...the Journal

The Guest
Refrigerator Door

For the next few weeks, we'll be seeing magnets from Ned & Marta's refrigerator door.

This came from New York

Household Hints


A Medieval Home Companion:
Housekeeping in the 14th Century

will return in a couple of days.

Here are some of my theatre reviews, if you're interested.

Updated 3/10/01


The Brethren
by John Grisham


A&E's Biography:
Sidney Poitier

That's it for today!


15 April 2001

It seemed like a good idea at the time. It always seemed like a good idea. In retrospect, it wasnít as bad as we thought at the time. But in the moment, it was hell.

"Letís spend Easter in Death Valley," we all decided.

I donít remember how many kids we all had at that time. If David was born, he was a baby, but I think Tom was the one in the playpen in the sagebrush, I believe. Which probably meant I was pregnant.

It sounded like a great romp. It always sounded like a great romp. Mike and Char and their 5, Walt and I and our 4 or 5. Weíd take the week of Easter vacation, drive to Death Valley, see the valley all in blossom. Camp. And weíd have a Passover Seder in the desert. What could be better?

Weíd been doing ecumenical Seders for a few years now, combining elements of both the Judaic ceremonials with Christian ceremonials. The kids loved it. We had written our own ceremony which was significantly watered down, so that the prayers were shortened and geared to the Sesame Street mentality of a bunch of toddlers. For the kids it amounted to "yay, God--letís drink wine!"

And so we packed all of the equipment and the traditional foods. Mike and Char and their family got into the old grey Saab, we piled our brood into the blue Opel station wagon and off we headed to the desert.

Was this the trip where we got lost, asked directions of non-English speaking Basque sheepherders and ended up driving down a dry river bed? Who knows. Letís assume it was. It makes for a better story. And those things were always happening to us anyway.

Suffice it to say that the trip took longer than anticipated and was not helped by the fact that the longer we drove, the more Mike realized that his stomach was not handling the trip all that well. As the sun set, we started making our way in the pitch black of night and stopped more than once to allow Mike to separate himself from whatever he had eaten earlier in the day.

By the time we finally got to Death Valley, it was much too late to find one of the traditional campgrounds. Fortunately, Mike worked for the US Geological Service, which had seismographic equipment on various pieces of government land, Mike had keys to the gates, and so we let ourselves onto government property and began to unload children from the two cars. On more than one occasion this event has been likened to watching clowns unfold themselves from a circus car.

It was too cold and we knew that we couldnít subject the kids to the weather, especially without tents, which we didnít want to set up at such a late hour for only one night. The seismographic equipment was in a compartment under ground, so Mike unlocked the ground-level door, and Walt took some of the kids down the ladder and into the cramped spaces there, where they slept with hundreds of meters ticking away in the background. Char and I slept in the cars with the rest of the kids.

In the morning, we took pictures of the kids jumping on and sliding down signs reading "Sensitive government equipment. Please stay at least 5 feet away."

We eventually got back in the cars and went to find "real" camping spaces.

We set ourselves up on a deserted campground on a hill overlooking the valley. Odd that it would be deserted on such a popular weekend. We had time to do some sightseeing around the valley floor.

"The desert in bloom" is very subtle. One is not greeted with a riot of color and the whole terrain may look just as dead as it would look in summer, but then you look down and realize you are standing a veritable carpet of infinitesimally tiny flowers. You realize that the trick of appreciating a desert spring is to look closely at the floor, crevasses in rocks, etc. It was truly beautiful.

By the time we returned to camp, we discovered why the campground was deserted. It probably had something to do with the high winds. But nobody could ever accuse us of making sensible decisions when it concerned camping. We decided we would just stay there. The winds increased as dinnertime approached. The plan had been to roast lamb over an open fire and have our Seder outdoors. In reality, we had lamb kabobs rushed into the tent and eaten without any of the traditional prayers said. We figured God would understand if we just ate lamb and drank wine and thought holy thoughts. (Like "Holy cow, listen to that wind!")

When it came time for bed, Mike and Char and family stayed in their tent, which was attached to a 3-wheel trailer, so it was fairly secure. Walt and I were in a borrowed tent and it was good to all snuggle down and go to sleep. Until about 2 a.m. when the winds whipped about so violently we were afraid that the tent would be ripped from its pegs and go sailing off into the valley. We started moving kids to Mike and Charís tent and took those that wouldnít fit in there into the back of the Opel. Walt took the tent down and found some large rocks to hold it in place.

In the morning the wind was gone and the sky was blue and it was beautiful. As the kids staggered out of the tent, young Jenny looked a bit confused and asked Walt, "Why did you knock your tent down by throwing rocks at it?"

A little later in the morning we were picking cactus quills out of Nedís backside after he sat in a plant while playing baseball.

The best thing we can say about the whole weekend is that we survived and we have gotten a lot of mileage out of the memories of that ridiculous trip.

I guess God decided to be kind to us, though, because on the way home, we passed through the Pozo Valley, which was all in bloom. It was a 20 minute drive through a carpet of such colorful wildflowers, I was tempted to say "I have a feeling Iím not in Kansas any more."

On Easter this year, we will be sitting down in a house, with adults, and having a lovely dinner. It wonít be cold and nothing will blow down the house and Ned probably wonít fall into cactus.

Still, a part of me would like to go back to those days when we did such crazy things, when our kids had their whole lives ahead of them, and when life seemed so much more simple, even in the midst of all the chaos.

One Year Ago:
O Lovely Wall

Some pictures from this journal
can be found at
Club Photo

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Created 4/14/01 by Bev Sykes