same type of obstacle where he gave up five years ago along side the highway when his dad pulled over and ended the kids arguments in a similar manner.)  This time however, Matt was not to be deterred.  He made it over the fence and was off.  By now I had rolled down the window and was yelling for him to return to the car. I assured him that I loved him and that there was no need for him to prove anything. (Good "mom words"...)

Had it been any later in the year I would have insisted he return for fear of rattle snakes.  Today there was nothing to fear but a bruised ego and perhaps at worst a broken bone if he failed to navigate the last few vertical feet of the vent properly.  We waited. We watched. 

With only one short break as he assessed the last 50 feet or so which would include some more difficult climbing, 13 minutes later he was at the top.  It was a grueling 13 minutes.  It was so physically taxing that he literally vomited when he finally stopped.  He raised his hands above his head in victory and yelled out to the desert below.  It was a shout of triumph which would be carried away by the wind.  That was o.k.  (After all, he had just sent mom the victory vomit photo as proof)

Can you see him there?

  He looks so small  compared to his surroundings in the photo.   No one would notice him there.  This climb meant nothing really.  No one else cared at all. (Well, one pickup truck did pull over across from us out of curiosity.  I would like to think they were asking themselves, "Who is that courageous young man?" More likely they were trying to figure out what we were watching and when they realized it was just some "crazy kid" they moved on.)

 Contrast his perspective...

The view is grand.  The world literally lay now at his feet.  No longer was his vision obscured by the tall desert shrubs which had previously been an painful challenge to his ascent. He could now clearly see the surrounding landscape.

At some point, when he was about half way up the hill, we all started rooting for him to make it.  He later shared that it was at about this same point he had started to realize his goal was much further away than he had anticipated.  It was shear determination to prove himself the victor that pushed him on. 

It was a severe case of "I'll show you!" that preceded the victory vomit -- not the Prickly Pear Fries he had for lunch. 

When you are the youngest in a family with six children this ailment often compels you forward.  Taking you out of your comfort zone, through your apprehensions, to "What the hell was I thinking?" and then on towards "I'm not turning back now...I can do this."

I have been at the base of my own volcano vent for what has been very near a year now.  A lack of posts on this very site attest to my loss of words.  They were here swirling around in my head.  I simply could not formulate them into action.  In the past week two people I love called me out on this fact.  Noting "Why haven't you written anything since your mother died?"  I did not have an answer.  

With so many words rolling around in my head I needed something to pull the answer out of the whirlwnd.

While in Sedona that day, I was introduced to the infamous Sedona Vortexes.  These beautiful Vortex locations were pointed out to us by the driver of our Jeep 4X4 Adventure.  He was quite the character, "Max from Estonia."  Far from home, familiar with hard work, the taste of rat, and one who believed in the Vortexes ability to help people heal.  His jokes made us laugh as we all enjoyed our attempts to sort truth from fiction in his stories. 

This is Max:                                                  


This is us...feeling the Vortex??

Simple Definition of vortex

  • : a mass of spinning air, liquid, etc., that pulls things into its center (Think toilent bowl or dust whirlwind.)

A Sedona Vortex is a place in nature where the earth is exceptionally alive with energy.  The term Vortex in Sedona refers to a place where the earth energy swirls and draws to it’s center everything that surrounds it like a tornado.  It is said that at these beautiful sites, trees often exhibit this swirling or twisting of their trunks due the powerful vortex energy at the core of a Sedona Vortex. 

My photo evidence:

Are these Vortexes real?  I have no idea. 

Do I believe that the beauty of our world, the energy of good company, sunshine, and a loving "prod" brought about through connection can release you from a life Vortex? 


Do I believe that people have been drawn to various places around the world for thousands and thousands of years for spiritual refueling?

Absolutely I do. 

I have posted my own experiences with a few I have been privileged to visit myself.  Medicine Wheel in the Big Horn Mountains, the Valley of Fire in Nevada, an ancient Buddhist pilgrimage destination and a cliff where the ancient art of Hula is still taught on the Island of Kauai. And, of course now...Sedona.

There are also my personal spiritual "Vortex" locations:  the front porch of my cabin in the Cascade Mountains, in my kayak, at the family dinner table when we gather any given Sunday, my daily walks with the dog, a road trip anywhere, and always when I choose to really connect through conversation with those I come in contact with. (A shout out to all those who were willing to engage in great conversation that Sedona day.)

