My, what a difference 12 years can make. A voyage of a couple hundred miles can feel like decades.
This past Saturday, Nancy, Heather and I piled in the family van and traveled 3 hours north, up the Kern River valley, to Lake Isabella. More than a hundred miles away from home. But I was not measuring the distance in miles. My dimension was in time.
As we left South Pasadena, the weather was cool, bright and sunny; it looked like a wonderful Saturday was in store. About 50 miles north, after an hour of travel, we encountered a wall of clouds near the Tejon Summit on Interstate 5. At first, the clouds spit rain on our windshield. Soon, the rain increased, and in the course of 15 more minutes of driving we found ourselves in the midst of a mid-March snowstorm. Turn on the defroster, there is ice on the wipers! Winter was not yet ready to yield to spring in these hills.
We soon emerged from the clouds, as the car descended down the Tejon Pass, and the California Central Valley appeared in front of us. A familiar sight, one we have seen many times on family trips, dropping the kids off at summer camp, and visits to Yosemite, farther north. Our lives seem marked by these journeys away from home and back again. Before us lay the open Interstate, in my mind this road reminded me of time's passage.
Its like that growing up, and being a grown up. Some days start out sunny, and rapidly go dark on you. Cold and unfamiliar. You find yourself in weather you did not expect, you are unprepared, and not sure what to do next. Being a parent has so often felt that way....where is this road headed, we thought we knew the way there?
There are gorgeous moments on the journey as well. The trip up the Kern River Valley felt like a sudden trip to Switzerland. Steep canyons, green hillsides, the rushing river beside us. Blue Stickseed flowers carpeting the hillsides above us. Wild mustard yellow, and the beginnings of California Poppys. Breathtaking. Surely, God's hand is upon these southern Sierra canyons. Often, being a parent gives you a glimpse of God creating. Every day, as a matter of fact.
This Saturday was, for me, a journey sideways and backwards, altogether in one day. Just a little more than 12 years ago we made a similar but shorter trip, south to Rolling Hills to pick out our first chocolate Labrador, who I wrote about recently, here. Heather, now 16, was very small, just 4 years old, and very excited to be adding a new puppy to our family, after the loss of our first dog, Champ, several months prior.
There she is above, to the left, just four, holding our new family member. In my mind, this is about as cute as life gets. Little girls and little puppies. And there she is again, 12 years later, an amazing young lady, holding our new family member.
And then, after emerging from the storm, there we were, last Saturday at Deltadawn Labradors, choosing from three female chocolate lab puppies. Childhood all over again. I felt like a kid.
Do we need another dog? My wife will take the Fifth on that question. We already have a cat. So another pet, particularly a small one, is a LOT of work, I am constantly reminded. Piddle on the floor, whining at night, lots of walks, another needy little one in the house.
I confess this puppy is one of the more self indulgent things I have done in a long time. And I also confess, this little dog is a form of coping for me. Coping with the sometimes twisting and snowy road of middle age. A way to adjust to the poor driving conditions of one daughter out the door to college, and another getting closer to leaving us each day. I am not sure how I will cope. A furry brown friend (who never offers criticism of my clothes) at my feet each evening might just help.
And so, we drove up the Kern River Valley, from Bakersfield to Lake Isabella, looking for Dad's Fuzzy Brown Coping Mechanism. Perhaps we should have named our puppy Anna, for the daughter of Sigmund Freud, or Evelyn, for Evelyn Underhill, famous female theologian. But, as is often typical in my life, I had no real input into the naming of this brown colored dog. The girls of the family took charge. My voice became small and muted. But the name was not a bad choice.
Our new puppy will be named Ella, which primarily means "she" in Spanish. In medieval France and Germany, Ella is the name given meaning "all". For the part that really matters in our family, Ella is the second part of the name Cinderella. Our last dog, Cindy, was "really named Cinderella", as Heather would put it often to those visiting our home and meeting our old, now gone, brown friend. Heather named Cindy when she was four, and so, when a friend suggested the new pup's name, it stuck. A continuation of a great name. I find it fun that the Cinderella story is also quoted by Wikipedia as a "well-known classic folk tale embodying a myth-element of unjust oppression/triumphant reward."
Will Ella be our families tale of oppression and triumphant reward? Perhaps this means lots of puppy pee/poop in the early months, followed by years of honest, unselfish, lavish love.
I think that might be the story.