Saturday, June 25, 2011

mountains and molehills

So, I took 18 grade seven students up the Stawamus chief. Well, not really, they raced ahead, and I took myself up. After the first 30 minutes, or less, it was just me. Stubborn me. I should have given up, I should have turned back. If it wasn't for misreading the map that made me think I was 1/2 way there after one hour I would have. But, I didn't. And various strangers along the way encouraged me. "You're almost there!" And I was if you counted two ladders, two heavy chains and two blocks of solid, up-hill rock.

And, besides, how many people have gotten to within the last block of the top to have 18 students cheering, and encouraging them. I couldn't turn back then. But, I probably should have.

And, it was lovely at the top. Although a scary photo someone took showed the white around my mouth. Lactic acid build-up someone said. I did belly out to fly over the edge. That was something.

And then I had to start down.

Accompanied by a student and her Dad. They chatted, they teased, they went really slow, because I could not go any faster. Every step was agony. My right thigh muscle gave out. Sometimes I would teeter on a step and although I willed myself to step down, my body simply said - no. How embarrassing. How was I going to get down?

One stair at a time. One orange reflective sticker at a time. They are placed about every fifteen feet. I would will myself to one. And stop. And look for the next one.

Every staircase I took on my bum. I used my arms on every tree I could find to hold my weight off my thighs. My legs were wobbly. I wanted to cry. But, there was this little girl with me, and I didn't want to scare her. But, I was scared.

Maybe it was too much for this 55 year old body. Maybe, it would be my undoing. People have had heart attacks on the Grouse grind. Maybe, too, on the chief. What was I thinking? Luckily I have a strong heart. Or, maybe it is a stubborn one.

I don't know how long it took to get up. I don't know how long it took to get down. I know in total it was 7 hours. What was I thinking?

When I made it down I couldn't believe it. I was so sore, so tired, so unbelievably, bone weary exhausted.

I drove back to camp.

Everyone was finishing dinner, listening to the hockey game (we lost), being thirteen. Well, except for the grown-ups, they were acting somewhat older.

I sat gingerly, wondering how I would ever get up. Someone brought me dinner, that I was too tired too eat. A parent gave me a foot bath and a leg massage with arnica. I think I fell in love with her for that 30 minutes.

But, I did get up. I did sleep the next three nights in a tent. I did go river rafting two days later. I did it, all. And, man was I sore.

It is amazing what this body can do. This body that I often wish was thinner, or tauter, or, less achy.

But, look what it did for me. And I made 18 thirteen year olds proud of me. I was proud of me.

Sometimes mountains really are mountains. Sometimes they aren't. We have to climb them all the same. And, we have to get down off them as well.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


Funny how things go. I had been writing report cards all day, and needed to get out of the house for a bit. So, off to the store to get some ingredients for dinner. And there they were. Outside the store, huge buckets of tulips. And I thought of Brian's Dad.

He died in the April of a year, after far too many months in the discharge planning unit of VGH. I don't know about now, but in the mid-nineties this was a unit that was old, and crowded and depressing. Fortunately for him he was mostly blind, and the nurses were very, very kind to him.

He was bed-ridden having had his leg amputated some months before. But this isn't a sad story. Not at all.

He could see the roof garden outside the window nearest his bed. He could see the tulips blooming there. He commented on their beauty. The one beautiful thing that could be found in that desolate place.

Brian visited him every day. Every day. After long hours at work, and before coming home to his two young children he spent time with his Father. I don't think their relationship had been easy in the early years. Not because it was hard, but because that generation of fathers didn't talk about deep things with their children.

Beverley Arthur Taylor was the kindest person I have ever met. He was also the most truly, deeply, absolute believer in Jesus I have every met. He never preached about it, he never forced his faith on anyone. He just had this deep abiding belief in Jesus that sustained him through his life. And his life was not easy.

When I would visit, I would read to him from the Bible. He had favourite passages, favourite psalms. Those passages have now become my favourites too. He told me once I could be a pastor. I think I could. Maybe in another lifetime. Maybe later in this one.

So, although this isn't meant to be sad, I am weeping as I write this. He was a wonderful Grandpa to my kids. My son still tours with the fiddle he made. He always had ice-cream bars in the freezer for the kids, and could make his fiddle talk to the kids. He would wear silly earrings out of the Christmas crackers all through Christmas dinner. He found his way, by bus, to my bedside when each of my children were born. He held my son, his first grand child, and in all honesty asked me when his eyes would open.

I remember the day he died. I had said goodbye to him the night before. He had said he wanted to go. I told him to ask Jesus to take him. Jesus did, and his son was beside his bed for the passing.

So, back to the tulips. We organized the funeral, and I went to the flower store to order the flowers for the casket. I ordered tulips. The florist told me you can't use tulips for funerals because they open too soon, because they are not appropriate.

Oh yeah?

There were two huge bouquets of tulips that day on his casket. His 12 year old grandson requested time alone in the viewing room to play for his Grandpa one last time.

Sometimes the heart doesn't feel big enough for what it has to bear.


They always remind me of my Brian's Dad.