Posts tagged Arizona

The Weakest Link

weakest linkThe next morning, we awake to a cold drizzle which threatens to wipe out any memory of yesterday’s fun adventure seeing God’s Canvas at Coal Mine Canyon.

We put on our rain gear.  Matt graciously takes Pete’s rain slicker, and Pete smiles broadly as he climbs into Bart’s truck.  He knows he’ll be snug and warm as we ride down a wet, cold highway.  And wet and cold it is.

We know we have sixty miles ahead of us, and the weather has put a damper on our spirits.  Try as I may, I succumb to an attitude reflective of our cloudy skies.  Looking ahead, I cringe at each rise in the road even when those rises are so slight you wouldn’t even know you are going up a hill.  Carol and Mac are bickering with each other.  Martha isn’t talking to anyone.  And Faith appears to be praying.  In my own foul mood, I think nasty thoughts about each of my friends like how Faith’s name fits her pious attitude.  I know I’d never say something like that to Faith’s face.  I like Faith.  I like all of these people, yet here I am thinking horrible things about each of them.  And Matt is not left out of my evil thoughts.  I start wondering what his story really is, how he got to Coal Mine Canyon when it’s obvious he didn’t have a car, and if we all were being duped by some psychopath.

I’m deep in thought when I realize the rest of my biking friends have stopped.  Off in the distance is a herd of deer.

At first I think, “Big deal, it’s a bunch of deer.  So what!”

Matt is quickly putting a telephoto lens on his camera.

Still in my sour mood, I think, “You’re an idiot.  Why would you risk getting that expensive equipment wet?”

I soon see what they are all looking at.  A large mountain lion is approaching the herd.  You can tell it’s trying to displace the herd hoping to identify the weakest link.  And as it so happens, the mountain lion’s plan works.  One deer struggles to stay with the herd.  I can’t tell if it’s an old deer, injured, or what, but it’s obvious the deer is soon going to be lunch.  The lion moves in attacking the deer with a ferocity that scares me.

I think, “Gosh, are we even safe being out here?  I mean, that could be one of us.”

I can’t watch.  I know it’s just Mother Nature at work, but I’ve never liked seeing someone or something weaker being overcome by someone or something stronger.  I turn away from the carnage.

Matt is snapping picture after picture.  I’m sure he’s getting some prize-winning photos, but I want to vomit.  I feel tears welling up, my throat is tightening, and I want to scream and make the lion stop, but I know, by now, it’s too late.  And I also know the lion needs to eat or it will die.

But I’ve put myself in the shoes of that weaker deer.  Am I the weak link in this group of mine?  Am I pulling my weight, holding my own?  I feel like I’m suffocating.  I gulp big breaths of air, hoping to fight back the tears and the fears I was having at that moment.

And just when I think I am going to lose everything, I feel a comforting arm come around my waist and I hear the comforting words of my praying friend.

Faith says, “Life isn’t for weaklings, is it?”

I turn and the tears just flow.  I bury my head into her chest and sob.

Faith continues to talk to me, telling me how very proud she is to have met such a strong person, and how she will forever remember the day she realized that this strong person had a heart bigger than the universe.”

I finally look up and ask, “What in the world are you blabbing about?”

Faith laughs and says, “You, my silly friend.”

“Me!”

“Yes, you.  Only someone with such passion for life would choose to head out on a trip like this, would allow us to befriend you, and would be so kind as to invite a talented photographer, like Matt, to tag along with us.  Had it not been for you, we all would have missed this circle of life.  You are the link that keeps us all together.”

I try to protest, but Faith will not allow it.  She simply says, “You, my dear friend, could never be called a weak link like that poor deer was.  By removing that weak deer from the herd, the rest of them will have an easier time of survival, and that mountain lion will be able to feed her babies.”

I look toward where Matt is pointing his camera.  It’s then that I see three little cubs.  The momma mountain lion takes a large hunk of deer meat over to her babies who tear at it with the same ferocity the momma used to take down the deer.

When the mountain lion family move on, Matt shows us some of the shots he got.  And what I see in the picture of the three cubs eating is the weak link in those siblings.  It’s very apparent that one is weaker because it sits back only getting bits and pieces from the outer edges of the hunk of meat.

In my somber mood, I think, “I hope this little guy grows up to be the strongest out of the three of them.”

