27 June 2016

Treading Feathers Underwater

 We got in on a Monday night. The weekend was emotional and exhausting. We spent the week prior to our departure, packing and moving out of our home of four years and our community of eight years. Ivy Maude, our youngest, was an infant when we arrived in Provo. Tatum, our oldest, was just seven.  We didn’t engage in a lot of fanfare with our departure. We still don’t have a home to move into yet, we simply packed, stored what belongings we cared to keep, and left. Lifting into the air in SLC was leaving behind a chapter of our lives. Our move is on to bigger and harder things. A necessary move. And it was time. This exodus to the north for the summer is a gift. Its hitting pause on our life for a few weeks before we plunge into the reality of our choices; an underwater suspension until we climb back on to land in SLC and move into a new set of dry walls to begin again. The kids cried as they drove away from our home for the last time. I cried when I turned out the lights for the last time and locked the doors. Not tears of sadness, we have spent much of the last eight years trying to leave, but tears of exhaustion, of transition, and of the weight of potential. Whatever that means. 

All packed up and ready to go.
Needless to say, our first night in Homer felt like coming home. The bay welcomed us and begged us leave our worries at the door. She sang her tidal lullaby to us as we slept and we awoke to all the familiar and extraordinary sights and sounds she has to offer. The younger children ran to the beach with empty bellies, anxious to get reacquainted with the rocks and the bones while Tatum and I stood looking out and taking in her welcome. But instead of the calm and serene scene I was hoping to find, I saw an animal moving awkwardly, desperately in the water. An eagle, likely unwilling to give up a catch heavier than its ability to carry, was about a hundred yards away from the shore. 

My best attempt.
  It was in constant motion. This magnificent bird of flight was performing a most ungainly butterfly stroke of sorts. I could only make out a small head popping up in between these enormous upper wings coming out of the water only to plunge back under, propelling the creature forward. Again, and again, and again, the animal repeated this process: head, wings, plunge; head, wings, plunge. It was, at times rhythmic and  strong, but then there were moments when it slowed. I wondered that the feathers, the very things that give this stately bird its elegant motion in the air, were a liability under water. With a six foot wingspan, the weight of the appendages were surely a burden. I did my best to prepare my heart for the possibility that I might spend my first day on the Kachemak watching an eagle drown.
  I wanted to call for help. Surely there must be a way to scoop up this enormous bird and return it to the air where it belongs. Isn't that where it belongs? A small fishing boat was following it at a distance. It seemed to be watching the drama unfold from a closer vantage point than my own. Certainly the few people I could make out aboard were wishing there were something they could do, but we all had to resign ourselves to Nature and her sometimes cruel lessons. The boat was keeping a safe distance while it seemed to be motivating the eagle toward the shoreline. The reality was that there was nothing anyone could do but watch and wait and pray for the life of this precious stranger.  
  Little by little it got closer. It was exhausting just to witness the amount of strength required each time the massive wings appeared and then submerged again; the slowing, and then the recovery of its rhythm.  Again and again, over and over the cycle continued and the longer the animal fought for its life, the more uncertain the outcome looked. But the word grit kept coming to my mind. For all the work and effort, this was an animal that was not going to allow the water to claim its life without a fight. It worked and worked and worked to live. And maybe this catch didn’t go as planned but it was not going to go down peacefully. It would flap and push and breathe and survive.

And after what must have been 10 or 20 minutes, it finally reached the shore. It walked out of the water and paced the beach for a few minutes then spread its hulking wings and took flight. I watched, relieved, inspired, and a little emotionally wrung.

