Teri Orr: The light, painters (and poets and photographers) love
I am blissfully happy. I am on vacation with my entire, immediate, family. This is the first time we have ever attempted this.
We did not fly to an exotic locale. Or even a domestic locale. We drove. In three cars, three groups, over three days. It is a state school holiday for two days this week, and we all were able to carve out different lengths of time. I asked if the time could all be together. This is complicated and they all agreed.
So I found a lovely home to rent, designed with the just right windows to capture the much-photographed, breathtaking views just outside of Zion National Park… just outside. We are on the Virgin River honestly, right on it… with a tree swing over the water. The place included bikes in the garage for the trail that crosses the bridge and takes you around a lazy loop, in a meadow with still-green trees, in the shadow of those towering red cliffs. Every adult grouping has their own room and the young ones chose to create a Kids Cave in the television room, as opposed to staying in the other bedroom.
There are horses living in the pasture next door-a large white horse and large brown horse, who seem happy to chew on the still-green grass. The trees here are just starting to think about turning to all those other colors.
I never brought my children to The Park when they were little and I was young. My top-paying job until the late ’90s netted me less than $20,000 a year. We lived simply. Travel for pleasure was out of the question. Because I was a single parent most of my/their life, there was always that whole Disneyland Dad scenario going on. I was the parent who insisted upon eating vegetables and going to church. He was The Good Time Guy — Slurpies for breakfast and bedtimes upon request.
To my enormous surprise, my children, like chickens, came home to roost. After under graduate work they returned to Utah for post-grad studies and life. And later, marriage, and finally, children — my grandchildren, and that all seemed like more than I should ever ask for, in layers of blessings.
Ah, but time passes. Over the ensuing years I completely understood and politely accepted, the every-other-year of their in-law holiday schedules. And then there were family reunions of a family I had chosen decades ago to abandon for excellent reasons. And then, their in-laws offered trips for holidays and better (or worse) for non-holidays. And even though I live closest to all the kids and now grandkids, and see them often, the really fun stuff always seemed to happen out of this state and in others. Without me.
I accept these feelings are rather childish, on my part, I do. That changes nothing.
So last year when my mother passed away, after five plus years of being in a home for "memory care," which is a euphemism for dementia and there is little memory to care for, I thought about the pact I made with my half-sister. We decided when Jean passed we would take our families on some sort of trip. We were planning on Ireland. But midway through caring for my mother, my half-sister died. And by the time my mother died, more than two years later, 100 percent of the funds from the sale of her home ($1 million, to be exact ) had been spent on her care. Ireland was out of the question for us all. Maybe a modest trip there, for just me. Or… a long, indulgent weekend, for the eight of us, in a national park.
I chose Zion because traveling south in October makes more sense than going north — in terms of predictability of weather. And I know Zion much better than Yellowstone — I have been coming here for twenty years now… ever since the kids went off to college. So far we have hiked around and ridden bikes and eaten everything and bought stuff tourists buy. We have shared one big dining room table and we have all found spots, in and outside the house, to read. There have been, as of this writing, no arguments about anything. We are taking pictures and having quiet conversations and noisy times playing games with spirited enthusiasm. I have heard every member of my family laughing.
We have seen the sun reflected off the surrounding red cliffs, both at sunrise and sunset, when those intense colors pulsate with light and something more. And we have seen clumps of faraway stars in the perfectly deep, dark sky.
There is, I am told, an Orr’s Pub outside of Dublin and I’d love to see it, one day. But this day and yesterday, and with any luck tomorrow, I am blissfully happy, showing my little family what Sunday (and a handful other days) looks like, in this Park….
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the organization that provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.
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