When I made the decision to begin this writing endeavor "Pursuing Peace" I knew it would require self examination and a determination to keep at the pursuit myself.  What was I afraid of? What would I write if I had no fear?  Enough about I just push open that scary door and face the monster?

Matt's call to my cell phone that late afternoon in Sedona opened the door for me. It was a brief communication,  "I made it.  13 minutes.  I'm going to throw up now."

I am just about to complete a three-daughter's-married-in-twelve-months year. My mom, their grandma, will not have been here for any of these beautiful events as her funeral fell in the same twelve months. I am also in the process of downsizing and selling our family home of 20 years.  All of these are good things.  Each has been a beautiful experience.   Even through the loss of my mom I often found Peace unexpectedly along the way.  However, I can see that the resulting emotional debris created a "life vortex" swirling a bit too close for comfort. Pulling myself away from it's force would require real effort.  Besides, those were my emotions, I wasn't sure I wanted them carried away...yet.

Matt was kind enough to send me a picture of the dreaded monster.  Yep.  The victory vomit.

Emotional climbs are a lot of work. You have to be willing to put in the equivalent of victory vomit effort. All the while knowing that the people around you, even people you love, don't get it.  Your goal is unappreciated.  This is your case of "I'll show you" and the you... is you

Making my way past "What the hell was I thinking?" and on to "I'm not turning back now...I can do this"  I know I heard the encouraging voice of Peace whisper"You can do this." (Had my son also recognized Peace cheering him on from amongst the cacti?)  I arrived at the point where the ascent was difficult but relatively quick (my 13 minutes).  The view from the top? I can see the whirlwind of my emotional debris traveling it's course and dissipating back into the landscape of my life. I am ready to make a triumphant shout to be carried away by the wind. (Perhaps while kayaking...that's peaceful.)

Can you see the dust swirling behind me? 

Perhaps it's a Sedona Vortex...

Is it time to create one of your own?






a moment of silence


The Marysville Pilchuck High School shooting has taken the lives of five teenagers (children really - only just beginning high school) and left one other to heal from injuries both physical and emotional.  Hundreds of other children were directly impacted, and I do not exaggerate when I say thousands more emotionally torn. Their parents all got up and went about their day no differently than any other. If they had checked on the weather before heading out there would have been no storm warnings to prepare them for what was actually in the forecast. They did not know that just a few hours into their day, each of them, in an instant, would be swept up in the fearsome force of tragedy, altering the landscape of the lives.

When I answered the call from my daughter that morning the tone in her voice gave my stomach an immediate twist.  "MP is in lockdown Mom.  There's a shooter and it's not good.  Check the news.  I will call you when I know more."  That was at 10:48 a.m. just minutes after the shooting.  It took Social Media to broadcast in minutes what would have taken hours just a few years ago. When I dropped my son off that morning he said, "I forgot my phone.  Don't forget to pick me up - I won't be able to call you." That morning I was an advocate of no cell phones in the classroom.  Three hours later I'm making a mental note to assure that he never goes to school again without it.  It was a text that would inform me our neighbor, a fourteen year old student at Marysville Pilchuck, was on CNN. 

As I listened to his voice, now in transition to that of a man, my mind's eye pictured the little boy dressed as Spiderman a week before Halloween, then only four years old "invisible" under our dining room table. Holding on to a corner of our own childhood imagination we all made sure he would be successful in his return home across the street unscathed and undetected.  Spiderman, was now fourteen, pulling his girlfriend under the cafeteria table. The shots, the screams, the hysteria all so loud and yet there was a silent clarity in the midst of the confusion as the shooter, (this was his friend...right?), made eye contact with him (he can't actually see him - he's invisible...right?), and then turned and walked towards the doors. 

I knocked on Spiderman's door just a few hours later.  None of the students from Marysville Pilchuck had been released to their parents yet.  I was checking on his mother hoping she had word of his safety. The door opened and standing there was Spiderman himself.  He was home unscathed and undetected. How had he accomplished such a feat? (Of course....he had used the back door of the cafeteria and jumped the fence - Spiderman at his stealthy best). 