 This is our third visit to Alaska. Although I grew up in Southern California with the smell of salt water and citrus in my hair, and have spent most of my adult life in Utah where I've studied at the feet of the Wasatch mountains, Homer will always be one of my homes. And I have developed certain expectations of the experience now. I know that I’ll see otters playing in the bay all along the spit, sometimes solitary and at other times in large rafts, 20 or more  clinging to one another and floating atop the ocean currents. We’ll watch and wave at them and secretly envy their seemingly carefree existence. I know that the Ravens (capitalized by my esteem) will be suspicious of us every time we walk down Lands’ End road. They will loudly communicate their unhappiness with our arrogance to so boldly saunter down the road they clearly have laid claim upon. I talk to them as I walk the short path and return their calls with my reassurance that we are friend, not foe. I know that when I try to bargain for our safe passage by promising peace, their calls to mobilize and dive-bomb my family are replaced with reluctant acceptance of the terms. And I will still feel and respect their distrust each time we pass. 
The Kachemak as we know Her.
  I know that we’ll see the busy comings and goings from the docks, creatures called fishermen and toursists. We’ll see boats come in heavy with a day’s catch and we’ll watch the gulls follow those boats from a certain distance so as to gather whatever might get left behind. Occasionally, a seal will make an appearance nearby to watch the hustle and bustle of the curious bi-peds and their alien ways. The summer will be largely overcast, the beaches will be rocky, the tourists will be anxious to catch something to brag about, and the locals will be gracious, although would prefer to not be bothered. 

Ivy Maude writes.
And I will see the American Bald Eagles. A lot of them. But they are more elusive. They seem to be aware of the status to which we have placed them. They swoop into the bay to catch feed for their families. The eagles mate for life, you know. I might see one on the beach foraging a carcass left behind by a less efficient predator, or soaring overhead as they survey the days’ offerings. But they never stay long. I rarely see one still long enough to get a good picture, let alone to try to imagine its relationship with the other creatures of the bay. I see the Raven mob occasionally try to intimidate an eagle, or the gulls follow one for leftovers, but they keep to themselves for the most part. Disconnected from the land and the sea while dependent on them. I expected to watch their impressive wingspan soar past my window and if I am lucky to land on the beach below. I didn't know I'd watch it fight like hell for its life in the liquid otherworld. I didn’t know eagles swim. And I didn't expect to see it happen.

  Occasionally I bite off more than I can chew, so to speak. More often than not, my very best plans go wrong. Brigham and I have had a way of choosing the hard road on almost every decision we’ve made as a family.  At the end of this life that I have had the great gift to live, I hope my children will learn a few things from us: I hope they will find a way to love this complicated life. I hope that they will choose to love and forgive their fellow human creatures. I hope that they will find a great passion and go after it without reserve. I hope that they will each find someone who will grow old with them. And I hope more than anything that they know they were built to fly, but when life requires it (and it certainly will), I hope that they will dig deep and swim like hell. 

08 May 2016

A Poem About the Mothers

Our Mothers 

I’m filled with my sisters’
whispers; their rustling
hem-lines slog a tread-
heavy gait while

lead-heavy cross-
beams encumber their
elegant shoulders;
bruising indignant stride

as the path winds
onward, upward,
daunting as

I have often admired
the hushed mothers’
wounds: the holes
in their hands, the
scars in their sides.

I tell my daughters
they did it for me—
spilt their blood
for the daughters—
opened their seared lips
and broke their
bound wrists

for us. I whisper,
they are splinters
in my voice; slivers
of gold that

make my brown
eyes hazel. I tell them
that the mothers
are inside

and my sisters-
we climb hills.

20 September 2015

A Dream About A Boy

    Most dreams are unremarkable. They are the soft refuse of daily life collected and stored; matter unorganized. My dreams usually stay with me in the morning, lingering souvenirs of the twilight. I can recall the faces that I spent much of my sleeping hours with, the themes with which I wrestled  and the many emotions accompanying each scene. The closer I am to the ocean and her tidal temperament, the more vivid, colorful, and surreal this night theatre in my head becomes. I have dreamed that I was flying.  I have dreamed of meeting my young child self and rocking her in my arms as I told her I loved her.  I have dreamed in color and dreamed without color.  As it is, the high desert is dry and so both my dreams and my lips are often parched, thin and shallow. 
       About 10 years ago I dreamed about my son just before he was born. I don’t know if I believe in prophetic dreams. Or better stated, I don’t know if I believe in MY ability to have prophetic dreams. But I do believe in a deep kind of intuition. The kind that is imprinted in my cells; truth that is written on my very molecules. And I believe that the body and the spirit will communicate. Perhaps this was one of those dreams.

