Monday, September 28, 2015

Missionary Farewell

The resurrection of Jesus Christ changed everything about death.
For those of us who know that miracle to be true,  or who maybe just think that it’s probably true,  or who even only hope desperately that it is true…. it changed everything about life too.

Some of us know that the short time we spend on this earth is not all there is.
Because we know, we don’t live with the philosophy of eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.
Yes, death comes to all, but because Christ broke the bands of death, life goes on ever after.
Not life as forever spirits either, or as angels with wings and halos, but as immortal beings with our own recognizable bodies.
Not even one hair will be lost.  That's a promise from Father.
Never to grow old, be filled with pain, or experience disease, infirmity, or death again.
Everyone we’ve ever loved will live again too. With every broken part mended.
We’ll be able to take them in our arms and hold them tight once more.

Indeed, no matter where you are on that path of knowing...... whether it’s for sure or just hoping it’s true..... it makes all the difference in how you spend your life.
An eternity is at stake after all.

I’d like to share a personal experience that shows this happening.
There are two men in my story and I’d like to ask that you pay special attention to them.
They both are examples of the kinds of things people do who are somewhere on that path of understanding the truth about what Christ did.

First of all I’d like to explain that my husband and I are what I like to call raggedy old converts. We didn’t grow up in the light. We didn’t grow up knowing. And becoming a Mormon turned out to be a process rather than an event for us. That line upon line, precept upon precept thing was surely no lie. Some things were easier to learn than others. Years after baptism we were still learning. We still are.

One thing we learned is that one of the most unique experiences of Latter Day Saints is that of sending a young missionary off on a mission.
The rest of the world really has no idea of all this means. And frankly, raggedy old converts may have some trouble of their own getting a grasp on this process.

I once heard a popular radio show host talking about Mormons on her nationwide broadcast about this very subject.
She was complimentary about the high standards that Latter Day saints live by, but she couldn’t understand how the Church could possibly get tens of thousands of young people to give up 18-24 months of their lives. These young people went off to traipse all over the world, living by the strictest rules, at their own expense, to preach the gospel in sometimes the most difficult circumstances. This happened right at the time of their lives when everyone else their age was having an endless party.
“Why would anyone do this?”she asked.

Well, a convert may have a few questions of their own.
Converts have no family history or experience with this sort of thing.
No one sang “I Hope They Call Me On A Mission” around their houses when they were little. And believe me, letting a beloved child go off to live with complete strangers, thousands of miles from home, communicating only through the mail for weeks at a time seems pretty much insane.
What happened to responsible parenting?
What about all the usual warnings? ‘‘Call as soon as you get there,” “Let us know when you’ll be home at night,” “Keep your phone on at all times so we can reach you."  Those kind of things?

Well, our middle daughter was the homebody in our family. She was the shy one who never liked to talk to strangers. Our only quiet kid…that one.  The one voted least likely to go off by herself to far places and to speak to others in only a foreign language.
As it turned out, sending that child on a mission was one of the most heartwrenchingly intense privileges and blessings of our lives.
Who knew?

It all started when this daughter, who had just graduated from college, came to us one day and quite out of the blue said, “I want to go on a mission.”
We were surprised to say the least.
Remember, this was that quiet introvert who spent most of her free time hanging out with her sister, and to whom home and family was where she was most comfortable in the world.
We were living in the mountains at the time, in the little house in the big woods as a friend once nicknamed it for us. We had come to rely on each other in a special way very different from the way we did when we lived in the big city. Our oldest kids were grown, neighbors were few, and up here the four of us were all we had.
We assumed that after college this daughter would soon marry and start her own family. We just hoped and prayed that it would be to someone who lived nearby.
Now a mission? Away from home? Maybe far away?
She was determined.
We were proud but anxious.
So preparations began.

One day, just a week or so before we were to take Beth to Utah, I was sitting in the teacher’s lunchroom at school.  Our principal, who was also LDS, walked in and sat next to me. He and his wife had returned not long before from taking their only son to the MTC.
I asked him what to expect.
He thought carefully and said; “Well, you’re in for the longest walk of your life.”
Getting really concerned I said to him, “Walk? Sarge, I have bad knees! I can’t walk that far! Can’t I park close?”
He said, “It’ll be alright. Don’t worry,” and refused to say more.
This didn’t help a bit.

So when the day approached, the four of us…. the missionary, her younger sister, Larry and I headed off for Provo to leave her at the MTC.

Oddly, my big, burly, college educated, 18 wheel truck driver husband was having the hardest time of all of us with the impending separation.
We stopped at Kanab to spend the night.
He bought a souvenir at the hotel gift shop, a piece of red rock with a hole in the middle.
“Look, he said, "that’s our family now,” turning away so we couldn’t see the tears welling in his eyes. Then he said a cuss word.
*( My husband has a strange habit. If anyone happens to see him crying about anything he immediately cusses them. It’s disconcerting to the person who gets cursed because they’re an innocent bystander after all. But we all understand that it allows him to save face, so we don’t take offense. We figure that he thinks it’s more manly.)
Anyway, the next day we made it to Provo and stopped for lunch at an Olive Garden before the time to drop her off approached. That was a somber meal for sure. After that, for 18 long months, every time we were in the city and drove by an Olive Garden restaurant there were tears and one of us got cussed.

