Your Splendid Life

As I was planting my first batch of pansies this week, a little onion snow commenced. By that I mean, the kind of snow that looks all fluffy and lovely coming down, but it’s just a gesture toward the real thing. No accumulation, no severe weather alerts, no matter how long it goes on.

That snow reminded me of another spring snow from maybe twenty years ago. My daughter and I were doing a road trip from Maryland to San Diego to see the Aged P’s, and then we were heading to Las Vegas to take in an international horse show. I asked around among friends and acquaintances about what sights we should see (I’d driven cross country MANY times, but never with a teenager riding shotgun), and one suggestion kept cropping up:

“Go see the Grand Canyon.”
“The Grand Canyon is the only national park I saw as a kid that impressed me even more when I saw it as a adult.”
“You can’t miss the Grand Canyon.”

Oh, all right. I did ask, and I hadn’t seen the GC in all my travels, so I made the reservation. We arrived at the hotel (South Rim) after dark, and got the last available  room on the canyon-side and a second room on the mule-palace-side. Guess which one I took?

About oh-dark-how-dare-you-thirty, somebody starts pounding on my hotel room door. “Mom, get up. You have to see this. Get up now.” I got up, which–being an experienced parent–I could do without waking up, more or less, and stumbled across the hall. “What? What is it? Why did you get me outta bed, when….?”

Darling child pointed to the window, which had a spectacular view of the North Rim. During the night, a dusting of snow had fallen, and the white frosting limned about the first thousand feet of the canyon face. I had never seen the Grand Canyon before, and this was the canyon in prize-winning photography form. We went outside and just goggled and grinned and stared (and shivered and tried not to step in mule deer droppings).

And that lovely memory put me in mind of a visit to Scotland in March of 2015. I try to sync up with the circadian rhythm of distant locations by getting outside early in the morning the day after I arrive, and so there I was, stumbling around at maybe 9 am, and wondering why the sidewalks were so crowded. I mean… everybody was outside. The hotel maids, the tourists, the skinny young guys in their then-fashionable skinny suits, schoolchildren… everybody was outside for some reason.

Then I saw people wearing funny cardboard glasses and I realized, “Oh, yeah. Scotland is having a near-total solar eclipse… guess that’s today?” The eclipse itself was interesting. The light got strange, the sky went gray, and because there was the thinnest overcast, the moon’s progress before the sun was starkly visible.

What was even more delightful though, was that we were all there, pausing our commutes, our sightseeing, our school day, our jobs, our everything to look up in wonder… together.  The whole city declared a spontaneous recess, and our amazement was even more joyous for being shared.

That was a magical, transcendent moment, just as my first sighting of the Grand Canyon was magical for my daughter and me–and that she was the one to show it to me was doubly wonderful.

And I got to revisit these surprising, wondrous moments of connection all while planting my pansies in the snow.

Do you have any splendid little moments among your memories?

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11 comments on “Your Splendid Life

  1. Many years ago when I was married to a British soldier.We decided to drive to Italy for a week’s break.We were already based in Germany so we set out in our old but trusted Volkswagen beetle.Two friends followed in their new car.In those days we had to drive through the Brenner pass over the alps from Austria and down to Italy.It was dark and snowing and we saw a sign saying this hotel was the last before traveling up the treacherous alps.We had our one year baby son with us and the heater in the car was not working so we booked into the hotel.After a goodnight sleep we opened the window to see the most beautiful scene,it took my breath away.Austrian wooden chalets,cows grazing on green grass with the bells around their necks,the snow capped alps beyond and the farmers busy in their daily tasks.It was a picture postcard moment.I have been blessed with seeing so many wonderful sights around our planet.It has been a treasured gift that will stay with me for the rest of my life.So when today’s world throws me a wobble and I feel low I have a collection of vistas in my head.Makes me humble.Be strong and care for each other,!oved ones,friends,neighbours it is a tough call at the moment for many of us but it will get better.

  2. Your piece jogged my memory of my trip to the Grand Canyon. It was a cross country road trip going to California. We made a sudden decision to go a little out of our way and visit the Grand Canyon. Every thing that could go wrong – went wrong. The car overheated, we got lost a couple times. I can remember thinking that nothing could be worth all the trouble we were going through. But when we finally made it there – oh my gosh! It was right before sunset and it was truly grand!

  3. While serving active duty in the UK, I flew my parents over to go to Berlin with me. I booked us into the Officer’s Quarter at Templehoff & my dad wandered around looking bemused at a place he hadn’t seen in 57 years.

    In a miracle of timing, the wall opened & I have pictures of my folks standing in front of graffiti saying “Checkpoint Charlie retired.” We were able to catch an MWR bus over onto the East side, which hadn’t been changed much in the years since Daddy navigated bombers overhead. To my amazement, he took a bearing off a church spire and, pointing, announced, “Lindenstrasse there, Alexanderplatz there, Brandenburg Gate that way.” And, of course, with his usual faultless navigation, he was bang on.

    Everyone was amazed, & I asked, “Daddy! It’s been 57 years! How did you know?” And he gave a shrug & a grin & told the bus, “When they did their best to shoot you down, you tend to remember where you were.”

