Friday, June 27, 2008

Moab Part II

Continuing our one vacation since we left California. . . .(Ugh) we stayed up the Colorado River Valley, not far from a geologic feature known as the Fisher Towers (below).  Hiking around them revealed beautiful wildflowers in bloom, as I hope a couple of pictures here will attest.

Here and below are pictures of the place where we stayed, Red Cliff Lodge.  It was niiiiiice!  We have also stayed at Sorrell River ranch in this area, and both are just excellent, and so peaceful.  The Red Cliff lodge is right on a bend in the Colorado river, as this late sunset photo shows. 

This is a picture looking at the Lodge from the opposite direction at sunrise. 

This pool is about as picturesque as they come, but dang it was cold.  Felt good on those 100 degree afternoons, though. The Lodge even had its own vineyard, for those who get excited about that kind of thing.

We hiked in Arches National Park quite a bit, particularly to Sand Dune Arch for da boys, and to nearby Broken Arch.  There were great flowers out all along the latter hike, and Kate and I had fun taking photos of them.

Here is Kate under Broken Arch.

Keegan walked the whole .2 miles to sand dune arch, his first official hike under his own steam. And he was dressed to kill to boot!

We found some really well-preserved Petroglyphs.

So do  you think Kate takes after her Grandma?  Just a little?  They are like peas in a pod in so many ways.

All that hiking and scrambling can sure wear a fella out.  But it is an awful lot of fun.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Moab Part I

We went to Moab with my parents at the end of May, and stayed at Red Cliff Lodge. More on this trip later, but for now, here are a few pics of the highlights.

Kate and I hiked to Delicate Arch for sunset, and for me, it was the highlight of the trip.  She talked all the way there, hardly leaving me time to get a word in edgewise -- this despite a pretty steep up for a good portion of the hike. Finally, as we neared the top, she said "Dad, you know this hiking would go a little easier on me if you would do some of the talking."  I was, of course, speechless at this moment as well.  

On the way back, I was trying to have one of those great Daddy-Daughter talks, and so was telling Kate that she was one of the greatest girls ever, and that she shouldn't ever let anyone tell her otherwise.  Her immediate response: "Dad, who would ever do a thing like that?" Boy do I love this little girl.

Of course, I feel the same about my boys.  We stopped at the Dinosaur park in Price on the way down for a much needed break, and had a great time playing hide and seek. Here is Keegan grinning at being found. 
And here is my handsome little man, who is growing up so fast.  

Moab makes me come alive, I really love this place.  It even made me into enough of a morning person to get these shots of the Moon and sunrise at Dead Horse Point, a nearby state park that my Grandpa Aldin established when he was State Parks Director.

The photo above is in the Colorado River Valley near where we stayed (more on that later). Hopefully, as both that photo and the photo of the Fisher Towers below attest, the place was just ridiculously beautiful.

Above, a sense of scale on the cliffs near Delicate Arch; below, the icon.  This place is so amazing. More photos to follow in a second post, but it is late now, and I will have to do it some time this week.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Thoughts on Washington DC

I was in Washington DC on business two weeks ago, and had one morning free to walk around the city that has been an important part of my life. Beginning at age 17 on my first trip here, and continuing through a 1984 internship, three years of law school, and subsequent working trips, I have come to feel it is a part of me in many ways. However, it has been 15 years between this most recent visit and my last trip. This city rich in symbolism left me pondering a few words that capture my impressions after this long absence.

Friends. My visit began at a dinner of Ethiopian food with the Ballards, dear friends who are soon to serve our country in Korea, and ended with a visit to the Korean War Memorial, and thoughts of another dear family friend and mentor, Bob Murray, who served there. Other friends and friends of family danced in and out of my mind as I walked around this city– the Hammons, serving our country in Iraq; Bud Hackey, a family friend who served at Iwo Jima in World War II; Don Cazayou, a law school friend, just elected to Congress from Louisiana, other law school colleagues and the close group of Utah friends that spent such great time with us here. How lucky we have been to know such good people.

