I should have started blogging a long time ago.
I mean, I started writing when I was five years old–full fledged books bound together with staples and complete with crayon illustrations. I would read to my dolls. And I always made sure that the characters had some sort of grand adventure–something that made them learn something along the way and eventually change for the better. That continued on throughout my life when I’d write. The adventures changed of course–I’m not exactly still writing about a trip to a scary dentist who collects teeth or about the ant who had to find his way home through a humongous backyard. But there always has to be some kind of journey because that’s so much more important than the destination–or ending–of any story.
So I guess it’s appropriate that at the start of this first blog it’s also right at the start (we’re a year in now–but who’s counting) of a new “Lemmon Life” with my husband and my career. It’s pretty much the trailhead of where life truly begins. Everything that has come before was merely rehearsals 😉 I think it’s also appropriate that my first post is about our family trip last week. The best week ever. The week we traveled through country roads to Saint Maries, Idaho and saw the very places that my dad grew up. It was an adventure. And like I said–those are the best stories. So here we go. Blog post #1 starts out with a bang.
My dad was diagnosed with stage four cancer several months ago and it wasn’t too much longer after that that my family decided we wanted to take a trip. And not just any trip. It would be a trip back home. For my dad, that is. I feel pretty attached to Idaho too–for four years Idaho was my home as I attended college, and to this day I get days where I feel homesick for it. So following him home was secretly my “Welcome Home” too.
Our trip started out long. Hot. Kind of boring with extra-long bathroom breaks and cramped muscles. (Sorry, Aunt LeeAnn 😉
But as soon as our car wheels started up the country road toward Northern Idaho, the lake to our left reflecting the base of the emerald mountains like glass and the outstretched wings of hawks disturbing the water with ripples that twinkled like crushed diamonds–we fell into revered silence. We flicked on some church hymns, and appropriately, “I Know that My Redeemer Lives” was suddenly the backdrop to our entrance into this untouched, watercolored country. We all kept our eyes out our individual windows, and I’m certain we all had glassy, wet eyes. We knew what this trip entailed–but what we didn’t know was how a curtain of mountains and lavender meadows would tug at our hearts and remind us, in a sacred sort of way, who really holds the cards in our lives.
After a peaceful trip into Saint Maries and winding through the itty-bitty town to the home we were staying in, we settled in and met Karen and Fred, friends of my Aunt’s. They had grown up with my dad (even though he was a little tike when they last saw him. Hard to imagine 😉
They’re angels. I’m pretty much convinced of this. Every day they had something new for us to see and do, and I noticed that the great big adventures we had were scattered with little details that stick out SO much more in my memory. Those really are the big things.
Here’s some perfect examples during our 7-day stay.
1) The Camper
My sister Ashley, me, and my husband stayed in a camper outside the house. It was kind of reminiscent of still being banished to the kids’ table at Thanksgiving when you’re 13 and all your cousins are 5 and 6 and sticking peas up their noses. But it turned out to be one of the best parts of the trip. Hands down. One night, we stayed up ’til Lord knows when telling ghost stories and freaking ourselves out so much that Ashley climbed in bed with us and we jumped at every noise–as if a zombie apocalypse would occur right here out in the middle of nowhere. Of course it would.
Another night, there was a lightning storm, and Ashley saying “Whoa. Did you see THAT one?” followed us well into the night. I’m sure she was watching those lightning bolts well after we were asleep. And I’m sure I fell asleep smiling that night.
2) Floating the River–and almost ASKING to get lost.
We saw so many beautiful bodies of water while in Idaho, but my favorite was the St. Joe. It’s so clear that you can see straight down to the bottom and all the rocks are different colors, as if individually painted by hand and intricately placed. We blew up cheap inner-tubes til we were lightheaded then boarded our vessels and set out for the New World (or so it seemed in our wild imaginations). We floated so far, laughing the entire way and holding hands so we didn’t separate.
We rolled over shallow rapids and eventually realized we’d gone way too far without a car at the other end to pick us up. That’s when we decided we were on some show on The Animal Channel and would soon confront alligators and hypothermia and have to make a shelter from mud and leaves. I think the most fun part of it all was not knowing how the heck we’d get back to where we’d come from–and not really caring, because after all, it was an adventure and in our minds, the sun would never set.