And as we continue our ride to the Grand Canyon, the weather clears as does my heart and mind.  That night, as we sit around a warm campfire, Matt thanks all of us for allowing him into our group.  He explains that he’s making his way across the United States via foot, thumb, or the generosity of his fellow human beings.

“I’ve met a lot of wonderful people.  Met a few curmudgeons, too, but I never let that get me down.  Some of the photos I’ve take of them will add to the photo book I’m working on.”

I ask more about his book.  He explains how he worked for the New Yorker for years, loved photographing people and animals, and won a few awards for those pictures.  He finally took the advice of his boss who told him he should travel the country taking pictures of things and writing about what he’s seen.  Matt asks if he could take a picture of me.

I ask, “Why just me?”

“Because you inspire me to continue on.  I only wish you and I were headed in the same direction.  But you are headed where I just came from.”

He snaps a photo of me looking at the campfire flames dancing in the night breeze.  My trip to the Grand Canyon will stick with me for life, not because of what I saw but because of what I learned.  And what I learned was, there’s a reason for everything, and that I’m the luckiest woman in this world to have found such good and talented friends.

And in my real world, I know Mother Nature has her way of dealing with weak links, but for humans to treat other humans like they are useless weak links is just wrong.  We all have a purpose.  Some of us may need a little prodding, but we are all worth saving.

I know at Catholic Charities, we see each client as a valuable person in society.  We try our best to serve the needs of those who have less to call their own, but just because they have less doesn’t make them a lesser person.

So the next time you think someone is a weak link, don’t weed them out in hopes of saving the rest of the herd.  Help them become as strong as all the other links.  Their talents may prove to be the very thing that will change your life forever.  And as always, let’s keep going the distance.

And speaking of going the distance, I continue to work on the second in this series of five books about the travels of Martha and Jake.  If you haven’t read “Going the Distance”, check it out as you wait for my second book to be published later this year.  You can find “Going the Distance” on Amazon.com, or click on this link www.amazon.com/dp/1500552607.

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God’s Canvas

CoalMy riding group is a bit confused when Bart pulls into the Quality Inn Hotel parking lot.  Carol looks at Mac who only shrugs his shoulders.  Faith is asking Pete if we are staying at the hotel.  Martha finally clears up our confusion and says, “Guys, there wasn’t much to pick from here with regards to RV parks.  There’s one behind this hotel.”

And, indeed, there is.  It doesn’t have any WiFi or TV reception, but we are finding that we look at TV less and less.  And as far as internet service, we all know we can do with a little less on-line socializing and web surfing.

Of course, my thought is, “What is my French friend, Lucas, going to think if I don’t get in touch with him on our social media site?”  Well, Lucas is going to have to wait a day.  I know he will understand.

We help Bart get the trailer setup then we head to the grocery store to pick up tonight’s supper ingredients.  We decided to keep it simple with hot dogs, hamburgers, and chips.  Faith throws in a can of baked beans.  I think that isn’t her wisest move, but I say nothing.

Once shopping is done, we head to the Navajo Interactive Museum.  I am in awe of the history of the Navajo nation.  This is a place I want to come back to when I’m done with this trip of mine.

Next, we drive out to Coal Mine Canyon where I meet a nice photographer named Matt.  He’s already taken some wonderful shots of this breathtaking canyon, so I wonder why he’s hanging around.  Of course, my suspicious side kicks in, and I think he’s really not a photographer but someone who is up to no good.  I go so far as to assume he stole the camera and never took any of those pictures.  Faith is as guarded as I am, but, once again, Bart starts talking to Matt as if they were old friends.

Turns out, Matt is waiting for sunset to get his final shots.  And within fifteen minutes, we begin to see what he’s waiting for.  Matt smiles and says, “Now that’s the ‘God’s Canvas’ I’ve been waiting for.”  We all start snapping pictures of this majestic place.  Words cannot describe the feeling you get while standing on this ridge looking out over the rugged canyon.

And Matt describing it as God’s Canvas is spot-on.  There are pinks, oranges, purples, along with some light yellows and dark blues.  And all of my suspicions about Matt wash away when he helps me understand how to get the most out of the camera I’ve owned for years.  He shows me just exactly how to get that professional look.  How can I ever pay Matt back for his kindness?

