Category Archives: Peaceful

I think I can, I think I can

Day 1 Lora shadow

Lora’s shadow on the trail at the Grand Canyon

Life is about trying.

Easy or difficult, a smooth path or a journey strewn with obstacles, there are no guarantees. We must try or never know what could have been.

I first learned that lesson from my Grandfather when he drove my young sister and me up the hill to his house every Sunday for dinner, chanting “I think we can, I think we can!” as his old Buick inched up Pill Hill in Rochester, Minnesota. (We always made it to the top.)

Thirty years later, I learned that lesson from my Mother when she counseled me not to walk away from the Bar Exam in Albuquerque, NM after the first of three grueling days of testing. “You don’t know if you’ll pass,” she said, “but you certainly will know that you failed if you don’t try.” (I stayed and I passed!)

Now at 63, I learned that lesson once again. I hiked down and up the Grand Canyon, telling myself “I think I can, I think I can.” (I did, with the help of an angel.)

Reservations were made 13 months in advance for a bunkbed at the popular Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. At the time, I didn’t give it a second thought. As this adventure drew near, my hiking partner decided to cancel, and my doubts crept in.

Could I scale the 4,380-foot elevation drop from the rim to the bottom and back out? A sign on the South Kaibab trail warns hikers: “Hiking down is a choice; hiking back up is not optional.”

I enjoy walking city streets and flat paths, and I consider myself of average weight and fitness for a newly-minted senior citizen.

10504923_10204540030726655_4157503886049640483_o

Lila and Oma at the Grand Canyon 2014

I’ve been to the Grand Canyon many times, as a child and then again with my own children and, most recently, with my grandchild. The splendid sunset from the South Rim is incomparable anywhere else in the world, but never have I considered hiking down and up myself.

If I didn’t try now, in all likelihood, I wouldn’t get another chance.

I didn’t spend weeks or months preparing. Instead, I decided to crowdsource among friends on Facebook for ideas. Walking sticks to steady me, good hiking boots that were well-worn, a headlamp in case I was out on the trail after dark, moleskin for the inevitable blisters, an emergency blanket to keep me warm, a whistle if I fell and needed to summon help, and water. Carry plenty of water.

The night before my descent, I slept like a baby at the historic Bright Angel Lodge. I didn’t have butterflies or any second thoughts. “I can do this!”

Bright Angel Cabin where I stayed

Bright Angel Lodge – South Rim of the Grand Canyon

The next morning, the young man at the front desk told me about his experience “slipping and sliding” down the South Kaibab Trail — the trail I was set to embark on after breakfast!  The waitress who served me a hearty meal of eggs, hashbrowns and bacon at the Harvey House Cafe told me she had tried to hike down but turned around when she realized how difficult it was. She took the day off from waitressing the following day because her legs were still wobbly.  Both these young people were in their late 20s – early 30s. Uh oh!

I waited alone for the bus to take me to the trailhead, with the butterflies beginning to stir.  At 8:30 AM I checked my backpack one last time, clicked my walking sticks together, and started down the South Kaibab Trail.

Day 1 Lora beginning the hike down

Lora looking confident as she starts down the South Kaibab Trail

The day was sunny and the Grand Canyon looked just like every postcard I’ve ever seen – perfect!  The South Kaibab Trail (7.1 miles) was all down hill and appeared easy to negotiate. No problem!

Nearly everyone I passed on the trail asked me if I was hiking alone. Although my first step was taken solo, I never felt alone on the trail. There were people of all ages with me going in both directions; everyone watching out for each other.

Day 1 hikers 2

Hikers on the South Kaibab trail

My notion of a peaceful, meditative hike was promptly discarded when I realized the trail was narrow, rocky and dangerous in many spots. My full attention was needed for nearly every step of the way.

Months earlier a woman let her concentration slip for a moment, and it cost her, her life. She politely stepped aside for a hiker to pass her on a ledge, and she fell 300 feet to her death at Ooh Ahh Point.

Day 1 trail 7

The trail follows the path originally carved out by animals but it is certainly a miracle of human ingenuity and skill to maintain for hikers year round.

Since I was probably one of the slowest hikers, I was frequently stepping aside as hikers approached from either direction. I never forgot where the edge was, choosing to step to the inside when possible.

Day 1 mules

Everything that enters or leaves the Grand Canyon is carried by mule or horse on the same trails that hikers follow.

