I suppose you need to know a few things before I tell my story. I grew up on the East Coast - the highest elevation in my home state is a hill down the street from my high school (450 ft). Moving to Northern Illinois, the landscape is even more depressing. Not only are there no mountains, but it seems like the weather machine is stuck on "boneshattering cold," with some maintenance person frantically pressing "simulated Ice Age" to see if it makes any difference. It doesnt't.
Where have you been?
|Something Illini may be unfamiliar with: terrain.|
During a session at orientation, titled "Paying Attention at Your Project," one of the activities was to sit still and listen. Just listen. There were a couple birds tweeting irregularly. Some footsteps on gravel. The breeze through Douglas Firs.
No traffic. No sirens. No airplanes!
Last night, for devotions, we each meditated on a word for ten minutes. Our goal was to find a quiet place without distraction, so I sat on the couch in the dark, lit a candle, and closed my eyes. After about fifteen cars and a few dog barks, it struck me how rare it is for us to find a true moment of quiet. Before orientation, I had probably never been somewhere so peaceful. Here's to you, Myrtlewood, for just being.
A Road Less Traveled
(It's Just Too Long)
Sadly, all things must come to an end. The three of us were blessed with the task of driving a diesel van 1,807 miles back across the country after orientation was done. There's nothing quite as striking as the noise of a diesel engine droning on after the most peaceful three weeks of your life.
We left Friday around noon. Driving without stopping we could have been home by midnight on Saturday. Because we enjoy things like sanity, we chose to take our time, see some sights, and eat once in a while. Friday we drove through Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and into Montana. The Columbia River is a scenic drive, but then you cross into Washington and it starts raining instantly. It's almost like they're trying to preserve their reputation as a bland and dreary state. Oh, that's just Seattle.
Gee I'm offensive. I hope nobody cares! I just read a Bill Bryson book in which he rips on just about everything he sees in the United States. He insulted Delaware, which is rare, but alright because I do so occasionally. So I hope you can take these ramblings lightly.
OK so the drive through Washington was depressing. Idon't remember Idaho at all, except that it ended, which was nice. Into the evening we drove, Montana stretching onward endlessly. The receipts say we ate at Taco Bell for dinner. I fell asleep. You should feel privileged to have this information disseminated with my express written consent.
Saturday! What a day! After driving for a couple hours, we arrived at Yellowstone National Park. I had been there as a small child, but unlike watching a favorite childhood movie again, this did not destroy the happy memories. In fact, this time I actually got to DRIVE!
Here's my guide to driving in Yellowstone:
0. Look at your map. There might be roads closed. We did not know this. We drove an extra 2 hours to get back to the route we wanted.
1. Drive 5 under the speed limit.
2. Take pictures. All the time. This is best accomplished with a co-pilot. I do not recommend driving off some of the ledges.
3. If you see something you like, pull over.
4. If there is an animal in front of you, pull over. It probably won't. If it's a buffalo, pull alongside it and offer to take it's picture for a small fee. They are kind folks.
|Sorry, friend. Hitchhiking is only legal in Oregon.|
5a. As they pass you, stick your tongue out because they're obviously either a) late for a flight or b) about to hit a buffalo
6. Pack a lunch and toilet paper. We drove through October 16th. On October 15th, 95% of the park shuts down. The remaining 5% does not include a toilet.
7. Post your photos online. Preferably on your blog.
|Possibly a pet of a park ranger. This fox was just hanging out in the street|
|These people were everywhere! We have 300 photos to prove it.|
|I think this was an Amish mule deer. He was about five feet from my face when I stepped out of the van|
After Yellowstone, the most interesting stop for me was Mount Rushmore. I had never been, so this was a treat. I may not be a flag-waving, cry-during-the-national-anthem patriot, but I'm proud of some of the ideals that our nation was founded on. Plus it's people's faces carved into a mountain! THAT IS CRAZY! We walked up to the viewing area in pitch black, wondering which wall the mountain was hiding behind. It took a minute for our eyes to adjust and realize that they had turned the lights off.
Now, I blame budget cutbacks. These are hard times for everyone, even dead presidents. But isn't there some sort of fund set up to keep a light on for them? It seems rude, like the mountain is just a display at a museum that gets covered up at night. These are four of the best presidents in the universe! Now, if George Washington had a giant sleep mask, and Lincoln had a stocking cap, maybe that would be alright. OK rant over. With some clever camera work and help from a Canadian photographer, we managed to get a few photos in the dark.
|I'm just speculating, but it may be more beautiful at night. Without the lights.|
What are we here for?This house that the three of us live in is a pretty new thing for BVS. Sometimes I feel like a lab rat in some grandiose experiment that could change the world. Sometimes I get grumpy and shut my door. You know, it depends on my day. There is a lot of struggle that goes on daily in our house. It is not always fun, it doesn't always feel right, but the peace in the quiet, understanding in the conversation, smiles at the table, and love all around make it clear that this is something beautiful, something from God. That's my opinion, for what it's worth.
Your new friend,