After two little girls, Brig and I were thrilled to be expecting a boy. This pregnancy was unlike my former two in every way. Where I had spent almost all nine months of my previous pregnancies throwing up, I had little more than the occasional aggravating nausea. I craved heavy, fatty foods and as a result, found myself round in every possible way. But it wasn’t just that I was round, this baby that grew inside me seemed to have soft angles. My girls had both felt like they had one hundred limbs each and when they moved inside of me I felt like I was constantly being poked on all sides. They were endlessly active and every movement felt like a knee or an elbow. But not with my son. His movements were slow and liquid. There were no angles, just softness. And he moved so little that many times I found myself watching the clock, poking him from the outside, praying I’d feel some evidence of life inside. Just when I’d begin to worry, that soft movement would ease my nerves. It was around my eighth month when the dream came to me. And I didn’t think it remarkable until long after he was born.

        Two women came to me. They were neither old nor young. How they looked and what they wore was forgettable. They didn’t speak to me in any language, at least not the conventional language of  voice and words. Rather it was a practice in intuition, reading each other's thoughts and impressions. I still find it difficult to translate everything that was portrayed to me in the dream. There were many thoughts that I have yet to find adequate language to describe. I was lead to understand that they were like nurses but not for the physical body. Possibly more like missionaries, but it was not their duty to preach. They were simply there on my behalf and there was a warmth about them.
       No sooner had I recognized their presence than we were suddenly walking the long halls of an enormous building. Each hallway opened up to more hallways and each new hallway seemed to ascend to a higher floor without ever taking a staircase or elevator. There were no memorable markings in this building. And no windows as far as I can recall except that the whole thing seemed open to the universe at all times, if that makes any sense at all.
Each hallway was lined with rooms and I was directed to look inside each room as we passed. Every room had a crib in the middle, a baby in the crib, a mother standing near and one of these nurse-missionaries attending. As I approached the first crib I noticed something wrong with the baby. Its sweet face slept soundly but it had only one complete arm and one shriveled limb where the other arm should have been. The next room held a baby with a cleft lip and palate. The next room a baby with a clubbed foot and so it was that we went on one room after another, each holding a baby with some kind of malformation or abnormality. Some rooms the baby looked perfectly fine, but I was made aware of the chromosomal mutation or mental impairment. And none of these seemed a mild case, but rather the most extreme that anyone had ever seen.
       With each room that I visited, each mother that I saw was strong and capable. None of them sat mourning over their infant. Love seemed to be effervescing from the rooms and through the walls of the building. And every room seemed to have one end opened to the entire universe; the night sky and all its mysteries were accessible.       
So we made our way up and finished at the very top of the building. I understood that they wanted me to have perspective; that babies are born everyday with abnormalities and physical and mental challenges; that their mothers are able to meet their various needs. They wanted me to know that my son would have his challenges. That something in his brain wouldn’t work quite right (and here they explained more about his brain function and what areas would be working at what percentage of normal and how his chromosomes would affect that function. In my dream I understood all of that, but now I can’t make any sense of it), but that I could be comforted knowing that other mothers were handling far more difficult tasks and that I would be capable. Through all this they communicated their love for me, and I woke feeling exhausted from the journey.

My son will be ten years old next week. When he came home from the hospital his cry was so tiny and so weak. His movements were as slow as they were in the womb and by the time he was 6 weeks old, I knew he had come with challenges. At the age of 3 he had no language at all (he still had not said “mama) and he was diagnosed with a Pervasive Developmental Delay. When he was 5 and he could not speak in complete sentences he was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Over the years we've discovered and pieced together a grab bag of challenges that he faces including Dyslexia, Visual and Auditory Processing difficulties and sensory challenges. These diagnoses are not definitions of him. And I’m not completely satisfied that they are even entirely correct. But they are an important way for his challenges to be recognized legally so that he can receive help through school and other programs. This year we are pursuing genetic testing.
       The most significant struggle he faces is his difficulty with speech and language. I have watched him struggle to communicate over the years. He still struggles to recount events, telling me what he did at school is so difficult he often stops mid-sentence and says, never-mind. He asks me regularly, “Who are my friends, mom?” but struggles to understand the nuances of childhood play. With all of this, he is as happy as any child I’ve met. He can ride a bike and has a wicked 1980’s BMX style spin-out, he loves all things having to do with cars and trucks, can watch the car chase scene from the original 1967 Gone In Sixty Seconds over and over, and has a weird 6th sense about geography and direction.  He is constantly showing love and affection. It is the one part of communication with which he is gifted.


