That idea I grabbed onto last month, to make lists when I’m incapable of the kind of prose that would be more satisfying to writer and reader, has not worked well for me.
Maybe it boils down to priorities… life is too short to dash off an easy type of list when one might instead use the precious moments to 1) Think on how to make just one list item more beautiful, or 2) Forget trying to preserve in writing anything in particular from the experience or contemplation, and just BE. Play one more game with the children, sit on the deck in the dry and sunny air — or sleep!
But now, near the end of my stay in Colorado, out of desperation I’ve condensed a few thoughts into words, at the extreme boring level, the list of lists to write:
LIST of LISTS to MAKE
Big and little ways Soldier and Joy are kind and generous to me.
Additional friends and family I’ve been able to see while I’m here.
Books the children and I have read together.
Names of the children’s dolls and stuffies.
Plants that the Seek app hasn’t been able to identify.
Delicious meals that Joy has made.
Darling things the children have said.
Topics of helpful and informative conversations I’ve had with Soldier and Joy.
Internet kinks and articles to follow up on.
Walks we have taken.
Species of willow trees.
Maybe I won’t get around to writing even one of these lists — think of that!
One afternoon when I was sitting on the sunny deck (still in Colorado for another few days) to read my book club book, Laddie came out and stood close by, searching my eyes and smiling his shy smile. He commented on how I wasn’t making much progress in Frankenstein. I teased him, “That’s because every time I sit down to read you come and talk to me.”
“You could go in your room and shut the door,” he said.
“But I like to talk to you, Laddie. It doesn’t matter if I finish this book. I can read it on the plane when I leave here.” Then we chatted for awhile, and more children came and went and climbed up on my lap and down again. Quickly and often the innocent and sweet conversation erupts into loud squabbling, but eventually equilibrium is restored and we go on.
The flowers and creatures that I typically focus on here are complex and fascinating, but they are nothing so glorious as the human soul. When that inner person is glimpsed in the clear eyes and honest, unselfconscious tenderness of a child, I so wish that my powers of attention and description were better, that I could convey to you something of this child, this unique personality.
If I put up a photo of a flower that i encounter, along with not much more than its name, it doesn’t grieve me that I have failed to “capture” and convey its complexity and deep beauty. But when it comes to people, everything I might say seems like an unworthy reduction and distortion.
When I was the parent bringing up my own children, my thoughts were naturally more on training and teaching, and forming the character of the children. Now that is not my job, and I am at more leisure to observe and enjoy each grandchild as he is, at whatever moment I am present with him. Since none of them lives near me, more and more the most important thing I can do to affect their future is to pray.
With my limited writing skills, I will continue to tell you about the birds and the flowers.
(Photos from previous years and younger grandchildren.)
I’m the opposite of bored here in Colorado with my son’s family, but I have had a terrible yawning problem since I arrived ten days ago. It must be the altitude (7300′), which I will blame for the sleepiness that comes over me at times, too.
Today was the least yawny and sleepy. Soldier drove us south a bit to a lower elevation, where we also enjoyed warmer weather while we played around at the Royal Gorge. Maybe everyone has heard about this canyon above which a suspension bridge was built in 1929, 955 feet above the bottom, where the Arkansas River flows along a single railroad track.
It was another happy chance to identify wildflowers and plants. I’ve been doing that a lot.
This penstemon called Beardtongue is all over around the Gorge.
Also cholla cactus and prickly pear.
There were a lot of fun things to do at the Royal Gorge park. We all rode the gondola across the gorge, and before walking back across the pedestrian bridge the children played on giant slides and tunnels, and rode the carousel. I took pictures of plants — and grandchildren, of course.
All week I’ve just been hanging around with the tribe doing much of what they do, or merely observing the more rambunctious activities of the boys, and listening to little Clara’s feminine conversation.
The cold and rainy weather has passed. The last of it was the evening we sat bundled up with coats and blankets to watch Liam’s Little League game out on the plains. Now the temps are moving into the high 70’s, and I can get sunburned sitting on the deck so close to the sun.
Many of the wildflowers I’ve identified are scrubby looking sorts with the most diminutive flowers. Also the beautiful blue Royal Penstemon at top, which we discovered just down the path from the karate studio while Liam was in class, along with purple Stemless Point-vetch. Magpies, robins, flickers and Mountain Chickadees flit and sing among the pines and firs and spruces that grow thick in the neighborhood.
Just at the edge of the back yard is a giant clump of White Willow trees where the boys play. Laddie told me about the Bible studies he likes to have with their rabbit stuffie in particular, on a rock in the middle, encircled by more than a dozen trunks arching up and away.
Yesday everyone was digging and planting in hills and boxes, so I gave Brodie one of his birthday presents early: a pair of kids’ work gloves. He wore them all day, long after all the work was done, he loves them so.
A wolf spider with an egg sac was disturbed by the digging and ran away from the squash hills. This evening while I was with Clara under the play structure in the back yard, I saw a Cutworm Wasp digging a hole in the sand that had escaped the sandbox. I decided not to show you the wasp’s unremarkable photo, but will close with the spider, because that sleepiness is coming over me again, and tomorrow is another big day. Happy June!
Here I am in Colorado, with my son “Soldier’s” family. It’s quite different from my last visit to the state, which was in the fall of 2018 when Clara was a newborn. The sky is blue and the grass green, the trees that were bare and brown back then are leafing out and the conifers have tender needle tips.
One day while Soldier was at work the rest of us walked at Monument Rock, through forests of gambel oaks to a monolith of sandstone. Other people on the path smiled to see all the children bending over one wildflower after another as we tried to find their names in my Seek app. “Which ones have you seen?” they asked. “The bluebells? And the Spring Beauties?”
Yes, we had. And many others: Crossflower, Nuttal’s Larkspur, Fringed Sagebrush, Tall Western Groundsel, Leafy Spurge, and Field Pennycress.
We were charmed to make the acquaintance of a tiny flower that Laddie was first to notice, a soft blue blur low to the ground at the side of the trail. We identified it as Small-flowered Blue-eyed Mary (collinsia). “Pleased to meet you, Mary!” the boys said, and carefully shook delicate stems.
Along the trail we also stopped to peer at small fish in a pond, and I collected sand for my collection at the base of Monument Rock. The sun gets hot here, at the eastern base of the Rocky Mountains, and it felt good to me to be in that dry, slow oven. Seeing Joy and Clara on the sandstone path made me think of that book I love, Along Sandy Trails. One of the boys reminded me that the girl in that book did not wear pigtails.
At home later, we zoomed in on the picture of the Mary flowers to admire their fine lines and clear colors. And we walked around the house to compare the Bittercress there with the Field Pennycress we’d seen on our outing. May appears to be the perfect time for a wildflower lover like me to visit Colorado and join with my grandboys to make new flower friends. And we met a grasshopper, too!