Friday, September 29, 2006

Reading, writing, and terror

I watch my beautiful daughter enter her school every morning eager to find her friends, eager to learn and perform and play. In a school just miles away in Colorado parents do the same only to find out their children have entered a terror zone. Bailey, Colorado, a small sleepy town in the middle of nowhere finds it's schoolchildren under attack from a crazed shooter who hand-picks several young girls to sexually assault before murdering one. Today in Wisconsin a kid pulls a gun on his principal shooting him three times before being restrained by the custodian and others. These aren't terrorist attacks from the outside--they are random, senseless acts made scarier because they originate from within and they seem to be growing. I don't know which to fear most, the militant Islamic fundamentalists or our own home-grown psychotics. I know the first group wants to kill us on philosophical grounds, the second just wants to harm others in an extension of harming themselves.

My prayers are with all the innocents involved and especially for the students whose innocence and security have been shattered. I wonder what this generation will grow up to think about the world they live in. They are aware that there are bad guys from other countries that want to hurt us, but they may be more worried and confused about the guy or kid next door who for no known reason decides to slaughter other kids. Maybe it is correct to say we live in a time of terror. Our kids probably think so.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Way up high

Across from Allie's school is this impressive eagle's nest perched high on a what I think used to be a electric pole. It must be 6 feet in diameter. I don't know is it's ever occupied, but it would be something to see eagles nesting there.

The snow is fast melting with temperatures over 60 degrees today. I saw people walking around in short sleeves so our winter interlude is over for now.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Surprises and Constants

I can't remember ever waking up to snow on September 21st. The county is blanketed in snow and more is falling; however I think it will melt away as the cold front moves out.

Neither rain or snow stops Brother Nathaniel from his parading for Jesus on the busy intersection of Highway 9. This eccentric "monk" is the former Milton Kapner from Pittsburgh and a former member of a rock group that opened for acts like Alice Cooper and Jethro Tull. He is on his corner every morning waving and high-fiving traffic. We look forward to seeing him on our way to drop Allie off at school. We admire his dedication to showing up every morning-though we're not sure exactly he's dedicated to. It's Jesus, we think, but it looks more like boogy-ing and waving hello that he's addicted to.

Long ago in our town there was Albert, the ancient WWI veteran who walked from dawn to dusk every day around town in his fatigues. Sara tells the story of "Orchestra Man", the odd fellow who strolled Ward Parkway every morning leading an imaginary orchestra with an imaginary wand. Every town needs its crazy guy. I think we envy a little the freedom from constraints that the crazy guy lives by. The rest of us are stuck behind the wheel, good citizens rushing to work. Being crazy looks appealing sometimes, and fun.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The view from here

Summit County got a mix of rain, snow, a little light hail, and intermittent sunshine all in one day. At once the sky would be dark and the mountaintops obscured in misty clouds. Then the snow flurries would begin, but the flakes would melt on contact with the earth. Then the sun would peek through like a second sunrise and the valley would glisten like after a good rain, but you'd see that the mountain-tops had been well dusted with snow. It was a bit confusing.

Robert arrived Friday and is suffering that huffing-puffing condition caused by high altitude. We are over 9,000 feet. Allison and I are already adjusted; I'm trotting up stairs at this point. I have to remember to take it easy on Robert until he catches up, although I'm anxious for a hiking mate. We did get out today for the Parade of Homes. We put on the blue paper booties like all the other droolers and toured through several beautiful homes in the prestigious "Three Peaks" until hunger and thirst and "there's something we'll never have," overtook us and we went for lunch instead. We sat at a table near the window in the Butterhorn Cafe in Frisco and watched as the wind whipped snow off the mountains down the long corridor of Frisco's Main Street. Robert commented that I had a permanent smile on my face. Truth is, we were all in high spirits; an involuntary reaction to being in the midst of such charm. Charming now. Maybe months from now, as the weather grows harsher, so will our attitudes. Hope not.

I'm reading John McCain's memoir, "Faith of our Fathers" and feeling very humbled. There's a man who knows what it means to believe in America. Having survived being a POW in Vietnam, I believe he has unquestionable authority on what it means to be loyal to an ideal. His long, torturous imprisonment brought him more than despair; it brought him to a greater truth--that there is glory in the act of being constant to one's principles, to the belief in something greater than oneself. For him that was America and what it stands for: Freedom. It was living without that freedom in a hell-hole in Hanoi that made him fall in love with his country, he writes. "...I had loved her before then, but like most young people, my affection was little more than a simple appreciation for the comforts and privileges most Americans enjoyed and took for granted. It wasn't until I had lost America for a time that I realized how much I loved her."

I'm humbled for obvious reasons, but mostly for never having had my loyalty put to a test. Most of us never will. In many ways he was given a gift--conviction that comes through being put through the fire. To shamelessly believe that America was stronger, better and more virtuous than its enemies is what kept men like John McCain from giving in. I wish more people would remember the greatness of America and what it should stand for. "It was what freedom conferred on America that I loved the most--the distinction of being the last, best hope of humanity; the advocate for all who believed in the Rights of Man."

I owe a debt of gratitude to all the better men and women than me, the ones who aren't around to sit in a cafe eating a croissant watching snow fall from the mountains.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Nice job

It's 12:00 noon and I've taken 7,553 steps already. I know this because I bought my first pedometer (for a mere $3.99--what took me so long?) I've always wanted to measure how much walking I do since walking has always been my only discipline. At home I walked almost nightly the golf course behind our house (3 miles), and before that around the lake (3 miles) where we lived for 9 years.