After a hug Spiderman slipped past me to talk to my son, his friend for as long as they can remember.  I continued my conversation with his mother.  Glancing across the street I could see our boys, both High School Freshmen now, sitting on front porch.  The rapids of life's river now raging before them.  My son in shock, watching in horror as his friends are pushed from the safety of its banks into the icy water and Spiderman trying to catch his breath after pulling himself out of those rapids back to the river's edge.

My youngest son attends the other Marysville High School.  "What a relief" you may say.  Yes, undeniably in the moment it was.  And yet, these were his peers.  He knew each of them, they all attended the same Middle School, he played football with them last year.  While Jaylin was voted Freshman class homecoming prince, my son had been nominated for the same at Getchell High School, whose homecoming was to have been that same Friday.  And then, of course, there is his connection with Spiderman.  He knows there will forever be difference a between Spiderman, who was in the cafeteria that day, and himself, who could only watch the events unfold. I sense my son carries a burden that came with these events that I can't quite understand yet.  I see the impact of this past week in his eyes during moments of silence.

MP was where I graduated from High School along with four of my children. I have lived in this community for 46 years. As a result I have struggled to write this post - give words to my thoughts - find peace myself.  I couldn't even bring myself to visit the memorial fence along the High School's outer field until five days had passed.  The events seemed so personal (even though I personally knew none of the victims or families), so visceral, so exploited, and so loud.

The first glimpse I caught of Peace was the quiet appearance of red and white ribbons all over town.  Along overpasses, surrounding local playgrounds, tied to the trees which line our streets so beautifully in the fall.  Main streets, side streets, back streets...they are everywhere.  A simple knot, tied by hands perhaps unknown and at the same time with a feeling of familiarity.  They whispered the call for healing, unity, forgiveness, and peace in midst of unimaginable turmoil.





October 24th also marked the anniversary of another Marysville tragedy.  It was not one be heard across the nation as the shots in the cafeteria were.  Yet the quiet response of our community at a time of loss was just as powerful.  This also involved High School children and the sudden tragic loss of life.  As I reflected upon that experience in 2011 I was reminded that Peace is found in the small, silent expressions made to give voice to the feelings of our heart.

Life's river will have many rapids, and a walk along it's rocky edge may mean at times we find ourselves in the midst of its turbulence.  The water's are loud and fear invoking as we are reminded that we cannot control all things - often those things we have felt most secure in.  For more than 300 years "a moment of silence" has been practiced by people of diverse ethnic and religous backgrounds as means of coming together in what I believe is a universal recognition of the need for quiet and connection in times of turmoil.  An expression of the fact that even though we are all so very different, we are also all very much the same.  That no matter how tough we are and how in control we may appear... the time will surely come when we are also vulnerable and without control. 

I would not want any child, any family, any community to experience tragedy the way ours did this past week.  That being said, I know its force will sweep through each life in one form or another. Our attempts to shield ourselves or our children from it are futile at best.  There are the obvious rough waters we put up warning signs for (as we should) in our best effort to protect those who will walk the path we have marked, yet we simply cannot see what lies around each bend in the river of life.

For three years now in the summer my family has enjoyed an end of the Season river float.  Eastern Washington sunshine and inflatables to relax on are all we need for the days adventure.  Last year as I was floating along, day dreaming, the peaceful quiet of the river gave me no warning of the current which was pulling me quickly towards what my family could see would be a toss in the water.  Wait for it...wait for it...there she goes!!  Mom (who had kept herself remarkedly dry - was soaking wet!) Everyone got a good laugh at my expense. (No surprise in that fact.)

I have reflected upon that river float many times - daily since the shootings.  The quiet rush of the water around me when I slipped below the surface was so peaceful.  I had gained a completely different perspective of the river in that moment of silence.  Peace is always within our reach - even in life's turbulence. My son and Spiderman will be shaped by tragic events not of their choosing throughout their lives. We all will. None of us immune from adversity.  Life is hard work. Peace is our co-worker always ready to give us a different perspective of our surroundings.

For those of us fortunate enough to remain safely along the river's edge (this time), our job is to not be afraid to get our feet wet. Peace is there tying a ribbon with you in the NW wind and rain.  Peace is there when you prepare a warm meal or pick up that pizza to deliver.  A kind word, a hug that lingers just a bit longer, a listening ear, a hand to hold, a message that says "I do care.  I am here. You are not forgotten." Peace will whisper what work needs to be done in a moment of silence.

Shhh....can you hear it?