Fences. My first walk took me by the White House, where unsightly cement barricades, guard dogs and security vehicles litter the streets and walks all about. Ugly black fences bar access and even views. How we have changed since 9-11. That change goes to the very heart of who we are. The distance purposely placed between the President and those he was elected to serve feels so out of place, so wrong. I know that these things may be necessary, but it is so far from what we really need. The great audacity of America is the openness of freedom, the courage and understanding and faith it takes to trust those around you to be free. That courage is under severe test, but an abundance of fences is not what will win the day. We win by reaffirming our belief in the ability of mankind to be free, to live together cooperatively in peace, to be respectful of their fellow citizens, and their lives, liberty, happiness and property. What greater symbol of that faith than to remove these bars and barriers? Perhaps moving them would be the equivalent of the President bearing his breast to a sharp knife. Yet that act of courage would remind us of who we are and what we believe, and would, in my view, ignite more fire for freedom than all the steel and concrete in the world. (Besides, there are better ways than fences to keep the President safe –we are the leaders of the world in high-tech, after all, and what would it really cost to bring on a few more secret service agents?)

Trees. Life saving, heat-shielding, beautiful, established trees. In this humidity and heat, the shade of a tree and a slight breeze can make all the difference. Plus they are chock full of happy, bouncing squirrels. I love the deciduous forests of the east, and particularly the magnolias, but really, all of it. Bike paths and parks, rivers and roads, all covered in trees. These are the peaceful, comforting thoughts of trees. The trees in the second picture are part of a park near the Old Executive Office Building, and the flowers are in the shape of a big red one, in honor of the Army’s First Infantry Division, nicknamed the Big Red One, the first division the United States sent to France in World War I. There, it turned back a German advance on Paris, and single-handedly defeated eight German Divisions to help push for the eventual end of the War. The Big Red One was also the division that landed at Omaha Beach in Normandy during the Second World War. Fitting that it should have a simple, living monument so near the White House.

Breathtaking. Even after seeing it so many times, the Washington Monument still takes my breath away. It symbolizes not only this towering giant of a man, but also everything we are and believe in as a country – strength, courage, truth, hope, soaring dreams and ambitions, freedom, trust in the God of heaven. When I stand near it, and see the national mall, the miracle that is this country washes over me in tidal waves. How lucky I am to have been given this great gift. I can never forget that just by being here, I am already more fortunate than the rest of the entire planet.

Airplanes. Did you notice the airplane in the picture of the Washington monument? (The one here next to the Lincoln Memorial is more obvious). How did you feel when you saw it? As has been the case for many years, airplanes regularly swoop down the Potomac on their way to Reagan Airport, passing near many of the monuments we hold dear as a nation. I was unprepared for my own reaction to seeing a plane flying near these places. Flashbacks to 9-11 came potent and unbidden. How ominous it felt. Once and still a symbol of what we dare, how much we have achieved, how amazing we are, airplanes have also become a very new symbol of what we most fear, of a national nightmare that lingers still. Perhaps that will fade with time. I certainly hope so. But at the back of my mind, I think about how antithetical radical Islam is to everything we believe, and my hopes are tempered. As long as the world needs oil, it will feed a very real threat to my children and all I hold dear.

Words. They are everywhere here, and their power, even centuries after they were first spoken, is still felt. People come from all over the world to the Lincoln Memorial, and read his words in hushed voices. They come from all walks of life, all shapes and sizes. They bring their kids, their lovers, their friends, their aging grandparents. The space itself is labeled a temple, and people do worship the ideas that are found here. That this miraculous union can exist for very long in this world, with all the vulnerabilities attendant to freedom, is nothing short of a daily miracle.

