Oh, if life were made of moments,
Even now and then a bad one!
But if life were only moments,
Then you'd never know you had one.
Life IS made of moments—magical moments when time seems to stand still, when images are permanently etched in our memories, when words ring in our ears that will never be forgotten, when powerful feelings fill our hearts and inundate our souls. However, if life were only made of moments like these, we would never know we’d had one; they’d lose their magic, we’d fail to recognize their significance, their power to enchant and change us would disappear. It is the random, spontaneous sporadicness of moments that give them their magical powers. Thank God both for moments and for their momentariness.
Our Havasupai was filled with moments, life-changing, time-freezing, heart-warming moments. Let me share a few……
Monday morning. 4:45 a.m. Already cars dotted the OPA parking lot. By 5:00 the lobby was swarming with activity; students loading backpacks on the trailer, drivers receiving last minute instructions, parents giving last minute instructions, teachers accepting last minute payments and forms.
After a brief “QUALITY” speech [You represent OPA, Ogden, and us to the world. We trust you. You hold our reputations in your hands. Please be QUALITY people], I invited anyone interested to join me for a prayer on the school’s front lawn before loading into the cars. For many reasons—separation of church and state, prayers in schools issues, and perceived images of Mormon arrogance to mention a few—inviting students, parents and teachers to join me for a word of prayer before beginning a school trip scares me; it’s an intestine-turn-to-Jello feeling. Nevertheless, leading 10 cars, 15 adults, 41 students and a dog nearly 1400 miles is not something I wanted to do on my own; asking for divine assistance was intelligent, even imperative.
Choose what is right; let the consequence follow, right? So I issued the invitation and walked outside, come what may. And people came. Lots of people. LOTS of people. Parents and students. Most the people there were not LDS but most of the people there joined us in prayer. God bless America! We are a still a faithful people.
“I’m going to follow you,” Monica told me before we left the school. When I questioned the efficacy of her plan she assured me that she was good at staying with people. Sure enough, she was right behind me the entire time, even when my speedometer read 95 mph. (There are several long, flat, lonely stretches of interstate between Ogden and Las Vegas……) Later I learned the reason for her tailing talent; she is a police officer. Hum……….
I thanked God (it was not the first prayer of the trip or the last) for Monica’s talent when my van died just south of Vegas. Because she was right behind us, she was there to take Sam and Talyn (two OPA teachers who had been riding in my van) and Hobbes (the dog) on to Kingman, AZ while Marjorie (my sister), Aliza (my niece), Grace (my daughter), and I (myself) stood on the edge of the freeway, reading Elder (Chick) Hislop’s first email from Washington and waiting for the tow truck.
The van, may it rest in peace, will never leave Las Vegas. Thanks to Marjorie’s daughter who brought us their vehicle, and Marjorie’s husband, who took their daughter back home, we were able to leave Vegas and join the rest of the group in Kingman where we all rested semi-peacefully (…Imagine 40+ 13-14 year olds, first night away from home, having ridden in cars all day……) on the high school football field. Amazingly, we did get some sleep that night.
Even more amazing were our experiences in Havasupai.
Six miles into the canyon, his feet aching from their trek in unfamiliar shoes, his back aching because he’d undone the waist strap and was carrying the entire weight of his pack on his shoulders, and his throat aching because he’d finished the last of his water hours earlier, Xander said to me, “You were right; this is life changing”…and he said it sincerely, even graciously, like it was a good thing.
Charolette, her red hair damp with perspiration, her face flushed from exertion, said “Now I know I can do anything.” Yes, sweetheart, you can!!
Brayden laid down on a bench in the Supai Village, 8 miles into the canyon, and fell asleep so soundly that even a face-licking from the village dog did not awaken him.
Jasmine casually told me that her parents insisted she pay for the entire trip herself so she went business-to-business downtown seeking sponsors and then sold candy bars door-to-door to secure her funds. She completely and independently made it happen.
Deanna, whose best friend was forced by illness to back out of the trip the night before we left, told Bev (OPA teacher) that she was tearfully terrified to come on the trip; with her best friend gone she did not have a tent mate nor was there anyone on the trip with whom she felt comfortable sharing a tent. “I had no friends,” she confided, “but now (two days into the adventure) everyone is my friend.”
Moments, moments, moments. Moments like these make it worth all the effort, anxiety, and expense.
We had a few moments of effort and anxiety the first evening……
The first OPA wave arrived in camp in the early afternoon, set up their tents, and had time to go swimming. The final wave, the group I was shepherding, arrived just after nightfall. It was completely dark when I began pitching my tent…..and when Laura said, “Mrs. Hislop, Abigail is not here yet.” Word quickly came that Brayden and Damien were missing as well.
