You’ll never Regret It, says Dad- by child grower Annita Woz

HooverDamToesPhoto of the alien welcome  area at Hoover Dam. Yes, seriously- the artist felt that the Hoover Dam would be visible from space and that if explorers should arrive, they should be greeted with this welcoming memorial and other astrological signs incorporated into the design.  

From John Muir, “A few minutes ago every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring storm, waving, swirling, tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship. But though to the outer ear these trees are now silent, their songs never cease.  Every hidden cell is throbbing with music and life, every fibre thrilling like harp strings, while incense is ever flowing from the balsam bells and leaves.  No wonder the hills and groves were God’s first temples and the more they are cut down and hewn into cathedrals and churches, the farther off and dimmer seems the Lord. “

I was reading Muir’s musings on spring break,  on day four of a trek across what our family now refers to as “our great country.”   I had read this as a meditation, as instructed by author Chris Highland, while sitting in a lodge in Sequoia National Park in the mountains of California.

I was not ready for all of the elements, natural and unnatural, to come together so clearly.

My dad and his wife had taken their kids on a similar adventure over ten years ago, and as I called him from the road  he shared some of his own trip stories and admitted that even though they had seen a lot, they still had missed so much. 

He had no regrets and even though he spent three weeks of togetherness with sometimes cranky kids, and sacrificed some retirement savings, I could hear that he was maybe surprised about just how great it all was, and the fact that he had even done it at all.  He assured me that I wouldn’t regret it either and that even when compared to years of raising kids, working and doing the juggling that all parents do, his memory measured the trip against the roller coaster rides they had taken throughout the turbulent adolescent years and he announced that it was one of the best experiences he had shared with his children.   

He recalled the crazy lights of Freemont Street in Las Vegas, the endless highway leading him through the desert, and with a laugh, shared the story of the dam elevator that was broken on the dam tour of the Hoover Dam.  He gave credit to the kids for wisely taking more than 40 rolls of film in appreciation of the Grand Canyon, the Giant Redwoods, and the Pacific Ocean and I think I heard a crack in the voice of his wife when she told us to have a great time during our goodbye hug shared over the cell phone.  

Flooding into my head like the mountain streams we saw on the slow climb up the four thousand foot drive, were all the paths that led me to this minute. I had flashes of my first college English class where after drawing from a hat, slips of fortune cookie size paper introduced me to Thoreau and Emerson. 

I had been touched by the message of the earth, but just couldn’t feel it then.

My thoughts turned to my first home purchase where with a craving to live in the country, but not being a farm girl or even an outdoorsy type, something had influenced a purchase in a rural subdivision where each house is spaced on a couple of acres outside of town and where I could see cows grazing and farmer Davis plowing in the springtime when I looked out the kitchen window.  

My husband is the son of  farmers and he willingly took on the mowing that each year plowed under a little more of the weeds and turned them into growing green play areas for our babies and our pups.  Though laundry is lowest on my list of domestic chores, I still have a nagging need to view real estate listings in hopes of someday living on land that affords me the privacy to hang clothes on a long line to dry, while wearing just my underwear. 

Then, there was my involvement opposing the newest transmission lines for Dane County, another path that was I thought I was leading, but this week learned that that experience was just me following another road that was supposed to lead me to this mountain.  The powerline opposition group had some savvy leadership,  had inspired the involvement of a record number of intervenors in a public service commission process and led a successful but unfulfilled referendum seeking proof for increased energy demand as we entered a recession.  Despite all this,  I still faced this spring’s looming construction of a 138kv power  line just sixty feet from our sort of rural home.

I sat, reflecting on these battles, all planted in surreal fashion, by some force of nature and real life education.  It  jolted me into a personal meeting,  almost forcing me to shake hands with the energy issues that are best faced by forging friendships with the environment,  conservation and sustainable practices.

So here I sat,  looking at trees and snow capped mountains, having a coffee, my oldest child sitting at my side, both of us stretching our legs to gather the rays of sun on a warming, rocky ledge overlooking a valley taken over by the birds of the season. She looked at me and grinned, slipped her hand, nearly as big as mine, into my palm and squeezed a knowing sign that we had just been a part of the best of each day- sunrise.

Amidst all my fighting and fear, the lines were still going up back at home. Yet, out here – yes even here – thousands of miles to the west, I was seeing power lines everywhere, even in the national park.  Though fewer, these lines are still needed no matter how much I don’t want them to be. 

And somehow, in my new perspective, they were looking less visible, less invasive in this mountain setting. 

The visit to the Hoover Dam had given me a sense of the amount of natural power that is available to us.  The waving arms of the turbines that met us from the ridge welcoming us to California had been making wind power for more than 50 years already.  I was thankful that Wisconsin’s coal plants were not powering this mountain or a part of this landscape.  

I put down the small book of Muir on the copper and stone coffee table, and looked into the flames of the massive fireplace and pondered the size of this mountain and the age of the dirt and the wisdom of the two thousand year old trees and humbly accepted the life lessons that led me to this lodge.

I smiled at the notion that not even a power pole could tower over the ancient and still growing Giant Sequoias and I felt finally, that something had put those poles in their place.  Humbly I felt truth rooted even more deeply into me by my short time in these mountains, and a solid belief that it is better to fight for the good than to fight against the bad.

### part 1 of ? on You’ll Never Regret It, the trek of 2009 by child grower Annita Woz.


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