oregon desert days

sorry for belated and LENGTHY posting…both electricity and wireless have been scarce lately…

Friday afternoon, July 11, 2008
Crater Lake National Park

Oregon is beginning to grow on me, to say the least. If you’re wondering why we are still in Oregon, well, there are a couple of factors. A week from today I will be attending the 40th birthday weekend of a friend from my Seattle days, and her party is in Ashland, Oregon at the Shakespeare Festival. Oh, yes it is. And I will be staying in a house and going to plays while my family hangs out in some RV Park somewhere, preferably one with a swimming pool if Taido knows what’s good for him. I‘m not sure what I will do when that weekend is over because looking forward to it has got me through a lot of rough moments.

We are taking our time getting to and from Ashland because Taido’s advisor is out of town this month. So we are traveling with two LARGE tubs of books, more than it could possibly be legal to check out from the Regent College Library, but you know, I’m sure Taido worked that little issue out somehow. And Taido is continuing to study during the day, mostly at random little public libraries. The Bend Public Library was so nice that after we met him there on the first day, the kids were begging to go back. This worked out to be entirely to my advantage, because of the four days Taido spent studying there, two of those he had a child in tow. Because it was a seven mile bike ride, only the hearty bicyclers got to go, so no Simon. Cole rode in one morning while we went and did laundry. Then we picked up Cole and his bike and went on two different desert hikes. Apparently, we are in the middle of loads of volcanoes here in Oregon, so we went to a National Volcanic Monument just a little south of Bend and hiked through a molten lava field that is over 6000 years old. Crazy. The rocks are all black, like ash only hard. It looks like it could just crumble away only it has been there like forever. Mary Polly was wearing a new white sundress that I bought for her since all her summer clothes were stolen and I was so sorry I didn’t have a camera to take a picture of her running ahead through this jet black field in her little white dress. Of course, I know that considering previous posting about how incredibly dusty and dirty it is here that it was a little foolish to buy her a white sundress, but it was on sale. And Whitney and I had looked at so many earlier in the season when they were not on sale. And is there anything sweeter than a flowing white sundress on your little girl whom you won‘t be able to call little for much longer. I’ll just have to bleach it after our day of hiking, except that I don’t really use bleach anymore since all my toxin reading, but whatever. I’ll worry about that later. What I’m really trying to say is that we walked over a big black lava field in the hot hot sun and it was crazy. Then we hiked along the Deschutes River to see some falls that a ranger recommended to us since we were too late to hike through a lava cave that we were all aching to get into because it is 42 degrees in the cave. It was definitely not 42 degrees in the lava field. More like 115. Or something. And it wasn’t much cooler than that along the river, plus we were attacked by mosquitoes of unusual size. Yikes. After we ran back through the heat and the mosquitoes to the van, I asked Mary Polly what she wanted for dinner. She said, Well, I know you don’t want to hear this and I know you hate this place, but I was really hoping that maybe we could go to…McDonald’s. For a special treat because we hiked so much without complaining too much. She said it all in one big breathe and then she kind of scrunched up her nose at me like she was waiting for my reaction to hearing the word. McNasty is what Taido calls it, but he was planning on studying until the library closed at 8 so I said, Ok, I guess we can go there. I mean we haven’t been there once all summer long and hopefully it will be FREEZING COLD in there.

Really? Really, we can go there? Oh my goodness, I’m going to go tell the boys! Thank you SOOO much Mama! Thank you! Thank you! All this cost me just $11.40. And having to smell McDonald’s, but everyone was so happy to get to go, and they played on the gross tube structure while I tried to not think about how many disgusting micro-organisms must be living in them. It’s funny, but I am not nearly as grossed out by the nasty desert spiders and critters as I am by those fast food play places. Festering germ pools they are.

