Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Feeling the shift, reflecting on change...

As the season shifts from summer to fall (I love this corridor space--the simultaneous welcoming and bidding farewell!), I've also been feeling the shifting season of Kavi's life and our relating. His clear, powerful communication, his adept physical abilities and his ever expanding ways of connecting with others (and individuating from me) are all saying to me that he is no longer a baby, he is a child. And as I sit in this momentous corridor, I am feeling excitement and melancholy for all that is to come, all that has been, and all that is.
Kavi is a potent being that I am so honored to have in my life and connect with on so many levels. I am grateful for the tender, beautiful and wild spring we spent together. We are growing together. And as I continue to deepen into and accept the role of mama in my life (as well as sister, partner, friend, artist, and beyond), may that mean a deepening into more stillness, compassion, wisdom--into acceptance and embracing of mamahood (and life) and all that it brings: the sweet moments, the sleepless nights, the snuggles, the tantrums. All of it. I'm beginning to understand the cliche "cherish every moment" that is oh-so-often uttered to parents (and one that I have despised many times when I heard it). That understanding is growing in the corridor, where the conditions for cultivating such things are ideal.
The moving on, disappearing, changing of something creates a space for appreciation of that thing. I am there. For as often as I struggled with mama-ing a baby and then toddler, I am now in such appreciation of those precious times. Missing them. Doing my best to stay out of any judgment about how much or how little I was present to those fleeting stages. Trusting that we both were right where we needed to be. Knowing that this current transition and all the emotions it brings up are guides, informing my future relating. This brings me back to present moment, noticing my heart and how much it swells as I watch Kavi play, sleep, ponder, engage life. I am in love with this boy. That feels good. May I feel this love through all of the seasons we will share in this lifetime.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Oklahoma: Goodbye dry desert heat, hellllooooo humidity!

We quietly entered OK via Hwy 33, the red rock of the desert states having given way to grasslands somewhere along the line in Texas. After our usual few hours of nap time driving, we pulled into a small campground to check it out. Pretty, but too close to the road. And LOTS of semi trucks on this route. Our map showed us to be in Black Kettle National Grassland, with an official campground just 20 minutes from where we were--and it looked to be tucked way back from the highway. We made the short jaunt and were pleased with what we found. A quiet spot on a little lake with plenty of shade to park in. And no fee!
Once we nestled in, Kavi quickly made friends with our nearby neighbors, a couple from Pampa, TX and their 5yo granddaughter. Fishing, as they had been all day. Kavi & Sydney easily took to one another, playing in the water, squishing in the mud and occasionally checking Sydney's fishing pole. Andres made us dinner and we dined lakeside while the kiddies chased fireflies--Sydney even caught a couple--Kavi stopping in now and then for a few bites of food.
When the sun finally set (nearly 9pm!), we gathered up our dishes and chairs and bid farewell to our new friends. After a truncated bedtime routine, Kavi was in bed, still wriggling a bit, and the noise started up! Though there were only a handful of people in the whole campground, we were sandwiched between generators! It was loud enough that Andres looked for a place to move us. But the place was too small to get any space. We all fell asleep anyhow, though the night was fitful for all three--a combination of the running motors, intermittent wild winds, heavy air and lots of little biting things. A bit bedraggled the next morn, we went through all our morning routines and again hit the road for a nap time drive.

We meandered through several small highways til landing in Guthrie, where we stopped in at the library for a little internet time while Kavi explored the books (and the bonus Lego hour happening in an adjoining space!!). The air was still so hot and heavy it was painful to imagine cooking. Dinner on the town! After a too heavy Italian meal, we scoped out our next campground--along Lake Carl Blackwell. It was a large recreational area run by Oklahoma State University and was very well kept. After an amazing sunset amidst the many bird and insect choirs, we settled in for the night, lulled to sleep by the crickets.
The first sounds to wake me was the early morning bird choir--many species chiming in. Drift back to sleep. Next up, patter of rain on the roof, steadily growing louder, heavier. Long, low grumbles. Lightening. It quickly became a big, loud, windy storm--so fun to watch out the window and be grateful e're not in a tent (poor neighbors!). Kavi slept through much of it (til 8am!!), then we all enjoyed watching the show and the growing waves on the lake.
The storm settled within half an hour, leaving behind bits of outdoor furniture and knick knacks strewn about the large lawn. And the place felt so empty--so many dwellings, but no people! We cleaned up our camp, took a little swim and left. Goodbye to our camp and within a few hours, goodbye to Oklahoma. We didn't experience much of this state, but what we traveled through was green, clean and beautiful!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Texas: Heat and Higher Regard