I have embraced my son’s challenges. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t cry when I put him on his first school bus at the age of three as I watched him roll away with a lost and terrified look on his face. It doesn’t mean that I haven’t read and researched and tried every possible new trick to help him in his journey and been crushed to learn when a particular fad or diet wasn't going to help. It doesn’t mean that whenever I see a child push him away or treat him unkindly I don’t have to fight the urge to give them (and their parents) a piece of my mind.  And it doesn't mean that I don't find myself re-accepting where he is and re-evaluating my expectations of him. It means that I’ve made peace with how he came to me. I don’t pretend to know what his future looks like. I celebrate each and every little milestone that he reaches because it comes only after hours and hours and sometimes years and years of practice and therapy. It means that I don’t wish for another child, or another life with this child. I’ll take the one we’ve got.
    I am learning that there is no foreseeable time when he will wake and be able to explain to me all that he has been thinking about. And I find myself looking back on that dream. I have learned to listen to him, less to the words and language he is struggling to use and more to intuition, interpreting often through thoughts and impressions. These days, more than anything I’d like to know about what he dreams.

A little video Brig made when Eli was 5. 


24 December 2014

The Road

The family singing in a Christmas program
at the Little Theatre in Upland, Ca. Maybe 1984.
This time of year, I am reminded of the many roads we venture to get to our loved ones. Some of these roads being literal, some of them the figurative paths it takes to reach out to those with whom we share a history.
When Robert Frost wrote his famous lines about roads and those “less traveled” I wonder if he had any idea how often he would be quoted and more often I think, misquoted. It is a wonder to me that so many people use his lines to justify taking the path of dire resistance stating that it is, indeed, what has “made all the difference”. Frost seems to be less convinced. He never says whether “all the difference” meant that it was for the better. My best guess is that either road chosen would have made “all the difference”. The fact that he picked one and took it, is really the point.
There are memorable roads in my life.  But  one particular stretch of highway that is so well traveled, it is part of my story in more ways than one, stands out among them: the small piece of the I-15 from San Bernardino, California to Salt Lake City.  Our  own “over the river and through the woods” for the occasional holiday feasts and funerals. It was the road home for my parents, a way back for them, from the busy-ness of Southern California to their families and their complicated histories. And by extension, it was a road to my own complicated history. But we looked forward to it. Every time. There was snow and grandmothers and cousins, old and young. There was a cookie jar, Ralph the dog and a basement with walls teeming with the whispers of memories you could hear but could never really make out. We loved Uncle Dave’s Jam Room and retired Qupie dolls and old cocktail dresses with died-to-match shoes. It was like stepping through a portal from our world into the crystal fragments of the past that never managed to answer as many questions as they raised.
Goofing off before a New Year's performance
(With Jessi-Hurray!) Maybe 1987?
In my earliest memories, we traveled in a maxi-van, mom in the co-pilot position, dad at the wheel and the seven of us (seven at the time) in seats according to seniority and a childhood hierarchy that was mostly unspoken but occasionally dictated with a charlie horse. They were mostly night drives, Dad could make the entire 10 hour drive all in one stretch without having to make frequent bathroom stops and the added cost of having to feed everyone. So the older siblings called dibs on the benches while the younger half rolled around haplessly under foot all night. Sometimes we wouldn’t rouse until we arrived, but I have vivid memories of catching whatever corner of a window I could see through, and watching the movements of the night sky as we hurled ourselves through the desert and mountain terrain, crossing a time zone, climbing altitude, leaving home behind. 