Oh dear. OH DEAR! They’d left the Village before me so I knew they’d take a wrong turn somewhere. Trying to figure out how to help them, I mentally put myself in their shoes and imagined what they were thinking, what they would do. It was pitch black (canyons are like that at night) and the night was full of foreign-to-them sounds; they were lost in a strange place and probably terrified. Inexperienced, trail-novices, they were sweet kids but still kids and very capable of doing something very stupid. (More prayers.)
Talyn and I backtracked over a mile when we saw a light bobbing on the trail above. When we reached them, they threw themselves into our arms and began sobbing. They’d done exactly the right thing under pressure— stayed together, back tracked with they realized they were on the wrong trail, started down what seemed to be the main trail, , had a plan to return to the Village and wait if we did not find them soon—but when our arrival released the pressure, the tears flowed. I was so proud of those three brave little souls, a fact I told them repeatedly as we clung to each other, laughing, and crying together in the dark. Tender moment.
More moments, tender, anxious, and otherwise……….
Xander, frightened by heights but eager to join the fun, stood motionless at the top of an 8 foot waterfall. Soon he was surrounded by friends, old and new, who encouraged him to jump. No one pushed him, no one shamed him, no one ridiculed him; everyone was positive, urging, inspiring. And we all shared his victory when he took the plunge and came up smiling.
Hobbes, too, jumped off the waterfall…and landed on Corey’s head. Boom, splat. Fortunately, Corey came up smiling as well.
Tony, an adult-of-body, kid-in-spirit father who came with us, also came up smiling but it was questionable for a few tense moments. He jumped into the confluence of the Colorado/Havasupai Rivers, found himself unable to swim back, and was being swept from the rock to which he clung when Sam, Talyn, Hilary, and a few others formed a human chain and drug him back to shallow waters.
I found myself in deep water at Beaver Falls. When I took off my shirt, I discovered that I’d put on my swimsuit inside out. (The tent was dark when I’d dressed that morning.) What to do? The canyon walls were steep (no place to hide) and the natural pools were filled with my students. I swam over next to the waterfall and, in neck deep water, took off my suit. I was completely naked, swimming suit in hand, when an undertow began drawing me towards the waterfall.
Great, thought I…..Either I am going to drown and the kids are going to see my bare body float to the surface or the current is going to rip the swim suit from my hand and I am going to have to stay in this pool forever because there is no way I am going to walk unclothed back to my shirt and shorts on the opposite shore. Fortuitously I was able to catch a branch, turn my swim suit inside in, and put my body back into it before any of the imagined scenarios occurred.
The week was full of scenarios—moments if you will—that I imagine will be with me forever; Laura seeing a wild, ring tail cat, Pam hiking to the Colorado River in a skirt, its edges drifting downstream in the current, Jayden gently helping his mother over the boulders and up the ladders, Jonathon running away when I unleashed my needle and offered to dig out his sliver, Monica’s relief when that same needle popped the blisters that had formed under her toe nails, Cameron and Suzan’s corn-row braided hair, the line at the picnic table where Wayment was giving shoulder massages, Colleen, Maranda and Sicely swimming in the almost-unreal blue water at the Havasupai’s mouth, Israel’s delight at finding a fossilized Joshua tree, Gary demonstrating to Xander how to jump off a cliff, Gretel, Natasha and Corey singing about being in pickles, Morgan dreamy eyed over the dessert bar at the buffet in Mesquite, Bob being willing to tackle the Colorado River hike without food or water, Garrison having answers for all the questions about the Grand Canyon during our school session, Samuel’s sly grin, Jerome’s guided tours, Clara pretending to be a mermaid, hauling 5 gallons of water from spring to camp with my sister and two bandannas…………
Then it was time to pack up and go home. Up at 4:30 a.m. and on the trail before dawn, we climbed 10 miles, 2350 vertical feet back out of the canyon. That evening, watching the kids play soccer on a baseball field in Las Vegas, I was awestruck and spellbound. What an incredible, magical, glorious thing!!! The kids will remember their moments forever. It is such a blessing it is, not only to make moments of my own but also to be a part of their moment making; what a great life I have!
The next day we were home. In the words of the song, it came time to….
Let the moment go...
Don't forget it for a moment, though.
Just remembering you've had an "and",
When you're back to "or",
Makes the "or" mean more
Than it did before.
Now I understand-
And it's time to leave the woods. (or the Canyon, as the case may be!)
We did leave the canyon but we will never leave the moments. We had moments AND moments and I know those moments will make life mean more than it did before.