    My piece of the Wall went AWOL on one of my many moves, but the wonder on my mom’s face as she went face to face with Nerfertiti’s famous bust in the Berlin Museum lives with me still. Growing up in poverty in Appalachia, she never thought she’d walk the streets of Berlin & stare into the faces of mummified Egyptian royals. And my father found satisfaction that a city he’d flown over in war was coming together at last. We stood watching Trabant cars crammed with East Berliners pour through the wall & experience their first hamburgers, bananas, & stare in fascination at the neon lights & incredible wealth of a major western city after the drab poverty of their side. Mom summed up East Berlin in her soft Kentucky drawl. “Ah bin poor, but I hain’t never been so poor as these folks.”

  4. Mine is that same snow. I love, love, love the snow. As beautiful as spring is, I’m always sad to know the snow is done. My birthday is the first week of April and it has snowed about 50% of those days. The year my father died in January, my birthday was a Saturday. It snowed and I felt as if my father sent me snow for my birthday. I know it’s going to snow 50% of those days, but when it does, it makes me smile at Heaven and say “thank you, daddy.”

  5. The closest we ever got to the GC it was the summer of ’14 when Central TX had had about five months already of day after day of scorching heat and I needed a break. My boss suggested we just drive into the mountains, which would’ve meant at least New Mexico. We had kin in Flagstaff though so we headed there. I wanted to give up everything and move to Flagstaff then. Back ‘home’ I dreaded leaving the house and my AC, but we were wearing light jackets at night in FS. We weren’t exactly sure where we were going after that and kind of mentioned the GC, but a brother-in-law said it was miserable that time of the year so we chose another route. Real mountains were a novelty to me having grown up in flat ol’ Nebraska, and living in central New York state where the most mountainous places we saw were the Catskills (pretty darned breath-takingly beautiful,) and Hudson Valley, and the Finger Lakes. Our drive west that summer included Ruidoso, NM, and the drive between Flagstaff and Sedona through a state park and on the windingest, steepest, twistiest, craziest road I’ve been on, where you hold your breath half the time. Very beautiful though. We took the interstate back to Flagstaff. FS is a dark city and seeing the star filled sky from that town was incredible for someone who wasn’t raised in the country. I saw the Milky Way for the first time. So many stars in the sky I had a hard time identifying the constellations I knew. That trip had so many of those splendid little moments that we’ve often talked about it over the years, when some isolated memory comes up.

    I loved your story. There’s nothing like sharing something as beautiful as that while seeing it through your kid’s eyes. You know those years that the ennui hits and you don’t think you’ll ever be able to impress/please your child again except making their favorite meal 7/7/356. :/

  6. I have too many moments to mention them all. Most are outdoors and the best is in among the trees near the shore of an inland lake (I’m from Michigan – so spoiled). It is absolutely perfect when there are no bugs to deal with (LOL).

    My first visit to the Grand Canyon was when a friend came through Phoenix and dragged me up there in the middle of February. We slept in the camper in the back of his pick-up and I about froze. However the next day with absolutely no crowds, we went and sat on the rim with our legs dangling over and he (having just graduated with a degree in geology) gave me my own personal lecture from the bottom up (or was it the top down?). I have been back many times but that one was magic.

  7. I would say our trip to the Grand Canyon was magical as well. We took a daytrip from Sedona and I wish we had had more time. Leaving was hard so if I ever get to visit again, I would love to be able to stay right there and soak it in. What a delight that you shared that morning and memory with your daughter

    Decades ago, I went out to the Great Pyramids of Giza at sunrise. It wasn’t my only time there (I did a year abroad in Cairo, so I had multiple opportunities) but it was definitely the best. Generally speaking, it is packed with tourists and hawkers as a popular site (and for good reason) but being alone out there in the desert (with a friend visiting me from the states and the tired guards of course) with the sun coming up was awe inspiring.

  8. Splendid moments are to be cherished!

    On my honeymoon, my husband had booked a hotel in England that had been a grand estate at one time. (But we did not know precisely what it looked like. At least, I didn’t.) The driveway was about a mile long through a tree covered path. It was like driving through a dense forest almost. We came around a corner and the trees opened up and there it was! This beautiful yellow stoned masterpiece of English architecture. And WE got to stay there. We were both awestruck!

    Then, we also flew over Ireland and the green-ness and the sheepi-ness of it was SO lovely!

    I also had a “take my breath away” moment when I first espied one of Van Gogh’s peach tree paintings. I stood in front of it for, what felt like, 8 hours. It was SO beautiful I didn’t want to leave. Pictures just don’t do any justice to the actual paintings.
    (A Rembrandt also took my breath away, but I’ll have to stop remembering or I’ll never stop typing!!) ;p

  9. Part of it is the surprise, right? We pulled into a parking lot yesterday, went through the gate and saw field after field of blooming ranunculus. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t that.

    I have to keep my head up, though, or I miss these things.

  10. I can remember sleeping outside on the roof of a pontoon one summer, and having the bats swoop over us as we went to sleep. It was magical! I wish I could do that again, but that lake is essentially gone due to climate change. boo 🙁

  11. One of my favorite memories is also from the Grand Canyon. I was camping in late October and the second night we saw a RED sunset. It was so beautiful. The Grand Canyon is one of the places I’ve been that photos don’t do it justice. It’s a must see.