        It wasn’t too long before our travel arrangements took a turn for the extravagant when my parents procured a motor-home, complete with bathroom facilities and kitchenette. The nature of our drives changed. The ability to take our own food and use the facilities when needed meant driving through the night was no longer a necessity. Although  I suspect that it was at night, with the eight of us now, quiet, and the road looking less traveled in the twilight, where my father made his peace with the world. 
      There were times, when we were awakened in the ungodly hours of the morning because we were passing through Vegas and a $1.99 steak and eggs special was too good a deal to pass up.  And so, in came the whole stumbling Nelson brigade, blinking furiously to adjust to the lights and the dinging of the casinos, alive and well with hopefuls, so that we could sup on the morning buffet. 
Coming through the corner of Arizona in the midst of the great stone giants, layered rock in shades of reds and oranges was always impressive and daunting. Long stretches of desert in between small towns is the trademark of the journey. “Watch out for Utah deer," dad would call out as we crossed into Utah State. An inside joke, because despite the signage, we never
saw anything wilder than cattle. 
With all of us awake, maintaining sanity would be an undertaking not for the faint of heart and Mother did her best to help entertain little ones and keep the peace. But there would be more than one exclamation “If you don’t… I’ll pull this over!” and more than once, do I remember them making good on that threat.  As the older siblings got older,  they got better at tuning the little ones out, either lost in books or comfortably wrapped up in their headphones and walkmen.
 Music was a hallmark of our journeys. I can still hear Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton every-time I approach Southern Utah, where the alphabet game gets impossible to finish. But it wasn’t just the music on the speakers that I remember. To this day whenever I find myself on a roadtrip, I cannot help but begin “put another nickle in…” or “when its springtime in the rockies.” These were the songs of the road. My own little family even sings the round, “One bottle of pop” whenever we travel because these are the souveniers of my childhood. This was where I first understood the magic of harmony, listening to my older siblings tune in to each other was like the excitement of the strings tuning at the very beginning of an orchestra. It was practice ground but there was something else about it. If ever my heart was bound in this lifetime to these people, it was in song; it was in nonsense words like “Shidalee-dee” and “Do-Re-Mi”; and it was on the road somewhere between the west coast and the land-locked desert mountains of our ancestors. 
The El Cajon Pass, Las Vegas, Mesquite, St. Geroge all the way to Salt Lake City, I can’t help but think about the pionners that first cut these paths. It is a wonder to me, both in the stinging heat of the summer and the bitter chill of the winter than any of them deicided to make a home here.  Like a ridiculous inversion of fish out of water, these people used the scorcery of faith to draw water out of rocks. 

Over the years I would make this pilgramage again and again from one direction or another. In my youth, when most of our flock had flown, and the motorhome was already an image being created in the dark-room of memory, I would climb into the suburban we now traveled in with the few siblings left and with teenage reluctance made the drive. The chemistry was different. The music changed but still we made the trip to visit our mysterious extended family and take another peek ino our parents' childhoods. 
In my adulthood this road would come to mean different things to me: My first drive  alone would become a right of passage, it was the road for running away from a broken heart, the path to  new freedoms, the trek to a beloved mission, the way to find love, and ultimately my own road home.  And now that I live at the other end, it is the road we take for my children’s peek into my own mysterious childhood, their access to the walls with whispers of my youth and my history and by extension, their own. Because in the end, it is a road well traveled, and that has made all the difference.  
All of us. Present day.

22 October 2014

Our Fore-Mothers

    Every now and then, when the waters are still and I can hear the rhythm in my own wave-lengths; when the covers are pulled back and I have nothing pressing me, I can feel it. It’s there in the deepest layers of my being, taking up small space, giving me little trouble but nonetheless, lingering. A sadness, like a tiny tenant wishing to remain anonymous, it resides quietly and speaks in subtle whispers to my soul. Only in the stillest of moments am I even aware of its presence. 

