Go Take a Hike

There was no playing of the National Anthem that morning. No start gun either. As long as participants were on the 6.2 mile Volksmarch course by one o’clock in the afternoon, they would be allowed to participate—quite a change from previous events at which participants gathered in the predawn darkness for events (walks and runs) scheduled for 6:30 a.m. or thereabouts. 

Arriving at the Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota around ten o’clock, we parked in a huge parking lot with hundreds of other vehicles and boarded a bus that took us to the registration area. The entertaining driver turned to the passengers and delivered a special message from the Volksmarch officials: “Go take a hike.” 

Registration was easy, peasy—name, address, phone number. After completing the forms, we walked over to a long table where several people stood ready to take our entry fee: three cans of food from each person. After plunking down the cans of soup, black beans, and corn, we walked to the other side of the registration table and started walking. 

I immediately fell under the spell of the woods. So did my husband. The sun dappled path, the birdsong, and the sight and sound of the walkers in front of me set a magical tone for the entire walk. Despite there being hundreds of people around me at any given time, I could still hear occasional rustlings in and below the trees. The aspens were a spectacular sight—tall and strait with feathery green leaves and white bark. The terrain was rough in some places—and hilly and slippery. We were glad we’d worn sensible shoes.

Our co-walkers were of all shapes and sizes and ages. Some were in family groups. Others, especially those intent on speed, were more likely to go it alone. I wish I could say there were several racial and ethnic groups represented, but that wasn’t the case. I saw only two Native Americans, a father and son, during our two hours on the course; the rest were overwhelmingly Caucasian…alas. I later learned that there’s still a lot of controversy about the monument.  Some Lakota consider it a pollution to the landscape.

My understanding is that some Native Americans were disturbed by the carvings of four white men at Mount Rushmore. Henry Standing Bear, an Oglala Lakota chief, approached Korczak Ziolkowski about creating a Crazy Horse sculpture. “My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know that the red man has great heroes, too,” Henry Standing Bear said. Work on the sculpture began in 1948 and continues today. On June 1, we met one of Ziolkowski’s sons who was eight years old when his father began the project. 

In past walking and running events, an unspoken protocol dictated that participants move to the side if tired—and stay in motion and out of the way of others. The June 1 event was different. People stopped to take pics, climb on rocks, recline on rocks, eat snacks, compare notes, drink water, and laugh and talk. No pressure except to relish the time spent on the beautiful wooded trails leading to and from Chief Crazy Horse’s monument. And speaking of the monument, Crazy Horse’s head is eighty-seven feet high. Pretty impressive. 

As I reflect on the Volksmarch, I think of the beauty of the area (mentioned above) and the people who made the journey with us. 

  • Some seemed eager to share their experiences of past Volksmarches and vowed that it was addictive. Hmmm. We’ll see. 
  • Just about everyone was in high spirits. Once I leaned over to take a reflective photograph in a roadside creek loud with chirping frogs, and a man wearing a red shirt and shorts and sporting a long gray ponytail said, “Watch out for that snake!” as he walked by, laughing as I jumped.
  • We saw a man taking photo of four women, everyone laughing and talking. I volunteered to take a picture of all of them, and he told me that was his harem. Someone told him to get in the photo since it was after all his birthday. Then someone from the group took a photo of us. It’s my fav from the day.

Once we reached the top of the memorial and looked Crazy Horse in the eye, I looked around at the others who’d made the trek with us, and though we’d likely never meet again, we shared some shining moments that morning. The struggle was real but rewarding, too. The people, including Crazy Horse, made the experience awesome.

There’s another Volksmarch in late September…. 

From Interior to Pine Ridge

 

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The stark beauty of the Badlands of South Dakota rendered both of us speechless—again. We’d visited the area last year and were so entranced with it that we knew we’d return if the chance came up. It did 

While browsing Facebook a few months ago, I saw the announcement of an event that was to take place at the Crazy Horse Memorial near Rapid City the first weekend of June, and from a previous tour of some National Parks, I knew visiting both sites was doable. It didn’t take much encouragement for my husband to agree. “This time,” he said, “I just hope it’s not raining.” And after a few moments, “And maybe we’ll see some bison this go-round.”

