Today was slated to be a long day of driving. Lots of hours in our motorized stagecoach. So we decided to do one quick tour of Jewel Cave to give the day some touristy street cred and then start our trek all the way across southern Wyoming. We started later than planned due to two main factors: dead cell phones, which meant no alarms chirping us awake at the appropriate hour, and the...
TRAGEDY OF THE BROKEN SNOW-GLOBE.
How did it break? How, oh how did this happen? I'm never going to be happy again. How can I be happy without my snow-globe? But it was my collection! How can I have a collection without it? When do you think I'll get a snow-globe? When will I find my next snow globe? Where do you think I'll get it? What do you think it will look like? How many snow globes do you think I'll get in my life? Do you think they have snow globes in Utah? But my birthday and Christmas is so far away! Why does my birthday and Christmas have to be in December. And two is not a collection! WHY did it have to break? WHY?
We've decided that Carter's superpower is perseveration.
We spent the entire breakfast hour simultaneously assuaging Carter's grief about the poor broken snow globe, and giving a lesson on attaching too much importance to things. (Jason Pett was preaching to himself. He lost his wallet in the Badlands. Eeek). We all chimed in with soothing words and buck-up exhortations. It was a family project. Even Landon joined in, graciously offering Carter his snow-globe. Carter finally came to understand that things break, things are things, and things can be replaced. And that things you want to collect should feel special to you and come from special places, but they, too, can break (and perhaps you should opt to be a collector of something less fragile IF you have a tendency to break things. 😁)
After much ado about snow-globes, it was off to Jewel Cave. But not really.
Not for us.
The only way you could see the cave was on a tour. And the next tour was an hour and a half away. And we were facing a ten-hour drive.
Landon was clearly vexed.
Bye-bye, Jewel Cave.
Mr. Reframe: Well, now we are ahead of schedule. Owen, whose current obsession is with all forms of Monopoly, made out in the deal. And off we went.
But, hark? What light from yonder cave entrance breaks? We found the historic entrance to the cave a mile down the road! With no entrance fee! And with a hike included! And our own private tour guide! The guide sent us to wait for him at a collection of benches. The boys entertained themselves in the water fountain as we waited. Jason: Yeah. I don't like the color of this water. It's milky. Step away, boys.
Me: Eww. Bring on the giardia. The guide ascends the hill wearing a full on pith helmet. Jason and I both felt a surge of excitement. A private tour? What's going to happen now?
Apparently, this is what was going to happen now: a lecture about how ponderosa pine trees fertilize.And a lecture about Fibonacci numbers. And some opining about how kids don't learn anything in school these days, and how Henry Ford was proof positive of evolution (?), and how he got out of teaching "before cell phones and all disrespect entered the world."
This all was interesting. But we were not here to see trees. Or do math. Or discuss Henry Ford. Or debate the ravaging effects of technology on culture. We were here to see caves! We were ready to spelunk!
We extricated ourselves as politely as possible and descended the steps into what was labeled the "cave".
Jewel Cave and the Pett family?
Not meant to be.
The Pilgrimage So off we set down the road. Since we were slated to drive straight through Lusk, WY, Hank and Ruth's hometown, Jason and I decided that it was fitting to try and see the ranch. Intrepid Aunt Jill reached Hank and Ruth's granddaughter for me since my service was so spotty, and Stephanie (who just had a baby boy...squuueee!) pointed us in the right direction. When I saw the land (we couldn't reach the house in the RV), I was overcome with emotion....for my parents being young, for me being small, and for the people I loved so much who had such an extraordinary impact on my life. Here's some of the thoughts running through my mind as I surveyed their home:
Today I get to to see the land you worked and loved. The place where all your stories happened. How it must have broken Ruth's already fragile heart even more to leave. For Iowa, of all places.
What a model of marriage and sacrificial love you gave all who knew you.
I love how your kids called you Mother and Daddy. I love how we knew Ruth had a good rummy hand because the sound of her pacemaker would start ticking at a much faster clip. I love how this giant of a man that was so kind and tender could also be hilariously gruff. I love that he had a reputation as a younger man of never walking away from a fight. I love that Ruth and I made jam from the grapes that grew on the fence between our yards. I love that you traveled with our little family. I love that you chose to be in our lives. I love that you let me practice on your piano and deeply appreciate your tolerance of this particular brand of noise pollution.