While initially we planned on driving around Texas to avoid driving through Texas, we set our destination to Amarillo, where there were ample services so we could find stores open on the 4th to replenish gas/groceries and a couple other amenities. (Side note: cheapest gas on the trip so far at $1.86/gallon at Toot 'n Totum in Amarillo.) Traveling through we certainly got our fill of billboards touting our fate unless we find and obey God. "If you die tonight...Heaven or Hell?" Hmmmmm. Well, twas hot enough in Texas that perhaps we'd already found hell.

We scanned the map and settled on a state park/campground about an hour away--looking to be as far out of range of fireworks as possible (which had gone great so far!). Palo Duro turned out to be a real gem--2nd largest canyon in the country! With many similar feature of the Grand Canyon, including scorching heat, lots of pokey plants and bitey critters. Paying the price for the grand display of beauty. We found our sweet spot to set up our nest--surrounded by red rock on all sides--yum! Excited to arrive at such a place, we settled in for the night, a warm one indeed: all windows open, no covers needed. And Kavi experienced his first firefly encounter! The only downside to our land claim was a little Casita trailer a few slots down from us with the air conditioner constantly humming, even though the folks were away in their vehicle more than they were at camp. Boo. Andres tripped off the power supply before bed at night and once the next day while they were away. Bandits!
We had advanced another hour in time in our drive east, which also meant it was lighter later. These two things made it tricky to get Kavi to bed at a decent time. In fact, he didn't end up finally surrendering to sleep until 11pm!! This was just after the BIG fireworks display that went on for 20 minutes or so, ending in a very grand finale--and all of it was quite close! Now, in checking in at the front gate, I specifically asked if fireworks were allowed as we were doing our best to avoid them, preferring the peace of nature. The ranger assured me they were certainly NOT allowed--not at any of the parks. Hmmmm, they certainly did feel close, but perhaps Amarillo is closer than we were realizing as the crow flies.