Yes! I thought. It’s gonna happen.

Nine days ago, we whizzed right through Interior, South Dakota and headed straight to the Cedar Pass Lodge for a hearty breakfast. I opted for a kids’ meal and added a pancake with ears. After all, we were planning to hike three trails, and I wanted to be fortified with vitamins and fuel. Although I was hungry, I couldn’t eat but half the pancake. That’s how generous the servings are. After breakfast, we ambled over to the gift shop where the hubs purchased a couple of tee-shirts and a hat.

After a picture taking frenzy of taking photographs of other happy campers and them taking pictures of us outside of the Ben Reifel Visitors’ Center next door, we knew it was time to start hiking. Ummm. Hiking might not be the correct word. Walking is probably better. Along all three trails we stopped to examine plants and rocks and to take photographs of the drop-dead gorgeous nature all around us. While all the trails were relatively short, easy, and awe-inspiring, the last one was probably our favorite. We felt like we were on the moon—no plants, just craters and buttes and spires.

After spending several hours at the Badlands, first called “mako sika” by the Lakota, we agreed that we’d have just enough time to squeeze in a quick visit to Wounded Knee. How could we come this far and not make the effort? We consulted with a ranger at the Visitors’ Center who advised us to take the dirt road through Sage Creek leaving the park to get us closer to Wounded Knee. Though dirt, Sage Creek Road was smooth and well-maintained. The animals, especially the small prairie dogs, were an added bonus.

About five miles down this twenty-six mile, less-traveled road, we noticed rain clouds in the distance. They were menacing, and we tried to ignore them. What if we got stuck in the middle of nowhere with no cell phone coverage? But then the clouds shifted, and we inched along, keeping our fingers crossed that we’d be spared a deluge. Soon there were more miles behind us than before us, and we began to breathe a little easier. Sage Creek ended, and there was an asphalt road before us. We turned right, and soon we were in Scenic, South Dakota, not exactly a garden spot but a unique and unforgettable one for sure.

We saw what looked like a store, and I was appointed to go inside and ask for directions. A woman at the counter pointed left and said, “Just keep going straight, and you’ll run right into it.”

“Really? It’s that easy?”

“Yes,” she said with so much assurance that I walked confidently to the car, pointed straight, and said, “That way.”

On and on and on we went through Pine Ridge Reservation, the eighth largest in the nation…the poorest too. Cows, horses, and prairie dogs dotted the fields and wide open spaces along the way, quite a difference from the rugged and rocky terrain of the Badlands. Occasionally, a home or community building came into view, and in a least one area, Porcupine, we saw people and buildings.

Turns out Wounded Knee wasn’t exactly right at the end of that road, but that’s a story for another day. The experience deserves its own post.

 

 

 

 

 

A Heck of a Day

Jim Valvano says there are three things everyone should do every day. “Number one is laugh. Number two is think — spend some time in thought. Number three, you should have your emotions move you to tears. If you laugh, think and cry, that’s a heck of a day.”

I liked the advice the first time I read it and resolved to do these three things each day—and more, like exercising and expressing gratitude and spending time with family and/or friends. Getting out of Dodge to laugh, think, see, exercise, and experience life with special folks can double the fun. That’s what happened on a recent weekend when my sister Ann, her daughter Katherine, and my daughter Elizabeth went to North Carolina for a Vintage Market Sale and spent a few hours in Chimney Rock.

Just being in the car together was a treat. We sang, told stories, ate snacks, philosophized on life, and shared family secrets. Around and around the curvy road from Hendersonville to Bat Cave we went, impressed with Katherine’s driving and the gorgeous sights. I mentioned that an aunt’s husband, a policeman, had been killed chasing a speeding car along a mountain road, and the atmosphere became hushed as we considered Aunt Doc’s loss.

Someone asked about going to NC with grandparents, and I said I remembered making the trip many times, a lone little traveler in the back of their light green Chevrolet, probably a ’53 or ’54. Ann began singing “See the USA in Your Chevrolet,” and I joined in. One of our daughters remarked, “I knew they’d start singing,” and her comment was all we needed to continue belting out Dinah Shore’s jingle.