When I looked across the street that first day at my son and Spiderman sitting on the porch I saw their childhood shadows "fishing" at the base of our small waterfall in the front garden with a stick and a string.  In my heart I hold them there.  A simple time.  Quiet waters.  This past week in my moment of silence I grabbed onto a red and white ribbon.  When I reached the river's edge there holding onto the other end was my son and Spiderman.  Their strength a testament to the ability of our youth to power through adversity and find Peace in the process.






Life's a Weed...Make a Wish

"Next time slow down!" he yelled at me through the passenger window of his Smart car.  "Really??!" I returned.  This was accompanied with an age old hand gesture not befitting a 50 year-old mother of six and self proclaimed Peace pursuer.  I mean come on - the man obviously had mid-sized suv envy!  With his tiny car sandwiched in between two 4x4's we neither one could see each other.  He was the one who nearly hit me.  He was the one holding on to all that rage.  He was obviously over reacting.  I had been the good citizen driver.  I simply shook off the fact that he nearly backed into me and continued towards a parking spot nearby.   He was the one who sat and waited for us to get out of our car so he could yell at us...this was all his fault.  

Your with me here right? None of this was my fault.

In retrospect I'm not so sure my kids would agree.  My 14 year-old son was mortified to have been in close proximity to such a public display by his mother. His mother.  That was of course was until he realized he could replay the comedic details at my expense for many years to come.  He knew this because his siblings replay similar hand gesture events from my bad-mom-days of their youth - "the little darlings." (That was actually a shout out to my brother. His affectionate term for my kids when questioning my need for six of them.) I can only hope that the humor comes from their understanding that it is out of step with my normal daily inter-personal communication skill set.  However, this has always been quite a private affair - never before had my bad-mom ways become so public.

Who was that woman disguised as me in the parking lot? 

How did I get here? Where was Peace to be found in this life moment?

I put a good deal of effort into looking for a way to find Peace in the brief moments and small nuances of my everyday life.  Quite frankly, this past week I haven't noticed Peace in the routine of my everyday.   As I mentally reviewed the days I could actually see myself avoiding eye contact with the very Peace I was now so desperate for. I had consistently tossed Peace aside all week.  I had no time for such nonsense. I had been so sure that what I needed was to feel justified for each argument I engaged in, each slight I was sure of, each ounce of under appreciated indifference, and every drop of negative energy I was allowing into my daily cup.  It's no wonder then that my arm was flaying about that day in the parking lot- I was trying to keep from drowning in the overflow. 

I am responsible for what I fill the cup with from which I drink in life.

Our personal reservoirs are filled with each days actions, reactions, and interactions.  It is from this well we draw our emotional, spiritual and on many days even physical strength.  It is where we can find a reserve of Peace on the very worst days.  Or not.   I best be honest here - flipping somebody off is a pretty good indicator that I needed to check my tank.

I knew from experience the concept of three good things would be a good place for me to start re-filling.  At dinner that night I had to admit my recent short comings and asked for everyone's good things from the day also sharing my own.  We had a good laugh at my expense as Matthew shared our parking lot experience.  Then my husband suggested we take a walk together.  For all of the day's struggles the evening was perfect.  The sun was setting, the company was great, and I was hopeful that with my blinders off I wouldn't have too work to hard to find Peace along the roadside that evening. 

As we were walking my grand daughter plucked a dandelion wish ball from the path and she resolutely announced, "I wish for nothing!" Then with great joy she blew her wishes into the evening breeze. 

Watching those tiny "wish- for- nothings" drift to where they would find root and give life to new sunny yellow beauties for future wish makers, we were all caught up in the profound wisdom in her words. 

My grand daughter loves picking dandelions and presenting them as a precious gift to those she loves most.  This she does in the footsteps of generations of children before her.  To her it is a sunny yellow beauty with which we have been blessed in abundance.  A weed?  Certainly not!

When do dandelions become noxious weeds rather than the beautiful flowers we so loving shared? Isn't their annoying resilience actually just evidence of their deep roots and ability to against all odds reach upwards through the rain to bask in the summer sunshine?  Too often during the day I wish for "something" rather than simply taking in what is right within my reach and "wish for nothing" instead.

It's easy to let the labor of our everyday become a noxious weed.  When in reality that labor is life itself.  It is our perception of life's foliage that determines which bouquet we will hold - childish weeds of no value or glorious yellow future wish makers.

