Saturday, August 18, 2012
Ann and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary on “the mountain,” as we Seattle folk call Mt. Rainier. We stayed at the Paradise Inn because fifteen yards from the front door is access to a dozen hikes that are paved, so I can walk on them with Ann’s help.
The mountain was out, which means to us locals that the sun was shining, the sky the bluest blue you’ve ever seen, and the mountain was in full view, not obscured by clouds as it often is.
Lupine, purple mountain flowers with vertical flowers, were in full bloom. So were white avalanche lilies, magenta and orange Indian paintbrush, and bear grass, a white flower on a stalk that looks something like a giant q-tip. There were daisies: yellow and purple and pink. And white lacy flowers whose names I don’t know and tall green somethings that were preparing to bloom. And tiny purple what-nots blooming in the rocks. And greens: bright spring greens, dark evergreen greens, grass greens and leaf greens.
As we walked up a path one morning, I overheard a five year-old boy say, “Mom, this is heaven.”
Yes, it is. Paradise is the right place for us. We have always loved the outdoors and have sought new ways to hike since my neurosurgery.
Ann and I saw a deer, a marmot, a chipmunk on the trails. We saw a mama deer and her fawn on the side of the road. Last year we watched a black fox hunting. You never know what you might see there.
When I stopped to rest on a rock and Ann went ahead to scout out the trail (Could I make it any further and would it be worth it?), a man with a full white beard and skinny legs, looking like he’d walked right out of the Old Testament, stopped to talk.
Hi name’s Stephen and his wife died of brain cancer last year. They had been married forty years. He was no longer in touch with his daughter. He seemed sad, but at peace in this paradise.
“How are you?” he asked me when he stopped.
“Great. How are you?”
“Blessed,” he told me.
I ignored the conservative implications and said, “Yes, we are.” Because, really, we are blessed, and I don’t want to give that adjective over to the religious right.
Stephen had read a lot of information about the ill effects of meat and potato chips. He’s a vegetarian, he said, but when Ann returned, and he looked hungry, we offered some of our sandwiches and potato chips. He ate our turkey and cheese sandwiches. He liked the potato chips, too.
He said something about our husbands. Then he asked, “Are you two married?”
Ann responded, “Yes. To each other.”
“Are you puttin’ me on?”
“No. I’m not putting you on. We got married in our church.”
“Well, I have a sister who was a nun who is liberal. I’m ultra-conservative.”
The conversation continued, pleasantly. He may be ultra-conservative (I’m not sure what that is), but he shared our love of this place and a kindness that accompanies such beauty.
At one point, Stephen said, “If you go off the trail, you might get kicked out of Paradise.”
I heard his theological pun and responded both literally and theologically: “I don’t think they kick people out of Paradise.”
We talked some more. Then he went his way and we went ours. I wonder how he is now, and I wish him well.