Soon we were in Chimney Rock and under its spell—again. Having climbed to the top of the Chimney one steamy summer day, we looked up at it with awe and appreciation, knowing that we’d conquered it. Katherine parked the car, and we hustled across the street toward a bridge.

The bridge was barely wide enough for one vehicle at a time, but there was plenty of room for pedestrian traffic so we started walking across it, the sounds of rushing, gurgling, bubbling water all around and below us. Loved that experience—the four of us connected by blood and love and memories standing in such a sacred place. We took pics of the place and of each other.

After crossing to the other side, Katherine and Ann turned left and began walking up a hill into a quaint neighborhood I’d often spied from afar. Our morning stroll on that street nestled between mountains and situated by a creek was marvelous. “What would it be like to wake up and see such a sight each day?” Katherine wondered aloud.

The small houses were unique and charming. Elizabeth took a photograph of one of the picturesque homes and the for-sale sign in front. “No worries, I could never live this far from the coast,” she said. I understood. The mountains and the beach are both “thin places” where a person can feel the presence of the divine. And yet, living near the edge of a continent is awesome, grand, and humbling.

We were in high spirits. We laughed, exclaimed over the beauty around us and the sweet charm of the houses. Takeaway: that beauty has been there just waiting to be seen and felt, but we had to cross the bridge to do it, something none of us had done on previous visits. Cross over and enjoy the journey.

 

After coming back to the main drag, we visited a couple of shops, and the younger set purchased a few treats including a pearl ring and a geometrically designed shawl. When we went into a shop of gems overlooking the creek, I scarfed up some colorful glass rocks that were free. They’re now in an Easter dish reminding me of those moments.

Next stop: Riverwatch Bar and Grill. We sat on the second story porch, and although we couldn’t see the water, we heard its ever-present roar and glimpsed the Carolina blue sky with its white puffy clouds. A couple of times, I got up and sauntered over to the edge of the porch for a peek at the creek. A young boy around twelve years old tried to go from one slippery rock to another. Eventually he was successful, but it made me feel kind of encouraged to see that he, like us, had to struggle a little.

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Lunch behind us, we got into the creek itself…or stood on some huge boulders, that is, joining about a dozen other people taking advantage of the setting for photo ops. Seeing and hearing the “alive” water wasn’t enough for Katherine, and before we left the area, she dipped her toes in the freezing, rushing water.

I think I can speak for the other three “girls” when I say it was a heck of a day.

Shug’s Reminder

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If sappy isn’t your cup of tea, don’t read this. At the same time, we might have degrees of sappiness and different definitions. While you might think it means sentimental, foolish, or silly, I’ve recently learned that sappy can mean full of vitality and energy. That definition probably refers to plants, though; I’m not sure. I just want to tell a story!

When I awoke this morning, I immediately thought of something I’d read many years ago. I don’t recall the source and am paraphrasing a little. Perhaps some of my humanities buds can enlighten me/us. “Awake, the brain begins to burn like a coal in the dark” is the way I recalled the line this morning, a phrase that led to these thoughts:

What a powerful and marvelous organ the brain is! Without it, I wouldn’t even wake up! Once awake, I wouldn’t be able to sit up straight, walk across the floor, toast my bagel, or digest my food. And gee whiz, those are not even “thinking things” like remembering, planning, learning, organizing, or daydreaming.

Speaking of memories and thoughts, I then began thinking of the numerous good things going on in my life:

A walk on the beach with a brother and later seeing a movie with that same fellow (isn’t it mind boggling to realize that some people have never seen a movie or tasted popcorn?), shopping with one of my beautiful daughters, reading an informative blog post written by my son, eyes that enabled me to see frolicking dogs and skittering sandpipers on the beach, knowledge that my sweet husband would be going about town doing good deeds for various family folks today, the sound of birdsong outside of my window, memories of my mother who loved listening and watching birds, thoughts of my granddaughter Brooke who just won second place in the 400 at a track meet yesterday, and on and on and on.

I checked my iPhone and saw that the temp was 45, too chilly for me to go to church. I had no tights to cover chilly legs! But then, it hit me. “You’ve got an abundance of all the things that really count, Girl!” Knowing the source of the above and many more blessings too numerous to enumerate, I got gussied up and headed to church. Was I ever surprised when I turned onto 48th Avenue and saw the empty parking lot. Turns out there was Stake Conference in Florence today that I didn’t know about.