The next day, after breakfast, clean up and an attempted bike ride (Kavi fell apart before it could even start and it was decided instead to move towards nap time), I found the Park Ranger Host for our little campground (a retired fellow named Bullet) to see about staying another night--too beautiful here to leave so quickly! In talking with him, we discovered the fireworks were the last act of an outdoor musical called "Texas" happening at the amphitheatre in the park, about a mile from us--oh! Not only that, but the show (and the fireworks) happen EVERY night!! Except Mondays. With the exception of this week being as July 4th was on a Monday. Uh huh. What are the odds?? And how was this not mentioned at the front gate?? Funny stuff.
It was so hot, we sat around under the trees til nearly 4pm, then checked out the little stream nearby. Too many biting flies, so took bike ride/little walk. So gorgeous here!! We kept the adventure brief due to heat. Wanted to be sure not to overdo it considering Kavi was with us, and we had very little water with us. Also discovered earlier that day 2 folks were ambulanced out due to heat exhaustion/dehydration. Andres learned that the air temp just above the trail was around 150°--whoa!  The thermostat on the trail registered at 110° at just after 5pm!! Kavi is SUCH an adventurer--he wanted to keep hiking.
Back at camp, Kavi settled into his fave activity--playing with his little bag of trucks, while Andres & I tended to work until dinner. Still hot out, we decided to attend the nightly BBQ at the amphitheatre rather than cook. We rode our bikes the mile to the venue, where the night's crowd was already gathering for dinner and the show (the afore-mentioned firework finale show). We bought our tickets and collected our heaping plates of Texas fare--sausage, bbq brisket, pinto beans, potato salad, coleslaw, and peach cobbler. Tea and lemonade to wash it all down. Was tastier than anticipated and we had a sweet mama/daughter duo join us at our table. They were there to see the show and the daughter filled us in that it was written in 1960 and was created for this park. Another layer to the story!! So the musical wasn't just a passing fancy that the park ranger who checked us in would have forgotten or been unfamiliar with. Andres and I both chuckled at this. After dinner, we rode back to our camp (me with a tender belly--such a heavy meal!!). After readying for bed and reading stories to Kavi, I'm pretty sure I fell asleep before he did and we all slept well that night--despite any fireworks.
Helping papa under the hood
The next morning was an anomaly. Andres & I were up early to ready ourselves for a bike ride before the heat of the day started up. And somehow lil Kavi just kept sleeping, despite our attempts to be noisy enough that he would wake! This little guy is always up before we're ready to be and on this one morning we wanted to get crackin', he just kept turning over and going back to sleep! Our little toddler teenager. Once we finally roused him, he was amenable to a quick departure and we rolled out just half an hour later than scheduled. We stopped by Bullet's place to let him know our morning plans, should anything go awry. Then off for adventure! We rode the Givens, Spicer, Lowry Trail to the Lighthouse Trail--about 6 miles all told. Not so far and none of it too intense (though the GSL is considered a "challenging" mountain bike trail by the Park Service). That said, it was exciting for me as I am not a fan of mountain biking! In my adult life, I mountain biked in 1998. One time. That was enough for me to decide I much prefer road biking to all the jarring landings, sideways sliding wheels and white knuckles of mountain biking. This ride felt different. I felt fairly at ease from the start and at some point noticed how much I was enjoying the strategy of the ride--looking ahead to see which rocks to steer clear of, which I could cruise over,  how best to maneuver through the rutty, rugged terrain. Andres rode in front of me for the first few miles, with Kavi seated behind him. Even without Kavi in tow, he was riding a heavier bike. And he was managing the slick sand and rocky ups and downs quite well. When I saw him manage a downhill that made me nervous, I went for it. After all, my bike would handle much smoother so long as I kept my cool. After a bit, this built up my self trust and I eventually took the lead so I could go my own speed and not be stopped when they were unable to manage a difficult spot. Fun! I'm still not a fan of being so knocked about, but that was a great ride and an empowering experience to feel so much more confident about something (nearly 20 years older!) that I still have so little experience with. And to top it off, we saw this happen...

A few curves later, Andres also spotted a Great Horned Lizard (endangered) which we watched until the critter scattered. It was an invigorating, satisfying and beautiful ride--and was "only" 98° at the end of our ride. Upon returning to camp, we let Bullet know we were safely returned, we showered off and said our farewells to Palo Duro. Yet another beautiful home. 
Adios, Texas!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

New Mexico: Land of Summer Storms!

We got on the road in the late morn from Ganado, AZ, about an hour from the New Mexico border. Kavi went immediately to sleep as we drove through more red rock and scrubby terrain of the reservation land. As had become our norm, we stuck to highways and a random route, which this time led us to Chaco Canyon--yay!! Upon arriving at the crossroads to the park entry, we took a moment to decide if this was to be a stop for us, mainly because the road leading in was 20 miles of washboard. A slow trek in our ride. We were quick to decide that certainly this was a worthwhile trek, though we would need to stop sooner to eat. We started the bumpy drive and kept on until we found a scenic spot, though shade was not an option. After refueling our bodies, we continued towards our goal. Thankfully, we were able to drive much of the road at a higher speed than expected and we arrived just before the visitor center closed. There were campsites avail and still a few hours til gates were closed to the 9 mile loop of many trails to the various ruins. We drove a couple miles in, to the largest set of ruins and explored in and around the structures and rocks for the next hour or so. It was an ideal spot--all of us getting a good walk and a satisfying exploration of a beautiful, magical place. 