Day 1 half way downHalfway down the South Kaibab Trail, I was feeling strong and confident. When I saw this sign, I had no doubts that I would succeed. I certainly didn’t think about turning back and climbing out.

The temps rose as I continued down. First, I took off my outer shell, then took off my inner jacket and scarf, and I sipped my water.

I stopped to rest and ate a protein power bar for energy even though I wasn’t hungry. Someone mentioned that it’s important to eat when drinking water because too much water can throw a hiker’s electrolytes off kilter.

I learned so much from my fellow hikers. I was so thirsty!

A ranger approached me. He was hiking up as I was headed down. He called out to me “You must be Lora!” The women hikers I had shared some of the trail with earlier must have alerted him to my solo hike. He asked if I was OK. I told him I was thirsty and mistakenly thought that I could refill my 48 oz bottle along the way. Although there is potable water on the Bright Angel Trail, there’s none on the South Kaibab Trail.

He offered me some of his water but I refused, telling him that he must save it for his long hike up the trail. Imagine having to commute to work on the South Kaibab Trail! Thankfully, they don’t do it every day, but spend 4 or 5 days down in the bottom and 3 days up on top. You’ll never see overweight rangers or other Park Service employees at the Grand Canyon.  They get a lot of exercise!Day 1 Colorado River and the trail

The ranger convinced me that he regularly carries extra water and wouldn’t need it. In fact, it would “lighten his load” if I took some. So I did, and then told him I felt refreshed after taking a deep swig. He reassured me that Phantom Ranch wasn’t far beyond the Colorado River.

And then I saw it – the Colorado River.

It wasn’t much further, but distances can be deceiving!

I was tired but not hurting anywhere. My feet, legs and back all seemed to be working just fine.

The most arduous part of the hike down on that first day had been the strong winds. At one point, I had to stop in my tracks for a few minutes to brace against the wind; it was simply too strong to continue hiking.

I was very thankful for my walking sticks. They kept me upright the whole day. I passed athletes running in both directions (crazy people are everywhere) but I took it nice and slow and never lost my step going down.

 

Crossing the Colorado River in the late afternoon felt like a huge achievement, until I realized Phantom Ranch was somewhere beyond, not sure how much further. I was really tired. The National Park Service brochure estimates the hike down the South Kaibab Trail is 4-5 hours, but for me, it was 9-10 hours. Nevermind, it wasn’t a race and I was feeling really good.

Day 2 Bright Angel campground

Bright Angel Campground near Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon

Since I arrived later than everyone else, I had a top bunk in the cabin shared with 9 other women. We all sat around sharing stories of our day; fortunately they were all positive.

When I took my boots and socks off, I saw the blisters. The skin on the tip of one toe completely fell off. I thought it was strange that my feet didn’t hurt during the day. I didn’t feel any blisters forming, and they didn’t really hurt now.

Phantom Ranch dining hall

Main Mess Hall at Phantom Ranch

At dinner in the main mess hall, I sat next to the semi-retired attorney from Philadelphia with whom I’d shared part of the trail. She bought wine and beer for everyone in our group and then whispered to me that she was celebrating her 81st birthday. Further down the table, a girl (10- 12?) was also celebrating a birthday with her family. The staff brought out a birthday cake with candles, and we all sang “Happy Birthday”.

The stars in the sky that night were the brightest I’ve ever seen because it’s so dark at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. When I climbed into my bunk, my legs were cramping with currents of electricity. I took some Tylenol and was out like a light before the cabin lights were turned off. The next morning, we heard the wake-up knock at 4:30 AM on our door announcing “5 AM breakfast”. It was still dark outside, and I wasn’t interested in eating at 5 AM!*!*!*!  So I stayed in bed while most of the other women got up and dressed magically without turning on the lights.

 

With my flashlight on, I followed the path to the main hall about 5:30 AM and waited outside with everyone else while staff checked to see if there had been any cancellations.  I wanted to spend a second night at Phantom Ranch but no such luck!

After breakfast, I headed out about 7:00 AM to climb the Bright Angel Trail, about 10 miles to the top. I’d been told the hike down on the South Kaibab Trail was more difficult because of the steep descent. My feet were ready, the blisters covered with moleskin.

Colorado River Day 2

Colorado River

The Colorado River mesmerized me that morning, I didn’t want to leave it. I stopped every few feet to take another photo with my phone/camera, and pretended I was one of the early indigenous peoples who saw this mighty river hundreds of years ago. There truly is a life force in nature – the Colorado River is my proof.