By now I was falling behind on our walk that evening.  I took a deep breath.  I needed to breathe in deep this moment and fill my cup with something better.  The various conversations about nothing, the random bursts of laughter, the cottonwood floating in the breeze all added to the beauty of my grand daughter's "wishes".  In the distance I could see her running ahead on the sidewalk.  For an instant I thought she was going to step out into the street and I nearly yelled for her to stop.  Suddenly she plopped herself down, crossed her legs, and taking a deep breath raised her arms above her head and gently brought them down in front of her into a Dhyana Yoga pose. 

It would have been so easy to have rejected an evening walk that day. To think I might have missed it all a few hours ago -   the value in wishing for nothing, fuel for the soul hand gestures, and Peace at the curbs edge.


Commodes, Coyotes and Communicating with God...

"I knew you would come. I couldn't get my phone to work so I just prayed you here."

Dementia may take its toll on my mother's ability to navigate her cell phone but it certainly hasn't taken her faith.  One of the gifts of Dementia for my mother has been opening her "faith box" and finding exactly what she was looking for.  Prayer has become mom's go to method for communicating her needs and she repeatedly finds those needs met as a result. 

I don't remember what my mom needed that day.  It wasn't me who received the "phone call".  It was in the middle of my daughter's softball game somewhere between 2nd and 3rd base at Short that the call came through to her. The message was quiet but clear... "I need you."  In actual fact, she simply stated that during the game she got the feeling we needed to check on grandma.  So we did.  

It would only be a month later that I would experience my mother's communications with God in a much more personal manner.  She had fallen which put her in the hospital for a few days. She was back in her little apartment but required 24 hour care and supervision. Not wanting to disturb my sleep ( I was lying in bed next to her) she decided to get out of bed and use the comode sitting next to it without my assistnance. She simply could not remember nor understnd why her legs weren't working properly.  She fell.  

She wasn't injured but she was sure that she was paralyzed and I could not lift her dead weight without some assistance from her.  Thus we found ourselves  laying on the floor between the bed and the commode at 2:00 a.m.  30 minutes later I was exhausted from multiple attempts at lifting her and frustrated at her adamant belief she was unable to use her legs.

"Mom, your legs work!  I cannot lift you on my own!  Please, I need your help."  Silence was her answer in return...or so I thought.  She was not quite silent.  I leaned in close to hear her.  "Please God, please.  I am paralyzed.  Brenda needs my help.  Please, let me use my legs to help her.  Please make my legs work. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen."    My heart was instantly softened.  More, importantly, the simultaneous urge to once again use the commode was all that it took for her to once again have the use of her legs.  A coincidence? Some who read this will say that absolutely it was. I'm here to tell you it was not. It was plain and simple an answer to her humble plea. 

I have reflected on these events multiple times over the past two months as mom's physical and mental capabilities continue to decline at rapid rate.  I have noted the sincerity and humility and trust she now gives to god without hesitation.  There are no alternatives for her, no "handling the situation myself" possibilities.  A quiet calm can be seen in her eyes as fear retreats when Peace arrives to answer her call.

I have asked myself - would that be enough for me?  Could I accept an "everything will be alright" answer when I had asked for "details please...details!"  Perhaps, therein lies my answer - she no longer can take in the details - and so she more readily recognizes Peace as all the answer she needs.  

Over the past couple of months it became more and more apparent that my mom's physical and mental decline would require that she continue to have constant care. As a family we debated if it is was possible for us to begin that piece of her journey in our home. Where was our answer?  As we step into the unknown - will the path before us be illuminated? As I daily mourn the loss of my mother and work to welcome a stranger into my life - will I have the patience and compassion required?  Where were the answers I was seeking?  

That night next to the commode with my mother I realized that all of those questions and more had been bouncing around in my mind and yet I could not remember actually making a call to God.  A real call. A conversation.  I was and still am keenly aware of the fact that He is mindful of me and my needs - then why require that I literally ask?  He already knows what I need? I know what I need -  Answers!  Details! I don't have time for a conversation - just tell me what to do and how to get it done!  

It was time to make a call of my own.  I complained, shared my desires, whispered my fears and waited for a reply.  It came. It was exactly what I needed in order to clear my mind for the details which would follow in the coming weeks.  At some point before I even opened my eyes Peace had entered the room and snuggled right down next me on the floor.  "Everything will be all right."  