Kavi had recently taken an interest in signs, asking, "what's that sigh-yin says?" anytime he saw one. Sometimes that's every other moment and can get a bit tiresome. The fortunate side effect is that he tends to honor what the signs say when the information pertains to him. This was super helpful on the trail as he is an avid climber and climbing on the walls was not an acceptable activity amongst these sacred, crumbling structures. So anytime he started making a move to go up a wall or off a trail, I reminded him of the signs and their request for cooperation and respect of this special place. 
We settled into a campsite for a simple meal while watching the sunset. As we were cleaning up, a family pulled into the next spot over. The youngest turned out to be a 6 year old boy, who Kavi immediately took a liking to and quickly abandoned our site to be with him. He "helped" set up their tent and ran around giggling until we retrieved him to read stories and head to bed. It was a cool night with a sky full of stars. We all slept well. 
In the morning we hiked one of the backcountry trails, climbing high up the red rocks to a panoramic view of the hub of the long-gone city. It was a fun trail (the most diverse we’ve been on since Kavi), with lovely desert wildflowers, small remnants of the lost culture and more ruins. Kavi hiked a fair amount of the trail on his own (his endurance is building!), though asked to be carried much of the return trip and fell asleep on my back about 15 minutes before we reached the camper. Thankfully, he transferred into his seat with only a short waking squawk before returning to slumber. Then it was goodbye to the rich lands. 
Andres--going up!
Kavi & me--going down!
 Within a couple hours, it was goodbye to the red rocks as we drove into the pine forests, landing in Santa Fe National Park, just beyond Cuba, NM. We found a remote spot on a forest road with no one around. Such a great camping spot! Lots of trees, flowers, grassy areas and little paths to explore. After setting up, we hiked around a bit, had a nice meal outside (so few bugs!) and played games as the sun went down. The next morning Kavi and I did more exploring while papa cooked breakfast. After eating, we all went out together, taking in the wild flowers, climbing rocks and following paths to their endpoints. Then it was back on the road! 
  Next stop, Santa Fe, to visit dear friends Jon & Amanda and our first meeting with their 2.5 year old son, Manu. Kavi & Manu were both excited about the visit. We planned to arrive a day earlier and both boys had been disappointed by the delay. Upon meeting, they went straight into playing with trucks! Manu has a great collection of small cars and trucks as well as a sandbox out back with bigger trucks to haul dirt and push around. Push around cars and trucks is what these two did a majority of the time--though not always cooperatively! Their initial excitement about one another eventually turned into what looked more like sibling rivalry. Kavi spent a bit of time in an aggressor role, screaming at and biting Manu when he was frustrated (which was often just at the sight of Manu playing with his own toys!). Still, there were many sweet moments together. Times of gentle wrestling, chasing each other around, riding bikes and eating popsicles. 
Manu's collection. Photo by Andres Amador
 We visited Amanda's childhood home on the beautiful land where her parents still live. After a big walk around and creek exploration, Andres pushed Kavi around for a nap walk, giving me space to take a much needed snooze. As I was dozing off, it began to sprinkle. About an hour later, I was awakened by such a big thunder clap and immediately jumped up and ran downstairs. The rain and wind had picked up and I got some notion that there could be a flash flood and perhaps we needed to head out before we got stuck out there! Seems I should have stayed in bed. Amanda's mom giggled at the notion and said there would hardly be enough rain to wet the ground. Oh well. Was nice watching the storm go by. 
Family time on the land--tough to get a good candid group photo!
The next day was a slow, stormy, snuggly, sick day. Kavi spent much of the day in arms-around-mama's-neck position. Feverish and listless, he was needing closeness and comfort above all else. I felt tender hearted witnessing his sad eyes and slumped body, doing my best to stay out of worry mode (a state I've become more acquainted with in my role as parent). While knowing he is strong and healthy, thoughts still niggled in... "what if it's this illness or that disease?", even if unlikely. The slow-moving day offered me much time for reflection and wondering. What I came to at the end of the day was admiration, respect and love for all the parents who have nursed a child in extreme or ongoing illness, injury or disability. What strength, patience and overall resources that must take. *Sending a prayer to all the littles and their caretakers for health, well being and peace in your hearts.*
And the next day, Kavi was back up and running! And he and Manu were back at their sibling-like antics. It was quite the juxtaposition after the day of tenderness and nurturing, now returned to the toddler terrain that solidified my stance at sticking with a family of three! Ok, aside from whatever kid drama transpired, we had a lovely visit with the family--it was so filling to catch up with dear friends we haven't seen for a few years, to rest in their beautiful home, to share delicious home-cooked meals, to feel each other from where we are now in our lives. Thank you, Oda family, for welcoming us in so fully!
The day we left, we decided to have one more town adventure, per the suggestion of Amanda. So we headed out early and made our way to Meow Wolf. What a trip!! It's an interactive mystery/art exploration in a giant transformed warehouse and it is captivating! Kavi got a kick out of the place as well, though we couldn't really explore in the way we might choose to if kid-free, so the experience was a bit of a tease. Still, one I highly recommend if you're in Santa Fe! 
Giant robot outside Meow Wolf