 

When I crossed it, knowing this is probably the last time I’ll ever see it so intimately, I said a quiet prayer of thanks.

Then the climb out began. It was another perfect day, with less wind and no aches or pains. I didn’t even feel my blisters. Strange!

Day 1 step by step
Step by step, I think I can, I think I can.

Honestly, the Bright Angel Trail is easier even though it’s a good cardiovascular workout. I wasn’t in a race, so I stopped and rested whenever I felt the need. My goal was to make it to the top before dark, before 6:30 PM.

 

 

There were streams to cross, and at one point I stopped because I thought I’d lost the trail. Many hikers passed me in both directions. I spent the day alone, but never alone … really.

Day 2 friend near Indian Garden

Everyone who passed had something positive to share with me, and words of encouragement. I don’t know whether I looked old and tired, but I certainly didn’t feel it. I met young people hiking rim to rim (IN A SINGLE DAY!) and others hiking for the pure pleasure of being in nature.  I saw riders on horseback, preferring blisters on their butts rather than their feet, I suppose.

The hours ticked on. About 1 PM, I realized I probably wouldn’t make it to the top before dark because I’d been following my progress on my map. Every switchback led me closer to my goal.

A friend had warned me not to look up, just look back down the trail I’d traversed. That was very good advice.

 

Day 2 horses again 2

Visitors riding up Bright Angel Trail on horses

Day 2 rim to rim athletes at 3 mile rest house

They hiked Rim to Rim in a single day

Then at about 3 miles from the top, my exhaustion set in.  I didn’t feel any pain, but I felt very, very tired.

Day 2 path to 3 mile rest houseThe trail gradient most of the day had been “manageable” for me, but as I got closer to the top, it became steeper and steeper, almost like climbing a difficult staircase without the stairs or railings.

I started moving slower and slower.

At sundown I thought to myself, “maybe I’ll be stuck on the trail tonight, maybe I can’t make it to the top.”

Then my grandfather’s message came to mind – “I think I can, I think I can.”

And I remembered my mother’s encouragement during my State Bar exam.  And I told myself, “step by step.”

A few moments later I saw a young woman (early 40s?) walking down the trail towards me. She looked so energetic and full of bounce.

She walked up to me and said, “I passed those guys ahead of you on the trail and they told me that you’re one bad ass lady!”  I didn’t know how to respond, I was too tired to speak. She asked me how I felt, and I told her I was tired. She said she was headed down the trail a bit to refill her bottle with water, but said she would carry my backpack for me when she returned.

Annette turned out to be the head housekeeper at the Bright Angel Lodge where she has worked for 20+ years. I’m sure she could have hiked the final 1.5 miles up the trail in less than an hour, but she stayed with me for the next 2 hours, shining her flashlight ahead on the trail. I wore my headlamp, and had a flashlight too. We walked slowly, step by step, talking about family, about our youth (her father was a florist and had 12 kids … they visited national parks in their stationwagon every summer). I tripped once, and had difficulty breathing. I frequently stopped to catch my breath. Annette never left my side. We finally reached the top about 8:00 PM —- thirteen hours, ten miles, and nearly 5,000 feet.

Annette was my angel. Maybe I could have climbed out on my own, probably in tears from exhaustion, but I know Annette’s conversation and encouragement made the final ascent memorable and safe for me. And no tears!  I’ll never forget her. My singular regret is that I never got her picture.

The next morning, I made a donation to the Grand Canyon Association in Annette’s name.  If you want the beauty of nature to be available for your children and grandchildren, I encourage you to consider making a donation too. I heard stories about shrinking federal funds for the Grand Canyon and our other federal lands. They are relying more heavily now on this nonprofit for basic research, trail maintenance and education.

Day 1 Lookout Studio Mary Colter

Mary Colter’s studio

 

Advertisements

9 Comments

Filed under Environment, Peaceful, Uncategorized

#Gaza5K — a Success!

running 1

I didn’t have any doubts that I would finish the #Gaza5K in DC this morning, but I had expectations I didn’t know for sure that I could fulfill.

#1 — Could I meet my fundraising goal of $1,000?

#2 — Could I get to the park in DC by 7 AM?

#3 — Could I cross the finish line without any aches and pains?

This was my third year participating in UNRWA-USA’s #Gaza5K.  These races are scheduled in several cities around the USA to raise funds to provide mental health services for the refugees in Gaza.  The next #Gaza5K is in San Francisco on October 14.