I still draw strength from that call when my quest for details weighs me down.

Three years ago I pushed "publish" and my first post was out there for the world to see.  That was preceded by another time of turmoil as I searched for answers (actually details) to moving forward in my personal life. Looking back now I can see that once again I equated my constant mental energy as enough of a "conversation."  I had plenty of answers - all of which included something I had no time for - writing.  Looking back on that post I was reminded that life's details would have kept me from moving forward many times.

Over the course of several weeks I would cross paths with a coyote. Yes, a coyote.  Standing in the distance looking at me again...and again...and again.  It became such a weird experience that I googled "What is the meaning of Coyote sightings?"  This was the answer I found

"The sighting of the Coyote was said to bring natural shifts in balance, causing an end (which, of course, simply makes way for new beginnings, and so on).  Essentially, the Coyote is like a "way maker" of new direction as it went about its symbolic role of representing the cycle of life/death in nature."  

I was at first embarrassed to admit that I was considering giving merit to this coyote in my life.   I shared the experience with my children and my husband because they were with me for two of the coyote crossings. They didn't seem too surprised by my thoughts (I wasn't sure I appreciated that at the time). I also shared with a girlfriend - just to check my sanity - and she said "I don't know about Coyotes.  But I do know that God has the ability to use whatever means he needs to in order to get your attention."  I have never forgotten her words.  In order to get your attention.  I have also remembered the summertime Coyotes which moved me forward with my writing not so long ago.  Her words, and the Coyotes, were all the detail that I really needed.  

There were no more Coyote sightings over the next three years. It's not that I didn't see the occasional coyote.  I did.  However, they were not looking at me - dare I say looking for me?  I would watch it walking across a distant field, waiting for it to glance my way.  Then feel silly for the thought.

That was until just three weeks ago.  

We knew we had only a small window of opportunity if we were to make the cross country trip to Wyoming for my mother to see her sister one last time. I picked a week for the trip that worked well with my life schedule. It was the perfect time to go, the work week was quiet, my son and daughter were both available to help with my mom, and it would leave 10 days before school started when we got home,  Perfect.  And yet, nothing fell into place for our travel and mom was having an extra hard week.  I let it go.  We would not make the trip.  There just wasn't enough time left.  

When my husband called me on that following, very busy Saturday and told me "You need to take your mom on Monday."  I actually yelled at him "Is God telling you this?!  This will be such a difficult trip now - God better have been the one to tell you that!"  As my answer reveals I had not been in the best space on a daily basis for my own God telling moments.

My son and I left on Monday for Wyoming.  We would arrive on Aunt Lou's 86th birthday. (A date we were unaware of)  Three other family members including two grandchildren would return from extended trips out of state the following day (Something we were unaware of.)  

Brian met up with us on Thursday.  That evening he asked me if I had seen any Coyotes this trip.  He was teasing me, but I felt something more in his words -  a belief that we were on more than a visit to see my Aunt. 

We were to visit Medicine Wheel, a sacred Native American site high atop the Big Horns.  It is now a National Historical Landmark.  It wasn't registered as such until 1969.  In the early 1930's when my mother lived "just down the hill" and played amongst those sacred stones on summer days there were no roads, gates, or fences.  She was just a child then. She would spend hours searching for just the right stones to replace those removed over the centuries.   Believed to be at least 700 years old, this medicine wheel has long been a place of meditation, vision quests, and prayer.  She was unaware as a child that she shared such a special connection with the great chiefs and warriors seeking guidance in the past.  It was there she would sit in the center cairn, seemingly atop of the world, she would close her eyes and try to imagine her place in such a vast landscape.   I imagined my mother's childhood whisper in the summer breeze " you hear me?" 

As mom shared her childhood stories of "restoring this old wheel" with the rangers and a couple visiting from Australia, we all could feel her joy in returning.  "It's a good thing you didn't come last week," the Ranger remarked, "the site was closed for Native American ceremonies."  (Once again, something we were unaware of...I was beginning to sense a pattern of "coincidences" here.)