    I’ve spent many sunny afternoons with this inkling of emotion, interrogating it, looking at it under a microscope, trying to identify its origins. When did it get there? What event brought about its residence? I have no recollection of its attachment to any of my own experiences, and so, after much consternation, I have come to the only possible conclusion: as it bares none of the scars of my own heartaches and soul-sickness, it must not belong to me at all. At first I was perplexed by this thought, this idea that I could carry with me someone else’s scar. But the more I thought about it, the clearer it became. You see it’s always been there. It’s always been a part of me, inside of me like the particular shade of auburn in my freckles. I came by it honestly; it was passed down to me, but it was never mine.
    And then I thought about the mothers. Only a mother’s heart could be torn so wide and so deep that fragments of it were passed along from one generation to another, the way the corners of my grandmother’s mouth make an appearance in my daughter’s smile. Maybe it was the shattering of hearts when my mother learned that her beloved little brother had killed himself that sent the rippling of broken pieces through a generation. Or maybe it was before that, the day the officers stood on my grandmother’s porch and told her that her husband was hit by a train and would leave her a widow with 5 children at home to care for and 4 more trying to make their way in the world. Perhaps it was the years of loneliness and longing that followed. Or maybe it happened long before these women and maybe it’s bigger than this family tree.
    We often pay homage to the fore-fathers who founded our country, but I find myself wondering when we left out our fore-mothers. Their legacy runs further and deeper than just the founding of a nation. They have been bandaging wounds, baking bread and breaking their backs for us since the beginning. As women we have choices today that our grandmothers and great grandmothers couldn’t even dream about, because of the sacrifices and work of women. All these are our mothers. And all these have left scars behind in us.
    Emerson writes (and I substitute the pronouns here), “that unity, that over-soul, within which every woman’s particular being is contained and made one with all other; that common heart, of which all sincere conversation is the worship, to which all right action is submission; that overpowering reality which confutes our tricks and talents, and constrains everyone to pass for what she is, and to speak from her character, and not from her tongue, and which evermore tends to pass into our thought and hand and become wisdom, and virtue, and power, and beauty”. Wisdom, virtue, power and beauty: are these not the qualities of our mothers? We are the living experiment of Emerson’s over-soul. This is why I carry the scars of the fore-mothers. Those truths that they lived and the battles that they fought are evident in the deepest recesses of my very being. And what I have discovered about my resident sadness is that it closely resides with a strength that I also know is not my own. A strength that the women who walked before me built, one generation after another of picking up the pieces, mending broken hearts and healing each other’s souls. I find in my moments of most devastating heart-ache, that I have the ability to rise again because the fore-mothers taught me to.
    Mother Theresa said, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other”. As women, as daughters, as mothers, as sisters, as friends, we belong to each other. Whenever I whisper love and concern for another, the mothers are splinters in my voice; whenever I look out for those around me, the mothers are the shards of gold that make my brown eyes hazel. And I see my own daughters, how they brave their bruised knees and childhood heart-breaks and I know someday they’ll discover that they too carry with them fragments of our sadness and strength: slivers of the fore-mothers. 

09 June 2014

Cold Waters


The water understands
Civilization well;
It wets my foot, but prettily,
It chills my life, but wittily,
It is not disconcerted,
It is not broken-hearted:
Well used, it decketh joy,
Adorneth, doubleth joy:
Ill used, it will destroy,
In perfect time and measure
With a face of golden pleasure
Elegantly destroy.