3) Becoming SMALL in the wilderness
Driving quads up into wilderness, far from any paved path, was simply amazing. As we drove, we spotted elk drinking from a river down below, curling into the trees like crystal. We saw crawdads nestled under rocks in the shallow, warm river and thick wilderness clothed in green and yellow and pops of purple that stretched out farther than the eye can see. I was taken aback by how insignificant everything else I had usually worried about seemed now. I’m so small in the grand scheme of things. Yet so loved by this MASTER creator of ALL THIS. It was humbling that I got to see a place seldom seen and see a horizon only marked by strokes of God’s brush. In our caravan of quads I saw the way that everyone gawked at our surroundings, and I knew they were all feeling the same way.
4) The Walk
One night, I just felt like we should all take a walk. We had been having crazy adventures every day–fishing, running around in water shoes, and getting tans that made us blend in with the dirt–but we hadn’t just strolled yet, taking in the silence. So me, Matt, Ashley, and my parents took off toward a meadow that extends in front of Karen and Fred’s house. While we walked, we spotted FIFTEEN deer feeding in the fields. Every single one stopped to watch us walk by, their ears perked with interest, their white tails flicking in the warm breeze. But it seemed that as soon as we smiled, casually passing and oohhing and ahhiing over how pretty they were, they went back to feeding–considering us as fellow animals in their beautiful world. We spotted a toad leaping from a nearby creek and we stared into the bright red and orange sky as the sun fell asleep. And in that moment, I soaked in this walk with my family. I tried to take mental snapshots of everything–the conversation, the footsteps, the way my hand brushed my husband’s and we both smiled at each other. I’ll never forget that walk with my four family members. 15 deer, a toad, and one beautiful sunset as our soundtrack.
5) Watching dad see it all again
I admit, this blog might seem a little selfish. Okay Kayla, you might be thinking. YOU had fun. What about your dad? Wasn’t this trip for him?! You’re right. #istandcorrected But in actuality, that was the detail I was leaving for last because it affected me the most. I didn’t think I’d write about it–I actually thought I’d store it away somewhere in my memory bank and just peer in on it someday, sinking back into the memory. But I realize that if I share it, that’s way more kind than keeping it all to myself.
During the week we saw so many things that only my dad has as a past memory. His old school, the local hangout where he’d have fries with that special sauce, the river he used to fish, the house he grew up in and the dining room where he’d pull taffy. And his eyes lit up like fireflies each time. During those moments, I’d watch him the most. To be honest, the places we saw with historical significance to Dad is very blurred in my mind, but his face is very vivid. I could tell he was a kid again in his room, a school kid again in front of his school. I could tell he was a hunter and a gangly kid with a tent in his pack trudging through the Saint Marie’s woods. And he finally felt like he was at home. One night as I was reading by the faint light of a lamp in the house, my dad got a glass of water and stood by the huge picture window overlooking the Saint Marie’s countryside. The sun was setting and he became a silhouette of black against a vibrant orange canvas. He stared out toward the mountains, drink in hand, thoughts lost somewhere out there.
I studied him from where I sat, wishing I could somehow read his thoughts. Wishing I could see the memories that he played over in his mind. I also briefly wondered if he wondered if we’d ever come back or if this sunset was it for us. Eyes filled with tears, I reminded myself to not forget that. It was poignant to me in that moment that we age–our bodies turn frail and diseased, our minds dull over the years–but this vast world where we learned who we are, the places where we fell in love, made friends, laughed, bled, learned to fish, learned who God is—this vast place doesn’t die with us. It continues on, fostering another soul, teaching another child who will someday stand here just like my dad, overlooking the mountains, remembering days gone by.
It touched me.
The fact is, a lot touched me this week. I love my family more than I did two weeks ago. I honor God’s creations more–and I didn’t even know that was possible. And I learned to chill out more and just listen to the wind. Watch a hummingbird. Stop paddling and let the current take your raft for awhile. Learn from a silent man overlooking a silent countryside. THAT is what speaks volumes. THAT is what your heart keeps.