As we re-visited my mother's youth in the remote wilderness of the Big Horn and Pryor Mountains, we saw the places she now retreats to in her memories, we were also witness to the constant grandeur and peace of nature unchanged in nearly 80 years.  Our last day before heading home we drove 45 miles along dirt roads that much of the year are still inaccessible, where outlaws and homesteaders once found refuge, and wild horses and buffalos to this day run free. There my mom sat in the front seat of the pickup looking down upon the remains of the remote ranch that at age seventeen she had hated in the mountains that she loved.

The place where she pleaded for details in her life journey and recieved the answer "Everything will be all right." 80 years ago she answered back "Your damn right it will - I will make sure of that!"  Her road through life was much like the one we drove to get there.  Rough, rutted, and full of dips and climbs.

Now her response to that same answer is seen in her eyes...

"So good to hear from you.  Can you visit for awhile?"  

We had just made the turn for home when my cousin said "Will you look at that? Just standing there - like he wants to make sure we see him."  

There in the tall grass was a Coyote.

 My answer.  No details needed.  

We are riding life off road these days.










"I believe you" she told me with eye contact that made me pause for a moment.  "It actually looks pretty dark from your vantage point" I returned with a laugh.  "No, I really do believe you that there is a beautiful sunrise happening right now and I just can't see it from where I'm at.  Your telling me the sun will shine soon out there."

Commenting on the advantages of our early mornings,  I had just shared with the store clerk that my youngest son, Matthew, and I were witness to one of the most spectacular sunrises I had seen in years.  To that comment she glanced out the front windows of her store which faced due  west and smiled.  It was completely dark and actually quite a dreary winter Wednesday view for her.  I felt foolish for even mentioning the sunrise until I was caught off guard by the sincerity of her response.

I believe you.

I shared my experience with my oldest son that same day.  About a half an hour later I noticed him gazing out the window in deep thought.  I asked him what he was thinking about.  He stated that my interaction with the store clerk had reminded him of the day he climbed too high in Grandma's cherry tree and was then afraid to climb down.  He called out for help.  His dad and grandpa showed up from around the corner.  Jump and I will catch you his dad told him.  Taylor was terrified.  Jump - I will catch you - his dad repeated.  Taylor then related what he was thinking as a five year old at the time.  "I remember thinking to myself 'That's my dad.  He loves me.' I looked at dad again and I distinctly remember thinking 'I believe you - I will jump.' So I jumped."

I have spent some time considering to whom and with regards to what I make the statement "I believe you."  I speak often of the power words carry.  To consider the impact those three have had upon the history of the world is mind boggling really.  Spoken or not they are the hinges upon which the doors of our life are opened and closed each day.

Some doors swing on beliefs that are placed upon us, piled up over time through external sources.  These well greased hinges pivot back and forth freely with hardly a thought. 

There are also beliefs that come from the inside - the gut - a type of knowing which you may ignore (and perhaps often do) but cannot deny. These hinges are solid, sometimes rusty, but always able to carry the load of even the heaviest doors.

I  saw the Lego movie this past week with my family.  Central to it's theme was the concept of believing as a catalyst to building.  If you believed you were "the special" the "master builder" then that is what you became.  It didn't matter what world you were created in (or box you came from) - doors opened to new worlds as your belief in yourself became stronger.  A master builder could create anything from the pieces which lay around him. In one scene the statement "I know it sounds like a cat poster - but it's true - just believe."  I have struggled with this post for a few weeks now for that very same reason...sounding too much like a cat poster. 

I often find myself pacing in front of an open door.  Afraid to "jump" just like my son from the Cherry tree all those years ago.   I shared with my nephew once that I could write a book. (Note the careful choice of the word could rather than would)  He didn't laugh or criticize my naive notion rather he simply said, "I believe you.  Do it."  At the time I'm not sure what I wanted to hear, but it wasn't "I believe you"  because that meant "Do it."   I now write.  It's a lot of work but so much more fulfilling than the pacing was. 

It doesn't matter to the Hinge if the door swings open or closed.  It's job is simply to facilitate the action.  What doors would you venture through if you believed in the potential of waited for you on the other side?  What doors would you then close if you believed it was just that simple?

If Peace on a daily basis -  in the midst of the challenges and the everydayness of life - is what you seek you first must believe it can be found there.  Believing you can find what you are looking for does not exempt you from the search - it is the hinge that opens the window so you can see more clearly.  Believing the view from the top of the mountain is beautiful does not exempt you from the climb - it is the hinge that opens the door to the trailhead.