Today’s post is the second in a series about the kinds of Life Experiences that enrich our lives. This one recalls Extraordinary Places. If you’d like to read the first post, Extraordinary Events, please see the publication for June 23, 2014. Extraordinary Changes will follow soon.
Shari’s Life Experiences – selected choices from a full closet: Extraordinary Places
The edge of the Grand Canyon which opened up before me, an mile-wide, golden-red cleft in the earth at the edge of a plateau. At the precipice you could see across to the North Rim, and forever along the silver strand of the Colorado River at the bottom of the canyon. Massive sculptures crafted of granite and limestone rose from the valley floor. Our sons were 6 and 10 and as rambunctious as the canyon’s squirrels. The sun breathed viciously hot, but you could peer to the heart of the Earth.
Standing above the original Queens Bath in Kalapana, Hawaii. I was only 4 but mesmerized by its beauty, a drop of liquid emerald in the ferny rain forest. We’d toured Kauai, Maui, and Hawaii for a week or so, and I was one of only a very few children who got to hike with the adults. The pool was later destroyed by volcano, so memory is all that exists for anyone. This was the first time I lived in Hawaii, on Oahu for about a year while my dad interned at Tripler Army Hospital. My brother was born on Oahu.
A train ride at the last day of kindergarten in Enterprise, Alabama where my dad served his second year of internship in the US Army. We rode probably 5 – 10 miles, stopped for sack lunches (did I eat peanut butter and jelly?) at the station, rode home over clackety tracks – what thrills for 5-year-olds. I don’t remember speaking a word, and whether that was because I was terrified of our teacher or simply enchanted by the view from the window, I can’t say.
Waimea Falls, Oahu, visited 4-5 times when I was 11 and 12, our second time living on Oahu, now with a younger sister who’d been born in New Jersey – not as spectacular as other falls around the world, but so lovely, a tropical fairyland reached via a narrow road that snaked through and overgrown forest.
Driving across the Rocky Mountains during a blizzard, the raging snow pelting us nearly horizontally – not sure if my dad was lost or couldn’t find a safe place to stop but I thought we were all near death. I can’t even remember the year or how old I was, maybe a young teenager, and I don’t know where we were going, but the terror is fresh.
Carmel, California. Like the wedding itself, our honeymoon was low key and high on emotions. Of course. Nuff said.
The Detroit Institute of Arts. I stood in the center of cavernous foyer to see the Detroit Industry Murals, a series of frescoes by Mexican artist Diego Rivera. Thank heaven they were many feet above my head. Had they been closer, I would have ducked from fear of them crushing me. Figuratively and by size, they are impressive. It was the only thing I liked about the nearly four years we lived in Detroit. Other than the wonderful friends we made – gold in a state composed of slag.
Point Pelee National Park, the southernmost tip of Canada. It dips its skinny and mutable sandy peninsula into Lake Eerie, its forests of massive trees hosting Monarch butterfly roosts while the insects wait for milkweed to bloom so they can feast. We’d come by chance at the perfect time, and were shocked to see the quivering rusty-orange trees fly away into millions of butterflies. The grassy marsh balanced thousands of red wing blackbirds on weedy tendrils and farmers along the road sold us mushmellons and fresh bread.
Drove through the tunnel as you enter Yosemite, stopped to view the classic postcard of Half Dome and El Capitan linked by the verdant smile of Yosemite Valley. A day later we hiked up Bridal Veil Falls, then to Vernal Falls and finally to Nevada Falls where we met our two sons and about 16 members of their Boy Scout troop. They had hiked 10 days from Mammoth across the mountains, down through Yosemite Valley, scaled Half Dome (well, you know, it was there) and met us at what felt like the birthplace of beauty. But they were hungry and exhausted – and stinky; our younger son, one of the youngest Scouts, had a sprained ankle and was so glad his dad carried his pack the rest of the way.
The Flatirons of Boulder, Colorado, rising blade-like through the snow with the Rockies looming beyond – majestic. We were on our way to visit our younger son and his new bride and had landed in a snowstorm in late December. I thought the thousands of lights that lined the runway were some kind of quirky holiday display but soon realized they were hundreds of snow plows lined up side by side, each of which swept across the runway after a plane landed. They must have moved all through the night, back and forth across the runways, pushing back the snow, granting everyone safe landing at Denver Airport in Colorado.
People have been an integral part of each experience. My world is enriched by all of you, extraordinary, each and every one. Love you all.