Kids. They are also everywhere in DC, reading, learning, listening, thinking, being somehow goofy and contemplative at the same time. Their sheer numbers provide a palpable sense of hope and renewal, and reminded me of my first Washington DC experience. I came as a 17 year old, with hundreds of other high school kids from all over the country, to attend the Presidential Classroom for Young Americans. As a result, the first time I learned of the phrase “Ask not what your country can do for you, rather, ask what you can do for your country,” I was standing at President Kennedy’s grave. I will never forget the emotions that overwhelmed me at that moment, and I’ll never forget the silence and reverence mandated by The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I know that these kids will feel the same things. For all of its bad press, Washington DC is so important. Every young man and woman should have a chance to visit, and experience it for themselves. It would make us a better people.

Water. It is a part of almost every major monument here, and its fluidity feels like freedom. Water is also a symbol of rebirth, which is so fundamentally a part of our story, as a nation of immigrants looking for a new chance, a new opportunity to make our place.

Gratitude. It usually happens at one of the monuments, but somehow the intensity and onset of this feeling is always unexpected. My first impression of the new World War II Memorial was that it was sub-par, not as monumental as it should be for the sacrifice and achievement it represented. Then I read a single word on the Pacific Theater end: “Midway,” and it struck me how much that word had changed everything for me, how it meant that freedom would, against all odds, prevail over tyranny for the period of my life, and with God’s blessing, the lives of my children. It reminded me of the unity we had then and now need so badly, how the actions of the courageous few really can change the world. I always shed tears when these moments happen, and my spirit comes away cleansed, somehow, of all the detritus that seemed so important only minutes before. This is the magic and beauty of Washington DC, and it remains potent, even behind fences and barricades. I thank God for my country. May He continue to bless her.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Peace and Progress

I had the kids all day on my own today, and what a pleasure it was.  Last week I was gone on business for three days; the week before that two; and the week before that three again.  Monday I leave for another four day business trip.  Needless to say Kath needed the time alone, but I also needed to be with the kids.

We went to historic Wheeler Farm in Salt Lake City, and had a blast.  Pigs, goats, ducks, geese, chickens, sheep, horses, cows and even a finger-hunting turkey all played a part in our fun, though chasing ducks was clearly the favorite pass-time.  The kids played wonderfully together all day, with nary a spat.  

As we returned home, Keegan fell asleep in the car, but woke up when we arrived at home only 25 minutes or so later.   I thought that he would easily fall asleep again, and left him in his crib despite the fact that he cried in alto voce for release for at least 5 minutes.  

At that point, over the baby monitor I heard a door open quietly, and Alden say softly "what's the matter little buddy?  Are you ok?" He followed with, "don't worry, I'll get Dad."  After I let Keegan out they played together unsupervised for about 45 minutes, with Keegan squealing in delight at least half the time.   

Those of you who remember the initial post-birth  interaction between these two will know how far sweet Aldy has come.  He still won't share toys, but has made tremendous progress, and I now have high hopes that they will become fast friends.   

All in all it was just a great day.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

I Take It All Back

Yes, I take it all back.  All that stuff about "Two-Foot Tornado" and "Captain Train Wreck." (See "Nominations Please" below).  The aspersions about hair-pulling and food-dumping, diaper-wrestling and brother-baiting?  Gone.  All gone. 

What could possibly cause such a drastic change in my story,  you may ask?  Have I suddenly gone into politics where such things are routine? Found a new religion?  Been forced to eat soap?  No, nothing like that, dear readers.

But I have been traveling quite a bit for work lately -- three days in Bakersfield two weeks ago, three days in Washington, DC this week.  As I returned home from the Bakersfield trip on a Thursday night, Keegan ran to me, arms raised, and when I lifted him up he wrapped them around my neck in the tightest hug ever by a one and a half year old, all the while kicking his little legs for all he was worth and exclaiming "Daddy! Daddy!" over and over again.  It lasted for at least two minutes.  On my recent return from DC this week, he grabbed both of my cheeks in his paws (regrettably they are such very grabbable cheeks) and pulled my face right into his for a big old smacking lip to lip kiss. He did this at least 10 times, grinning between each one.

So I take it all back. Every last jot and tittle. He is an angel.  Dream-boy. Wonder-child. Perfection.  And he can do whatever he wants, dang it.