It’s like a pinky toe or a freckle. It’s weird and unexplainable but they come by it honestly. My children can’t help it. They are drawn to water by some inner force, some inherent magnetism written in their DNA; its both completely organic and 100% supernatural. And I’ve slowly been coming to grips with this aspect of my family’s oddities since we’ve been in Homer. Let me paint the picture for you: in the customary overcast, heavy skies, temps somewhere in the 50’s my children are up to their necks in glacial waters. They’ve moved beyond flirting with submersion. They don’t bother dipping their toes or daring each other to get wet in their clothes— they simply live with a swimsuit handy and dive in whenever a moment moves them.
One day I found myself sitting on that rocky shore as I have done so many times since our arrival to enjoy the scenery and watch my children romp and play with the tides when I began to notice the people—the people who are enjoying the same beautiful view as I, but something was distracting them. As they strolled down the scenic shoreline taking in the wildlife, something was causing them to pause, chuckle a little to themselves or point something out to their loved one and then move on. It should be noted that anytime you see people stop to look at something in Alaska, there is a very good chance it is something worth looking at. So after several passersby continued this same pattern of pausing, looking and then strolling on, I decided to find out what was so remarkable that several people made a stop to see.  And so I moved closer to the shore as a couple was stopped to look and I was surprised to find that what was causing their pause and so many before them, was not a whale, as I had hoped, or sea otters, which I suspected, but rather it was children. Four to be exact, playing in the icy waters like they’re sunning in the tropics. That’s when it occurred to me that my family might have a problem.
I realize now, of course, I should have seen it all along. Exhibit A) When Brigham proposed. It was beautiful mid-July in Salt Lake City. Brig had been away for a month and we were anxious to spend some time together. Brig wanted to take me to a river. It wasn’t an elaborate, planned out proposal with flowers, or diamonds lodged in food or family members hiding away to take pictures. In fact, Brig didn’t take me there with the intention of proposing. We had an outdoorsy courtship and I’m always up for something fun, so we decided to jump in a river and on a whim, he asked me to marry him. Looking back, I know now that it’s the cold water that first inspired him.
Cut to: engaged Brigham and Morinda camping at Mary Lake with Brig’s brother Jared and his wife, Melissa. After a short hike and setting up camp, the first order of business was jumping off a cliff into the water. I was, of course, wanting to make good on his recent commitment and so I had no intention of turning down an opportunity to be the impressive fiancĂ©. After he assured me that the water “wasn’t too cold” and without so much as dipping a toe first, I followed him to the top of a great rock and as the saying goes, I followed him off a cliff. The fall was not so bad, but over all too quickly and deep into the chill I submerged . The cold of the waters was a shock to the system and it wasn’t long before my teeth began to chatter. Needless to say, he was happy we had both taken the plunge (as another saying goes).

 I hadn’t really connected the dots by this time. Perhaps I had just never known anyone that liked water as much as he. But then there were other experiences, like the time we were backpacking in Europe and visiting the Holy Mecca of Lourdes, France. Brigham found the healing waters there so inviting, he did a quick look around to see if anyone was watching and then before I knew what was going on, he had dropped every stitch and morsel he had on his person along the wayside and slipped into the water. (Incidentally, I did take a few photos with the intention of documenting the occasion, but the Albertson’s Photo Center didn’t develop those few and I have a sneaking suspicion it had something to do with the porcelain white derriere that they featured.) While one would think that I would catch on to a recurring theme or better yet, a deeply rooted obsession, I merely passed it off as Brig just being, well, Brigham. It likely began long before he ever darkened my basement apartment doorway. And I, having now secured my catch, so to speak, do not even pretend that jumping into the cold water is anything other than some form of self-deprecation. Lucky for Brig, his line of work allows him a lot of travel and time in the great outdoors,  and so he takes it upon himself to take a plunge whenever and wherever the opportunity arises. In an attempt to be less offensive he travels with an American Flag speedo wherever he goes, donning it when the waters invite him.
But then we had children. And as all parents are, we were eager to see how their personalities would develop and what traits they would inherit from which families. And how thrilled we are that Tatum has red hair and how lucky that Cleo has an electrifying energy and punny sense of humor; and isn’t it lovely that Eli has big saucer eyes like his Nelson relatives and how lucky Miss Ivy Maude has beautiful Cottam cheekbones. And every last one of them loves the water. Cold water. The colder, the better.  And so I am left with no other conclusion than that it is part of their genetic make-up like earlobes or knuckle hair. Whenever we go for a hike, like their dad, they always go prepared for the likelihood that there will be water. And it isn’t really about swimming. They just want to get in and completely immerse, following the way of the Good Lord's salubrious dip in the waters of Jordan.  And perhaps, they might argue, that it is there in the sanctifying cleanse of the waters, where they sense their salvation. For all water is their holy water and with every plunge, their communion is sweet.