Yosemite has always been a special place for our family. When I talked to my dad about a visit to Calavares County, he said he would try his luck to get a day-pass for the park. We went dozens of times in my childhood. I am happy to say I have visited in every season.
Just the idea of Yosemite helped ease the tightness in more forehead as I drove to my classroom the day after making “maybe plans” with Dad.
For some reason, I decided to share this moment with my students. I found a picture of the valley and talked of the granite walls that encircle the campgrounds and walking trails.
“The rocks make it feel cool, even in summer. You can almost feel the trees breathing all around you. It’s quiet, and yet you can hear the echoes of people who are camping.
“Let’s take a minute and think about a place where you feel safe and happy. Imagine you’re there right now.”
One boy must have missed the intro.
“Why is it so quiet in here,” he said, referring to our “Zoom room.”
When the children were asked to talk about their “happy places,” their voices were hushed and there was a pronounced pause between one share and the next.
Just the thought of Yosemite, and maybe planting a “happy place thought” in my children’s minds, made things run more smoothly that day. In stressful moments I remembered that kindness is my No. 1 job.
Yet, the ache to visit Yosemite did not go away. I wanted just a few minutes to be in proximity to the place where we camped and walked, where I drew in my journal, where we sat as a family as cold water flowed continuously from a crack in a granite wall.
It was only later that I realized I needed a reset.
Dad did not have luck. Someone else scored the coveted day-passes to Yosemite.
As a consolation, we packed snacks, piled into his Mustang, put the convertible top down and headed up a mountain.
We reached the 8,500-foot summit and found ourselves on the dry side of the Sierra Nevada incline. Aspen trees are turning yellow and we found the perfect little spot to eat sandwiches in Hope Valley.
The cold water flowed in a small creek, continuously, as we sat separate but together in our own thoughts, each of us talking to God about this and that. This was no Yosemite, but I was exactly where I was supposed to be.
A day with my dad, a sandwich and just enough quiet to drown out life’s noise will likely carry me through a few more bumpy moments.
Share your garden
Of course, we don’t need to travel long distances to find that cold water we might be craving.
Several weeks ago a new friend named Betty Ann invited me to tour her garden. She’s a friend of a very good friend. It was a Friday, so I didn’t need to worry about teaching fractions the next morning.
One of the things I love about other people’s gardens is that you get to walk through the world they have created. If a garden feels right, you can smell the accumulation of quiet moments. In Betty Ann’s case, it’s also a fun place. You could almost see the shadow of her then-absent grandchildren racing through the towering hollyhock plants. One corner included a metal display with pots pan pans, where the children banged “musical instruments.” She said the children will race through the bushes, and she keeps them trimmed at just the right height so the plants remain magical.
She also painted the trunks of each fruit tree a different color, which she said looks even more amazing when the leaves are bare. I don’t know Betty Ann well, but spending an hour in her peaceful place was what I needed that Friday night. I’m quite certain I could have fallen asleep at her picnic table and she would have brought me warm coffee in the morning.
The best thing about visiting someone else’s garden is that you can enjoy the moment without feeling like you need to pick up a spade and dig out some Bermuda grass.