As we drove home, Mary Polly and Ben marveled when Cole pointed out the large hill he had come up on his bike that morning. When Ben said, Wow Cole! You are like a professional! something must have started brewing in Mary Polly because nothing would tempt her from having her turn to ride to town with Daddy the next day. I knew that she would slow Taido down considerably and that she was dreading going into the dark scary cave with us, so I offered to just drop her at the library on our way to the Lava Cave. But, oh no, she had something to prove. And so she had her turn on the massive hill, and her day at the library, where she attended a program they were having for young readers, ate at a very nice restaurant (her words) with her Daddy and sat on giant animal shaped bean bags reading for most of the day. She was not sorry to miss the cave, which was as she predicted, dark and scary. The Lava Cave is a mile long tube formed by the same lava flows that were responsible for the fields we hiked the day before. It really is amazing.. It was different from most caves I’ve been in because of it’s height and width. A lot of the terrain was even kind of smooth with sections of it that felt like long hallways. Dark hallways. We each had our own headlamp, which means we could each see the step in front of us. Which is good. We were in that cave a long time and I thought a lot about darkness and light while we were in there. How just a little bit of light in so much darkness is a welcome friend. Whenever a group with a lantern passed by us going the opposite direction, we enjoyed seeing their bigger lights illuminating places we couldn’t see before. I really was being oh so careful because I was carrying Simon in the backpack, but I still managed to step into a hole and fall, scraping us both and twisting my ankle. At this point we were about three-fourths of the way in, so we only went a little further before turning around and hiking out. Ben had stepped into a puddle and was whining about being cold. Obviously he had forgotten how terribly hot we’d been the day before. It was a long way back to the opening, but we could see the light from the opening well before we reached it. I really like that about a cave. The light at the end of the tunnel. Then you come out and it’s so bright that the light is hurting your eyes and you have to squint to see. Light is really super great. I can totally understand why Jesus uses the phrase light of the world both about himself and in regards to our role in this world as his followers. I definitely want to be light. Not dark. We were hiking today and my ankle still hurts from yesterday, but I was thinking how different it was to be able to see exactly where I was putting my feet with every step. I could protect my ankle with where I chose to step.

After the cave we ate our picnic lunch and then went to something called the High Desert Museum. Cole had begged to go there because he had seen a brochure and MOM, they have animals! And it was cool, but I was dog tired from the whole cave bit. I had almost started crying just thinking about dropping Simon in that backpack and what if his little head had banged itself on a rock and what was I thinking carrying that child on my back into a cave!! Simon in the backpack is really a subject all unto itself. I have gone back and forth between doing or not doing things over being willing or unwilling to carry him in that thing. At the beginning of the summer, I thought, It will be okay. I’ll just get really strong carrying it and then I’ll be used to it and it won’t be such a big deal. Actually, I thought this about a lot of things. But somehow, I am not really strong, even though I have carried it A LOT. And there are some mountains I just won’t climb because I know I can’t do it with that thing on, and that frustrates me. So sometimes, I just think, well, I can’t let having Simon keep me from doing this or that so I am just going to buck up and carry that thing. Come on, you can do it, get over yourself, etc. And then there is Taido and the backpack. When it is his turn to wear the backpack, which is anytime he happens to be with us, he is totally uninhibited by it. He can walk/hike just as fast. He has even skied with it on. And let’s not even get into how much easier it is for him to use the restroom when carrying the backpack! And it never seems as though Simon is in any danger of falling when Taido is wearing it, which let’s face it, he is pretty much in danger every time I even put it on or take it off, a perilous process in and of itself. And bless his little pookey heart, he’s not even putting his life in danger at his own doing, as is often the case. When Taido came back from backpacking in Colorado, he put on Simon in the backpack and he said, Man, Simon, you’re light! Because apparently he carried quite the heavy load in Colorado. Well, that just ticked me off. I had been carrying that thing the whole week he was gone and now he was going to call it light! All of this probably somehow contributed to my finding myself in a situation in which I should probably not have been carrying my baby. These are thoughts I am having as we tour the High Desert Museum, in which I am also carrying Simon in the backpack, only this time in the daylight, but a little slower considering the ankle and all. There were exhibits on the Native Americans in the desert lands (whose lives we white men have totally ruined, PS), the explorers, farmers, homesteaders, cattle ranchers and miners. It really was a neat museum, and it does have a few animals. Lots of bird of prey, of which I have decided I am not a fan. Every time I see a bird of prey in captivity, it is eating a dead animal, usually a rodent. The boys think it’s super cool, but it grosses me out. Plus the birds of prey are outside, as was the authentic homesteader ranch of 1880 and did I mention that we are in the desert. And it is hot in the desert.

Not to worry though, we have moved back to higher elevations and are now at about 7000 ft, enjoying much cooler weather after our week in Bend. And we saw Crater Lake today, which is the deepest lake in the United States, you know why? Because it is in the middle of volcano that exploded over 7000 years ago. Then it collapsed in on itself and filled up with rain and snow. No rivers pour into it so it is the cleanest large body of water in the world, and it is the bluest blue I have ever seen. As we walked along the edge today, I just kept saying Look how BLUE it is. From now on when I say I am blue, this is the blue to which I will be referring. Crater Lake Blue. Deep deep blue. In fact, after I sat down on the edge of the rim and stared down at the blue for a long time (resting my ankle while the others went to the gift shop), I sort of became a little melancholy just staring into it. So so blue. So so deep. The walls that rise around the lake that form the crater are so high that the depth you must go even to reach the lake seems overwhelming. We’ll see, I think we’re going to hike the path down to it tomorrow. My brochure says that coming back up from the lake is the equivalent of climbing 150 flights of stairs. Obviously, if we do it, I won’t be wearing Simon in the backpack.