We stayed a couple nights at a campground just outside of town, then made our way to Taos. I had some romantic vision of what our time there would be. That did not manifest. My last visit to Taos was 17 years ago while on a cross-country journey with a dear friend. A very different adventure traveling as a single woman without any responsibilities or agenda. Both the town and I had changed much since that time. On top of it, Kavi was in a spell of really pushing boundaries, big testing going on! Fortunately, my patience was growing and I was in a spell of seeing the bigger arc of things, which meant more would slide off of me without getting me stuck in some funk. (Part of this patience cultivation was due to the support of a podcast I began listening to on respectful parenting--Unruffled.) Since the town thang wasn't working out, we went back to the ol' reliable nature thang. We drove a short way out of town to a gravel road that became a dirt road that grew ever more bumpy the further we drove. Our goal was a hot springs that came highly recommended. Cell reception was spotty and our map was not working reliably. The overcast sky began to let down its cache of water in tiny little droplets. We came to a part of the road that was just not passable for our vehicle. A short backtrack and we found another dirt road to follow. Our electronic map came online again as the sprinkles gave way to rain. We held out hope that we would soon be soaking (how lovely it would be in this weather!). We were only a couple miles out from the springs when we came upon another questionable spot in the road. As we were deliberating our choices, a car pulled alongside us asking if we were headed to the springs. Yes. Did we have 4wd? No. Best not try it then. Hmmmmmm. No hot springs for us this time. 
Random rainy roadside silliness
As it was 4th of July weekend and town was bustling with visitors, we decided against driving out to a campground that would likely be full. Alas, we ended up in Walmart parking lot (!). This was certainly not my vision of time in Taos. However, we did meet a couple friendly long-time rv-ers that were good company for a bit before heading inside for the night, sharing worthwhile places to check out and  they confirmed that campgrounds would be full for the weekend (which made our decision more palatable). It rained much of the night. Next morning we packed up quickly, with the goal of getting a bigger hike in before putting in any miles of driving. We ended up at Kit Carson State Park. It was sprinkling as we parked and looked as if the weather could turn. We opted for raincoats and the chance to see a new place. But before we even made it out of the parking lot, Kavi fell apart. On cue, the rain started up. We decided to move on. 
We followed Hwy 64 to Cimmaron Canyon State Park. Yet another gorgeous area--tall, tall pines and amazing rock formations. We stopped sooner than we planned to as the place intrigued us enough to want to stay and explore. 
We scored the last remaining spot in a large campground that sported a small, stocked reservoir and was full of families, American flags and fishing poles. While it wasn't a place we would typically camp, there were no fireworks allowed (!!) and there were trails close by. After setting up, we set out for our first adventure with a recommendation from the camp host. It seems we must have taken a wrong turn at some point as the trail became unclear and then we encountered lots of little spurs that didn't really go anywhere. So, we took to exploring the rocky areas. Our main draw to this region was the formations we saw from the highway. Sadly, those didn't seem accessible from the trails, but we still found some interesting spots.  
 It was an uneventful evening and surprisingly quiet night considering how many people were filling the campground. We left early the next day to get in another hike, which turned out to be less interesting than the first one, though we did have a nice view from the top of the mountain we climbed... 
Once back on the road, we rambled this way and that and ended up at Clayton Lake State Park in New Mexico--which was more understated than the last few camping spots, but quite lovely and serene. It was a great place to ride bikes, which we did right away. We rode around the whole camping village (which was nearly empty, surprisingly), then hiked the short Dinosaur Trail that boasted fossilized dinosaur tracks!
Looking out towards dino tracks. Couldn't capture good pic, so snapped this lovely instead. :-)
As we returned to camp, a light sprinkle and the sun both began their descent. Ominous clouds loomed over the distant hills. We three were a bit crabby (a common occurrence amongst the sleep-deprived) and bickered a bit. The sprinkle turned to rain which quickly turned into a BIG storm!! This quieted our little storm as we were captured by the intensity and beauty of what was all around. 
In the morning we took another bike ride to a lovely nature trail and skipped rocks in the reservoir. Then we packed, showered up and drove off. Goodbye, New Mexico and thank you for sharing your beauty!
Family photo shoot!! :-)