In The Silence

Morning is quiet again. Sort of. The distant whine is gone and when I step out on my deck, birds are all I hear. The cicadas started early this summer–not the usual ones, not the dog day ones, not the ones that make me sad. These were the Magicicada Brood III, the Iowa Brood, the ones that emerge every seventeen years. Their noise traveled through the woods every morning and stayed for the day. The ones in our trees were quiet until the sun hit hard, as though they wanted more sleep before they added their rolling rhythm to the collective drone. They slipped {Continue Reading}

After the Rain

It was hot when we arrived in Montana. Ninety degrees hot. In October. After sweltering for a couple of days, we drove toward Yellowstone over the Beartooth Highway, where the balmy morning temperatures plummeted into winter, one degree at a time. By the time we made it to Mammoth, the front had chased away the heat. Second-summer had been usurped by cold and a grey, sunless sky. With our eyes fixed more on our plans than on the forecast, we began our journey to the summit of Mount Washburn. Questionable clouds morphed ominously and delivered a biting wind that blew {Continue Reading}

Lifelong Learning: Compelled

When we drove away from Yellowstone earlier this month, we went only as far as we could get in an hour and stopped for a couple of days at a resort famous for its thermally fed, all-season, outdoor pool. We expected to relax with our bodies submerged in the therapeutic ninety-eight degree water as our faces braved the mix of cold air and steam which hovered over the pool and permeated the courtyard. We had not planned on the arrival of the eight ladies on a girls’ weekend. They took over the pool’s northwest corner and the fifty of us {Continue Reading}

Winter’s Question

Of Earth’s four seasons, Iowa wears them all. Each has its own look, its own color, its own mood; and each its own job. Winter drives the birds south and the people indoors and the renewal of spring invites them back. Summer’s heat grows the corn and the crisp days of fall prompt every long-lived being to prepare to survive winter. Just a month in, this winter is deep. The windows and wood stove wage war for temperature territory and we live in the middle of their battlefield. Because the windows have the upper hand I resort to down vests {Continue Reading}


Twenty Januarys ago, the flat monotony of I-80 delivered us to the foothills of the Wasatch Range of the Utah Rockies and the threshold of the Big Cottonwood Canyon.  As Dad eased to a stop at the intersection leading to the canyon road, we saw a disheartening sign spray-painted on the face of a rock. Tall red letters issued a desperate plea: Pray for snow. Those were the days before and the Weather Channel’s easily accessible ten-day forecasts and tales of doom. It was winter. In the mountains. Of course there would be snow. There was. Sort of. The {Continue Reading}

Waiting for the Pool to Fill

We wore the road to Norris thin. Home to a geyser our family favored, it was a must-stop. Every time. Echinus’ eruption cycle was short, thirty-five to seventy-five minutes. A half-mile path through the woods led to the broad depression in the earth that was its pool. Draining at the completion of an eruption, it would fill again as another approached. Eruptions were short, lasting about four minutes, but they were spectacularly explosive.  Echinus did not disappoint. Even a winter’s trudge over somewhat packed snow to wait for an eruption in the cold was worth it. The pool was empty {Continue Reading}

Part of the Journey

Even though Mom and Dad first took us to the mountains when we were little, little enough that my brother and I had matching blue and white jackets, it wasn’t until we went to Yellowstone that we really hiked. Our early forays on the trail were not entirely successful. We attempted the peak of Mount Washburn but turned back either because of the snow covering the trail or the complaining which it elicited. Honesty requires me to own that the complaining came from me, not from my brother. Our quest for the Petrified Forest, a destination not situated conveniently next {Continue Reading}