Tshirts

Picking up our t-shirts prior to the race

Thanks to my friends in Albuquerque, Seattle, Chicago and elsewhere, I met my fundraising goal just a day before the race. I carried the names of each of my 16 contributors on a 3×5 card with me during the race to honor their generosity in fulfilling expectation #1.

Morning snacks

Nourishment before the race

Since I don’t drive and I’m about 40 miles from DC, I wasn’t sure how I could make it to the race by the 7 AM check-in time. Good friends had my back. One offered me a place to sleep in DC if I wanted to travel the night before the race; and another offered to pick me up at my doorstep in Baltimore at 6 AM so we could drive together. Alhamdulillah! Expectation #2 was met.

 

 

When the crowd lined up — I’m guessing 125-150 people — we learned that we had collectively raised over $115,000 and everyone cheered.

Whether we ran or walked or strolled along this #Gaza5K course, we were all there for the same purpose — to support the Palestinian refugees in Gaza who are trapped inside Israel’s suffocating blockade and military bombardments.

The unemployment rate is over 40%; the restriction on travel has created the largest open air prison in the world; suicide rates are increasing; and in 2012, the United Nations predicted that Gaza would be unlivable by 2020 (now the UN says Gaza is de-developing faster than it earlier predicted).

start race

Off we go …. at 8 AM

I had no intention of running this 5K and, fortunately, many others didn’t either. I felt quite at ease walking along, first at a good clip, but then slower and slower as we ticked off the kilometers.

 

The runners seemed to be having a good time. It was the perfect weather, and the perfect course (FLAT) for this #Gaza5K.

Jeff and Sammy

Jeff and Sammy from Baltimore

I’m pleased to report that my final expectation, making it across the finish line without any aches or pains, was fulfilled, and my friend Jeff won a medal for the fastest runner in his age bracket!  Alhamdulillah!

 

“Thank you” to each of my friends who contributed to this campaign. Together we made a world of difference in the lives of many Palestinian refugees who will benefit from UNRWA’s mental health services.

If you’re in the San Francisco Bay area, consider signing up and joining the fun on October 14 at Lake Merced Park.  If you can’t join, but want to contribute, check this link here. Shukran!

4 Comments

Filed under Gaza, Peaceful

We All Live in Gaza

A couple of years ago, Maurice Jacobsen contacted me out of the blue.  I remember it well because I was sitting in Cairo trying to return to Gaza, and Maurice was an American who wanted to travel to Gaza also. He’s a filmmaker, and producer-director at Inshallah Media Project.

I couldn’t give him much encouragement because I hadn’t found any cracks in Israel’s tight siege of the Gaza Strip.  But Maurice didn’t give up.

The fruit of his labors can be seen in this wonderful short film.  Congratulations Maurice! Thank you for bringing all of these Palestinian artists to our attention.

2 Comments

Filed under Gaza, Peaceful, People, Uncategorized, Video

#Gaza5K – where every step and $$ counts

IMG_4443

In a couple of weeks I’ll be walking, not running, in the #Gaza5K to raise funds for UNRWA-USA to support the Gaza mental health progran for Palestinian refugees.  This will be my 3rd year and I’m really looking forward to it.

My goal is $1000 this year.  As of August 21, I’m 1/4 of the way there so I really need to focus on my fundraising and would appreciate any donation of any size. Donations are tax deductible, and I’m confident that the funds are spent wisely.  Please check out my story here.   And here’s my story and photos from the #Gaza5K last year when I exceeded my goal of $2,000. To make a safe and secure donation, please click here.  Thank you!

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Gaza, Peaceful, People, United Nations, Video

Inbetween stories, inbetween worlds

My friend in Gaza just gave birth yesterday to her second child. What is his future?

I’m feeling more and more separate, different, apart, isolated, and invisible. I have one foot in Gaza and the other in Baltimore.

The Gaza I remember from 2012-2013 is unlivable today.

The suicide rates are rising from despair and no future. Unemployment rates are the highest in the world. The power cuts are the worst they’ve ever been. Untreated sewage blights 50% of the beaches along the Gaza Strip. Travel restrictions from Israel and Egypt are killing people (literally) and now phone service and internet are being cut, shutting down Gaza’s last connection to the outside.

The crisis in Gaza is symptomatic of the larger crisis on our planet; but I see it more clearly in Gaza because I’ve been there and know people suffering there today.