After dropping Allie off at school I hiked Lily Pad Trail which takes about an hour at a good clip. It's a moderately easy trail--little children can accomplish the hike, sometimes with bit of piggybacking on parent's backs. Along the way there are log bridges to cross and boulder fields to step through before reaching the lily pad-covered pond and beaver-dammed lake. When you reach the lake you find a rock to sit on and stare at the still water and tell yourself how lucky you are. Soon you feel the urge to offer a prayer to the Creator. Mine was, I'm sorry, God, for being continually pissed at you for your flawed system that allows for sorrow and pain and death, and evil, (like 9/11) but, gosh, this particular spot, this sliver of serenity at this moment in time--Nice Job. I'm really not that dull, I figured out long ago that in this world everything has to have its opposite to give it value. Life if precious because it is so fragile. That's the system, that's just the way it is.

A few ducks pass by, a chipmunk, or maybe a noisy Stellar Jay. Other than that it is almost silent except for the sound of the rushing stream behind the pines. Today I sat only a couple of minutes for fear of getting beaned by a continuous shower of small pinecones dropping from the trees. I thought about phoning a friend with my cell phone just try to share the feeling, but somehow a cellphone seemed so wrong.

Currently, I am sitting in the history section of Border's Books using their high-speed internet access. I was mad at Border's earlier this year over some of their policies, but since they are the only game in town, I have relented. In fact, I want to get hired so I can say I'm working. I filled out the 37 page on-line employment questionnaire, a sort of tedious personality assessment. Questions no serious job seeker would answer truthfully, like: "Do annoying people bother you?" Nothing like, "Do you like books?" I figure I deserve the job for simply enduring and completing the insane questionnaire.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Mountain majesty

I haven't written lately mostly due to the agonizingly slow speed of the dial-up internet connection we have here. I think at one time that was all that was available, but surely there's better now. I've been busy getting Allison adjusted to second grade (so far, so good) and getting us moved in--oh and hiking every morning with Sara. After five mornings on Lily Pad Trail we tackled Mohawk Lakes which is 12,000 feet high and takes about three hours. Taylor left for home Wednesday. Sara left yesterday, so Allison and I are on our own until Robert arrives this Friday.

The contrast of the Rocky Mountains to Baja California is so great. Yesterday was overcast and rainy; this morning there was snow on the very tops of the tallest mountains. The view from our townhouse is incredible. I could sit and stare for hours. Robert wants to live on the ocean. I prefer the mountains for their majesty.

Oh, the sun just started peeking out highlighting the changing golden aspens. I need to grab Allison to hike Lily Pad with me. She's my only buddy left. Oh. No, she says. Hiking's not her thing. Can we go paint pottery? No, I say. Let's save the indoor stuff for when it gets too cold. Right now there is too much outdoor beauty to take in. I'd post a photo but the slowness of the internet won't allow the upload.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Colorado again

Now it's Colorado for a lengthy stay: till Christmas. Allison and I left Kansas City Friday and drove through without any trouble. I've made this 500 mile drive so many times it seems like no big thing. I brought along a dear young friend, Taylor, since it's Labor Day weekend and she thought she could grab few extra vacation days from school. She just turned 16, so this is kind of a birthday treat. She is like family and like a big sister to Allison who has only brothers. Sara flies out tomorrow for a week so we will soon be four girls on the loose. Robert isn't coming for another week. He felt he had too much to wrap up at home.
I visited the Summit Cove Elementary principal this morning and learned Allison could not be considered for enrollment there due to our Silverthorne condo's address. That was a different answer than I got earlier when I spoke on the phone to someone at the district office. I guess I was misinformed. The principal said she had a duty to the people who live within the school boundries to limit enrollment from the outside. Only a few students who have a "compulsory educational reason" were given exception.

I only wanted to see this "better" school for myself before accepting the one in our boundry, the one that is over 50% hispanic. I understand the thinking behind boundries, I understand that people make home-buying decisions on the strengths of the local school and they want to protect that advantage. We did the same when we bought our home in a KC suburb years ago. It's just now that I'm on the other side of the tracks that I see clearly the exclusion at work.

Interestingly, the school at Silverthorne is a beautiful facility. I felt good about enrolling Allie there. It has the same quality of goodies like computer labs and spacious cafeterias, well-equiped gymnasiums, libraries and playgrounds. The reading specialist tested her and agreed she should be in second grade even though she is young. Remember, we skipped kindergarten altogether and went straight to first in Mexico. We peeked into her classroom and met her very welcoming teacher. Allison should feel right at home with the spanish-speaking kids. She left the school exuberant and fully ready to get started. I realize how important it is for her to be in school.
It will be interesting to see how our perceptions of the area change once we become "residents." Summit County is a vacation destination. And although we are technically on a long, long vacation being here day after day with a kid in school will require some structure. I'm thinking I'd like to take a simple job to feel a little more connected. But who will want me, this transient? I feel too old to work the ski lifts, and too spoiled to wait tables or on women in dressing rooms. Robert won't be working and will want me free to play with him. But I remember how bored I was at times in Loreto all those months. You lose so much focus when you have nothing required of you. I don't know how retirees stay happy. Especially since having fun every day usually requires plenty of spending money. I'm probably thinking too much which is normal for me. Mostly, I'm happy for Allison to have something to dig into, and for Taylor, who deserves some happy carefree times.