I decide to invite him to dinner, something I shouldn’t have done since I have not been allowed to buy any food on this trip since meeting up with my friends.  But they all agree that’s the least we could do for Matt’s professional help and knowledge.

That night, as we sit around a campfire talking about today’s events, I wonder where Matt’s travels will take him next?  It’s not long before I find out.  Matt will be headed to the Grand Canyon, our next stop.  We ask if he would like to tag along.

Matt eyes our bikes and says, “I’d love to, but is there any way I could use one of those bikes?”

Pete is quick to say, “Use mine.  I’ll drive your car.”

We settle in for the night, happy that we’ve added one more person to this growing party of mine.  I can hardly wait to see what Matt will be seeing along the road.  I bet he takes a bunch of pictures before we even get to the Grand Canyon.

My final thoughts before falling asleep are, “Thank you, God, for showing me Your canvas of life.  You’ve painted in another person I’ll never forget.  Matt, thanks for showing me God’s Canvas.”

And in my real world, there have been many times I’ve gotten a glimpse of God’s Canvas.  Sometimes it’s a brilliant sunrise on Pikes Peak, or a crystal clear stream.  But often times, God’s canvas shows the harshness of life, like a homeless man in a tattered coat waiting in a soup kitchen line, a child longingly looking in a bakery window only to find out those delicacies aren’t in their parent’s budget.  But if one truly looks at this canvas even when the bleakness is showing, they’ll see God’s love.  God is everywhere we look, in everything we do, and in every person we see.  We just need to be aware of the beauty that surrounds us daily.

Much like Martha and Jake are finding out on their own state-by-state bike trip in my first novel, Going the Distance.  You can read more about this book by clicking on this link – www.amazon.com/dp/1500552607 And as always, let’s keep going the distance.

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A Lousy Passenger

daydreamingWhen one decides to set out seeing the country on a bike, they are in for a huge treat. Not only are you able to stop and truly see your surroundings, but you can smell all the smells and feel one with nature. That is, if you are not me.

I found myself wondering how many days it was going to take us to get to Tuba City, Arizona. I wondered how Bart was going to find a place to park the fifth-wheel. I wondered if we’d find stores to buy food, if the generator would last, if we’d be safe parked in some obscure place.

I heard my riding partners talking about the beauty of this area, how pretty the wild flowers are, and the animals they saw off in the distance, the changing terrain, how nice some of the people on the roads are. I saw none of this. I was too busy seeing my life as a half-empty glass. How could I have allowed myself to get into such a funk?

As Bart pulled into another rancher’s yard asking for permission to stay on his property overnight, the realization of what I’d been doing became clear to me. Carol and Faith were describing all those wild flowers, asking me if I had noticed how pretty they were. Pete and Mac were talking about how Bart has this uncanny way of knowing which ranch or farm to stay at. Martha stood back taking this all in, noticing how out of sync I was with the others.

She says to me, “Penny for your thoughts.”

Startled, I say, “I’m feeling a bit guilty right now. I didn’t see any of those flowers. I didn’t notice any ranches or farms. I rode all those miles that God had placed before me, and I missed it all, because I was busy worrying about everything that didn’t happen.”

Martha smiles and says, “But you did get a nice visit from God.”

She walks toward Bart who is busy talking with the rancher. The rancher is pointing exactly where Bart can park the fifth-wheel. I stand there taking in the entire scene and pondering Martha’s last words to me. I feel a lightness overcome me. Martha was right. God had come to visit me. I bet He was riding alongside me all those miles. And I missed that, too. Or had I?
God found the right way to open my eyes to all that was around me. He gave me the comfort and protection of my friends who help me see my path in life. How very blessed I felt at that moment. I say a quick prayer that this newly found awareness does not leave me. I pray that I see all that God wants me to see. Live was very good again.

And in my real world, both my sister and I have been feeling like we are on the cusp of a major change in our lives. My sister and her husband know where they want to end up, but I do not. I have been feeling like they are more in control of their destiny, where my destiny is so unclear. I felt myself being slightly jealous that my sister had a P L A N. All I had was some idle thoughts and a little faith.

I say “little” because if I had a lot of faith, I would not be here telling you what a lousy passenger I’ve been. Through the little bit of faith I have, I learned to let God drive my bus. But while I allowed God to drive my bus, I was not looking at all that was going on around me. I sat on that bus staring at a blank scene in my head, wondering where God was taking me, when we were going to get there, and what my life would be like after I got there.