I love that Hank would rewarm his coffee for precisely 33 seconds. I loved your cat Boots and your dog Butkus. I love that Ruth babysat Alexander Haig (from the Reagan administration) as an infant, and remarked that "I must have dropped him on his head."
I love that when Hank and I were eating breakfast, we'd start to talk about what we wanted for lunch. I love that I was always welcome to walk through your screen door. I'm so grateful that you had time to be friends with a little girl.
I was flooded with memories of conversations over so many slow Saturday mornings, where we shared stories of our weeks, or what we have read, or current events, or the funny thing my teacher did, or history, or life on the ranch, or anything and everything. And I cried. I miss them. Jason left me there for a bit. When I returned, all of the kids looked concerned. Mamacita? Crying?
Quote of the Day:
Landon: It's ok, Mom. It's ok. Do you need medicine? A kiss? And can you be funny?
Like a lot of people my age, juggling kids and careers and friends and a house and two different school schedules and Jason's travel and good grief, the agony and ecstasy and (some might say tyranny) of youth sports, I yearn for a slower, more simple way of living. I have a row of books on my shelf in my office on organizing, simplifying, freeing up time, using your fringe hours, and on and on and on. Jason and I have had countless discussions on this very topic...tweaking and refining our approach to finding a peaceful rhythm to our family life.
I think this may be the biggest challenge facing our family time and our marriage and even our generation...how do we connect and make time for each other in a fast-paced world? How do you build a family in he truest sense of the word? How do we stay in this culture but not become a slave to the norms of the culture? Turns out, I think I've been looking for answers in all the wrong places. I think all I've needed to ask myself when life feels overwhelming is....
"What would Hank and Ruth do?"
Hank and Ruth would work hard when working was required. They would feed their souls with books and music and crafts for a portion of every day. They deeply loved God, and it showed through their love of people. They opened up their home and table for blueberry muffins, coffee, and conversation. They got good night's of sleep. They sat down. They listened. They talked. They related. They laughed. They taught people things they knew. They played. They knew how to just BE.
They loved to BE with people. Family. Friends. And even two little girls and their parents next door on an ordinary street in an ordinary neighborhood in an ordinary town in Iowa. But the impact they have had on me is far from ordinary. The love they showed this little girl was extraordinary. And for their love, their example, and their lives, I will forever be grateful. We drove through their hometown...
...and continued crossing this beautiful state.
Side Note: I really love a good plateau. Plateaus get a bad wrap. "I've plateaued." So what? You are still WAY UP IN THE AIR!!!
More Signs You Only See in Wyoming
Lost Springs. Population, 4
Old Woman Creek (For me? AGAIN?)
Welcome to Douglas. Home of the Jackaloupe.
Country Style Meat Processing. (I have so many questions about this)
And Jason's personal favorite....
The C'mon Inn Quesadillas. The official food of the Pett Family Great Re-Crossing of Wyoming
And, in case you were hoping for the next installment of the telenovela starring Superhero Elmo (Landon) and Beleagured Cookie (Carter), you are in luck!
Today's Struggle: POWER. Who's got it. Who wants it. How will we get it.
BC: Ahhh! I'm going to run out of batteries! I'm going to run out of CHARGE! Only you can fix it!
E: We must find new batteries! Look over there! We must get it.
BC: A charge! Hooray! We both have batteries!
Guess we have maybe been a teeny weeny bit fixated on charging things this trip. 😁
We pulled into an RV park about 80 miles east of SLC, still in Wyoming for one more beautiful night. We enjoyed supper with the bigs in the darkness, packing, and preparing to say goodbye to our home on wheels.
Tomorrow...heading back to the Midwest, another land that I love. Looking forward to conversation, connection, and time to just BE.
(And I'm not gonna lie. It's going to be nice to JUST BE out of a house on wheels. It gets DIRTY up in there 😉)
PS. Check out Landon. He has no issues with just BEing.