The world is broken and we don’t know how to fix it.

My friend, Deb, recommended I read The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible by Charles Eisenstein. His message rings true to me. We are inbetween two worlds now, the Story of Separation (Chapter One) and the Story of Interbeing, the Age of Reunion, the ecological age, the world of the gift. (Chapter Three).

My feeling of great discomfort is probably the feeling of life inbetween the broken past and the unknown future. There’s no map, no guide, no guarantees.  Yet, I feel I met the future when I was in Gaza (2012-2013). There I glimpsed the Story of Interbeing that I’m only reading about now.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Gaza, Peaceful, People, Uncategorized, Video

UCC Synod and Palestinian children

 

Leaders of the United Church of Christ (representing nearly a million people) are convening in Baltimore June 30 – July 2. The UCC Synod will be considering resolutions to guide their actions, everything from becoming an immigrant welcoming church, to studying gun violence as a public health emergency, to a more just economy with living wages and job creation, enacting $15/hr minimum wage laws, and working toward disability justice.

UCC

Two resolutions have especially caught my attention.

A Call for the United Church of Christ to Advocate for the Rights of Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation and The Earth Is the Lord’s-Not Ours to Wreck; Imperatives for a New Era. 

I’m not a member of UCC but I’ve been invited to attend the Synod and share my thoughts about Palestine.  I’ll be joining others outside Friday evening holding signs at a vigil in front of the Convention Center.

Sunday, I’ll go inside and talk with delegates about Palestinian children who have been detained by Israel. I’ll bring my copy of Dreaming of Freedom.  dreaming-of-freedomrecently learned that Israel is the only country that has a juvenile military court, for Palestinian minors, certainly not Israeli minors. The imprisonment of Palestinian minors is so pervasive, there’s even an international campaign to end this abhorrent practice.

I’ve read the UCC resolution on the rights of children living under Israeli military occupation. Someone certainly did their homework. The facts are irrefutable, and they’re all here, along with a slew of footnotes and references.

However, the resolution is more than just exhortations to the State of Israel and the US government to do the right thing.

In addition to a call to action for the UCC members to educate themselves about the plight of Palestinian children prisoners, this resolution provides very detailed guidance to the U.S. Congress and to Israel about what is expected of them. The actions include: (1) withhold military assistance to Israel consistent with the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act, (2) lists specific changes that Israel must make in their process of arrests and detention of children, (3) the U.S. Senate must join 194 countries who have signed onto the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, and more.

This military occupation is going to end, and the Palestinians will be free. The wave of public opinion from many different faiths supporting Palestinians is unstoppable. Whether the State of Israel can survive in the future as a neighbor rather than an occupier is yet to be determined.

 

UCC 1

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Peaceful, Spiritual - Religion, US Policy

Enough is more than enough

coresistance

From the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship website.

— A reflection from Presbyterian Peace Fellowship Activist Council member Jessie Light on June 5, 2017, the 50th anniversary of the Occupation of Palestine.

When fences become walls become concrete prisons
When tents become houses become tear gas test-sites
When days become years become decades and
the oppression swelters, endlessly.

When a stone is met with a bullet,
When righteous anger is met with murder,
When protest is met with a militarized Caterpillar and
the tears shed could fill the Dead Sea.

What do we call this period of time? This suffocating, asphyxiating fifty years of
Bombs tear gas violence repression checkpoints surveillance microaggressions machine guns
racial profiling settlements innocent deaths cultural appropriation bulldozing brutality

We name it apartheid,
We name it injustice,
We name it occupation.

Fifty years of making an occupation out of violence,
Fifty years of preoccupation with “security,”
Fifty years of military occupation of Palestine.

When will it end? When will life begin anew? When will children walk safely to school?

This holy land,
this wholly divided, wholly splintered, wholly oppressed land
needs our voices, our hands, our righteous anger, our protests, our boycotts, our endless
objection-rejection-opposition-confrontation
of a fifty-year oppressive occupation
of a so-called holy land.

Enough is more than enough.loss-of-landThe Presbyterian Peace Fellowship (PPF) has a long history of activism in Israel/Palestine. PPF regularly sends delegations to Israel/Palestine. The next delegation is set to travel July 22 – August 4, 2017.  Check it out here.  Although the application to join the delegation is now closed, follow their journey online.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Occupation, Peaceful, People, Spiritual - Religion