Do good intentions count? I’d like to think so. Yes, I definitely think so. And get this. When I got back home and started leafing through a local publication, I noticed that The Color Purple is being presented by Conway’s Theatre of the Republic through May 5.

I’m coming back here (to the coast) to see the production. And here’s one of the reasons. There’s a scene in the movie (and play and book) when Shug and Celie are walking through a field of purple flowers, and Shug tells Celie that she thinks God gets perturbed (her phrasing is much more colorful) when people walk by the color purple and don’t notice or thank Him.

I think Shug just might have a point. How can I not be grateful for so many gifts that I enjoy in this beautiful world? And how can I not be aware of the source of them all?

Dogs and Sea Birds

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I should be grading assignments. I know that. And yet, I just have to share some pictures I took when my brother Mike and I took an early morning walk along the beach a few hours ago. I texted him last night to say I’d pick him up at 7 this morning unless it rained, and this morning he wrote and said, “Je suis prêt.” I think that meant that he was ready and waiting. He’s not French, just unique. He can speak French and German. Nice having a polyglot for a brother. I’m exaggerating just a bit. His French isn’t that bon (bien?), but his German  is.

This morning when I picked Mike up, it was raining. Mall walking was a back-up plan, and I’m sure glad that by the time we arrived Myrtle Beach State Park, the steady rain had slowed to a drizzle. Within five minutes, it had stopped completely. Malls are fine, but there’s just something extraordinarily special in Mother Nature’s offerings, and this morning’s sights and sounds were no exception.

This morning we saw frolicking dogs, one of whom was turning around and around and around chasing a red cloth that he had in his own mouth. It was hysterical to watch, and we wondered aloud whether he would be dizzy after so much twirling. Farther along the strand, we spied two small figures out in the cold ocean, and Mike said, “Can you imagine going in the water this morning? You know they have to be freezing.” About that time, we saw their father watching from the shore and asked when he was going to join them.

“I’m not! That water’s so cold I can’t even keep my feet in it,” he said.

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Mike and I came to the area just beyond the Springmaid Pier where there’s often a swash of water so deep and wide that a person can’t cross over without getting wet. Anyone familiar with this stretch of shoreline knows this exact spot. We considered jumping from rock to rock but thought better of it. Can’t afford to break a limb at this stage of the game. No problem. We simply turned around and walked south for another 45 minutes.

Above and around us was the gray sky filled with white fluffy clouds. I used to know the name of them but have forgotten. Perhaps one of my grandchildren will let me know a nimbus from a cumulus. Beside us was the greenish gray ocean, roaring and pounding on the shore. And yes, it was flecked with foam. We walked out on the pier and observed the seabirds as they sat like sentinels keeping an eye on the ocean (and their next meal?). One of them sat hunkered down as though hiding from something. Humans with iPhones perhaps? We went through the gift shop on the way to and from the pier, and the gentleman there assured us that the weather would be nicer later in the day. The beach in any kind of weather is good!

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Mike and I talked about religion, blessings, America, family, and health. About the latter, we concur with the experts that prevention is better than any cure. We don’t know that exercise and attention to diet will solve all health issues, but we do know that a sedentary lifestyle and too many doughnuts can be hazardous to your health and longevity. About family, Mike said he knew for a fact that our youngest brother David was the favorite because his name has two syllables while the rest of us have names with one: Jayne, Mike, and Ann. Crazy, funny guy! The truth is that if our parents had a favorite, they hid it well.

Time to start reading assignments. It’s a great big beautiful world right outside of your window, and experiencing some of its wonders with a cool brother got my day off to a wonderful start. Mike also said that of the four of us, he thought I was the most “out there.” Hmmm. Good or bad thing?

Old Sheldon Church Ruins

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Leaving Beaufort after a few hours of browsing and sightseeing, Martha suggested that we look for the signs to Old Sheldon Church.

“What’s that? Something historic?” I asked.

“Yes, it’s an historic site, ruins of an old church actually. People have ceremonies there,” she answered.

“Ceremonies?”

“You know, like weddings,” she said.