I didn’t see one thing that went by. Until now. Last night, God pointed out to me how perfect a fit my dog, Vanna, was when I got her to replace the passing of my previous Irish setter. I realized, immediately, just how much I had been missing while God drives me to my next destination.

I know that He does not want us to miss a thing because we are worried about where we are going, when we’ll get there, what will happen once we get there. He wants us to see everything that lies between here and there.

I made a vow last night, that I would stop being a lousy passenger, and that I’d start seeing this world the way God wants me to see it. So don’t be a lousy passenger on God’s bus. Look at what He wants you to see, enjoy everything while He takes us to our next destination. For what we see on the way may play a big part in what we do once we get there.
I also discovered my sister was being a lousy passenger. She, too, was busy thinking about where she knew God was taking them, but didn’t know how long it would take to get there. He made a little visit to her, too, and now she’s working at being a better passenger knowing God’s timing is perfect. Praise the Lord.

And as always, let’s keep going the distance. God bless.

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Life’s Ups and Downs

Ups and DownsGosh, it seems like my biking friends and I are making good progress getting, but I feel an emptiness. I don’t know if it’s because I was outvoted about not staying in Hurricane and Apple Valley, Utah, or if I’m just feeling road fatigue. My mind thinks back when it was just me. I went as far as I felt like going, stopping where my heart felt content.

Now, I have these great people helping me achieve my goal, but as with anything when more than one is involved you have a difference of opinion. I didn’t feel like I’d expressed my discontent with traveling the forty-three miles to Colorado City, Arizona, but they all seem to be leaving me alone. And as with any bad day one has, I’ve put them in a lose/lose situation. If they rode close to me and tried to have a conversation, I’d probably tell them I needed my space. But they’ve already figured that out and have given me my space. I don’t like it.

Could I grow up some and simply ride up with them and start a conversation? Yes. Will I do that? Probably not today. I need the time to get in touch with myself, with God, and with all that surrounds me. I need to make sure I know how lucky I am to have these fine people watching over me, giving me a place to sleep, never asking for money for room and board, but just being good-hearted people. I need to look at the beauty that surrounds me and thank God for all He’s given me. And I need to give myself a quick kick in the behind and tell myself to get out of my funk. Life is too good to waste on such petty occurrences.

As we approach Colorado City, Arizona, my heart lightens. Carol slows up enough to say, “Hey, I know you were wanting to stay at those towns. I’m sorry we didn’t, but I’m glad to have those miles behind us.”

“I’m OK, Carol. I’m glad to be here in Arizona. I’ve spent way too much time on this trip already. It’s time to get some serious mileage behind me.”

“Well, we’ve decided that you get to pick the next town we’ll be staying in.”

I laugh, knowing Tuba City, Arizona is the next town, and that was 190 miles from here with not much in between. It was then I realized how important it was for me to be with my blessed friends. At least we’d have the fifth-wheel to stay in even if it were on some country road in the middle of nowhere. My heart lightened, and I gave Carol a hug and said, “We are a team. I choose to do what’s best for the team.”

That evening, after thanking my friends for taking such good care of me, I crawled into bed and thanked my Lord for ALL He has given me.

And in my real world, my ups and down came yesterday when I had to have my fifteen-year old sheltie euthanized. It wasn’t a hard decision for me, for I knew he was sick beyond repair. And that became evident when the first shot that simply relaxes them almost took him out. He was not only sick, but he was tired and old. His life had come to an end.

I mourned my dear friend, but awoke this morning knowing his misery was gone. He’s probably going around heaven right now telling all the other dogs that there are rules to rules to be followed. His cousin, Zu, is probably creating the rules as any good German shepherd does, but Sparky is ensuring that all the other dogs are obeying those rules.

And I know I’ll now have the time to focus on my needy Irish setter, Vanna. She loved her “mommy time” last night. She’ll be having her ups and downs, too, as she morphs into being the one and only, but once she figures out she is the queen bee, she’ll have a perfect life.

So when you are facing the ups and downs of everyday life, know that you aren’t the lonesome stranger. We have to have those down times to appreciate the good things we have that we’ve ignored. And I find it’s best to give someone you love a big hug. They’ll help you through those down times.

Peace to all of you and let’s keep going the distance.

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