“Oh, I see.” But I really didn’t. Nothing Martha had said prepared me for the sights and sounds of this sacred place. When we came upon the site, I was so immediately spellbound that I pulled up just beyond the gate and turned off the ignition. I didn’t even see the nice parking lot across the tree-lined low country road.

Once inside the gate, Martha and I went our separate ways, each of us snapping pictures of the beauty around us. Aren’t iPhones amazing? The church remains are what loom majestically in the large space, so naturally we walked through, behind, and around them. Then there were the graves, big and small, old and somewhat recent. Who were these people? Why was this land important to them? What was their history?

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It had been raining on and off most of the day, and no matter where I stood on the grounds, I heard frequent splats of raindrops falling from the huge oak trees. Cleansing and refreshing. The air was cool, adding to the magical ambience of the place.

As I walked within the remains of the old church, I wondered about the congregations who had met there witnessing weddings, funerals, baptisms, and other rites of passage. They had listened to words of encouragement and guidance from the pulpit, sang hymns of praise and thanksgiving, and perhaps felt a calm respite from the world during their moments inside the sanctuary. How do I know that? I felt it.

The sense of peace and refuge was almost palpable. But there was a disturbing presence beneath those huge trees too, one of fear and desecration. We walked about almost reverently, each of us with our individual thoughts and feelings, only speaking occasionally in low tones. As we left the grounds, I read a sign and realized the source of my unease. Twice built and twice burned, Old Sheldon Church and its people had suffered much loss.

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As we headed back to Edisto, I found myself marveling at the richness of South Carolina’s low country. It’s lovely. And so full of history. After the touristy aspects of Beaufort (not a complaint, just an impression), a visit to quiet Old Sheldon was the perfect topper for the day. We both felt better for our presence there, and I hope Old Sheldon felt better for ours.

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The Art of Shedding

I had an ice cream sandwich for lunch Friday. Or maybe it was more like an appetizer since I ate a Chick-fil-A sandwich mid-afternoon. I live differently when I’m here at the beach. It’s where I come to get away from my other life, the one with schedules and deadlines and demands.

Alas, after a long weekend at the beach, I’ll soon be homeward bound. Don’t get me wrong. I love my home, neighborhood, family, and friends, but there’s no beach there. There’s no roaring ocean, no high and low tides, no seabirds, no long expanse of coastline to walk along. Instead, there are also deadlines and due dates and bills to pay.

 I had an ice cream sandwich for lunch Friday. Or maybe it was more like an appetizer since I ate a Chick-fil-A sandwich mid-afternoon. I live differently when I’m here at the beach. It’s where I come to get away from my other life, the one with schedules and deadlines and demands. At the strand, I try to leave as much of that behind as possible, especially when it comes to behavior and attire.

My behavior doesn’t change drastically here at the beach. It’s not like I turn into some wild child who frequents clubs and bars. Nope. I’m the same old Jayne, just Jayne without the constraints of home. If I want to go shopping at the Myrtle Beach Wal-Mart at midnight, I will (and have). If I want to read at 11:00 in the morning, I will. For some reason, reading just for fun is something I see as sort of a guilty little pleasure when I’m in my “other life,” and I usually restrict times for fiction reading to early in the morning or late at night. Maybe it’s because I’m always in motion, always taking care of business.

I dress a bit differently at the beach too. Since any and everyone reading this probably does the same thing, there’s no need to elaborate on this. And yet, here’s one little thing that I just have to mention. I’ve seen more exposed body parts on the beach that I ever cared to see. You know what I’m saying, right?  

And tattoos? I learned what a “full sleeve” means from one of my students last week, and I saw several of those. Then there was that lovely young woman with her entire calf covered, front and back. What was she thinking? Or was she thinking? Putting a positive twist on things, when she’s older, at least she’ll have a good disguise for her spider veins!

But it’s fine. It’s really fine.  Once a person crosses the line between sea oats and sand, it’s anything goes (almost). Most days I’ll don a bathing suit and hat, and at the last minute I’ll throw on a cover up. It stays on until I cross the line and then stays in my bag until I get ready to cross it again.  In the words of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, “One learns first of all in beach living the art of shedding; how little one can get along with, not how much.”

Time to get back to reality. After all, it’s my “other life” that makes this one possible.