We didn’t have a clue what to expect when we arrived at the MTC.
I was still concerned about the long walk Sarge had mentioned, but so far so good as we entered the building.
We were directed to a large meeting room.  While my memories are a bit foggy, I recall long rows of folding chairs and a big screen up front on the stand. Families of all kinds and sizes were entering with their missionary sons and daughters to fill up the chairs.
We went to the middle of one row, first me, then Beth our missionary, her sister, and then her Dad. Her older brother and sister had said their goodbyes at her farewell back in our home ward the week before.
We talked quietly and looked intently at our surroundings. Church videos began to play on the screen up front…the ones you sometimes see on TV about the importance of families. I tried not to watch.

I began to notice the people around me.
In the chair next to me was a man, obviously the father of a missionary. He was tall, rangy looking, sunburned and very clean. His hands were rough and scarred and he looked as if he could wrestle a steer to the ground or throw a bale of hay to the horses without any trouble. I knew that, like my husband, all you’d need to do would be to shake his hand and you'd know that here was someone who didn’t make his living in a office. Next to him was a young man, his spitting image, in a dark suit and tie, hair cut short. A deep tan line testified of a life outdoors and neatly framed his slicked back hair. Next to him, all along the row were various children, boys and girls, all younger, clean and suntanned and sitting next to a woman on the last seat that I could only glimpse. They took up the entire remainder of the row.
The young man in the suit was probably the eldest son, “the first missionary,” I thought.
There was another large family directly in front of me who looked like Pacific Islanders in their bright, beautiful colors and shining dark hair.
A single woman and her son were also on the same row next to them.

The program began. There were several speakers and hymns, most of which I barely heard.
I remember standing to sing “I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go,” at some point.
Then I heard someone say something like, “Families, it’s time to say goodbye to your sons and daughters. Please come to the front door while your missionary goes to the back door.”
I'd been doing fairly well up to that point, but just then I felt my heart lurch.
A year and a half before I see this child again! I can’t even call her tomorrow to see how she’s doing! I can’t even call her at all!
It was just then that I noticed the man next to me began to tremble.

There we were, all still standing, looking at the podium, listening to the directions to leave our children.
The stranger next to me was staring straight ahead, but his legs and knees were now starting to shake violently. I grew increasingly worried about him, which was a blessing because it distracted me from my own situation. I quickly glanced up at his face and saw it too begin to crumble, a look of anguish spreading over it.
Beth was busy saying goodbye to her sister and dad so I stood there wondering desperately, “What should I do now?” Is there some sort of Mormon procedure for this situation?”
The man stood trembling while his family swarmed over his son. By this time he looked ready to collapse, so I leaned closer to provide support should he begin to topple. I braced myself.

Just at that moment I heard the voice of our youngest daughter, the one who’s 19th birthday was tomorrow, the one whose best friend and sister, the one she did everything with, was leaving for a year and a half…I heard her say sternly…"Now Dad, let’s not make a scene…Just turn around now and let’s go out the door.” By the tone of her voice, I could tell she had her own hands full at the other end of the row.

Feelings rushed in at that moment.
I remember thinking….... Two big, strong, burly, brave, men stand here in this row of folding chairs.
If terrorists broke into this room and tried to kidnap these young people at gunpoint they’d have to fight both of them to the death to do it.
Yet, with proud but aching hearts, these men walked to that front door while their children walked to the back.
That's when I heard something I’ll never forget.
It was the sound of faith.
Not a perfect knowledge but a hope for things not yet seen.
The sound was footsteps. It was the testimony of faith bourne by hundreds of feet. Footsteps.
Some were heading out into the unknown for years to serve a mission. Some were leaving them so they could.
All spoke the same words. It’s true…all of it’s true....and I know it to be true.

Well, we went out the front door, just the three of us now. So strange that number.
We started up that long hallway to the outside of the building, our arms locked but not speaking. Each of us lost in our own thoughts.
As we made our way down that hall I suddenly remembered what my school principal had said about the longest walk of our lives.
So this is what he meant!

So you see, national radio host, the question is not only how do Mormons get tens of thousands of young people to give up years of their lives to serve missions, but also how do they get tens of thousands of their families to sit in those chairs?

There’s only one answer.
People don’t do that kind of thing for money or from a sense of obligation.
People only do that if they know the truth or maybe even in some cases, just hope the truth.
They believe deep in their hearts that Heavenly Father is real. They know Him. They’ve had dealings with Him.
They believe that he sent his son, Jesus Christ to show us how to get back home.
They believe that Christ made it possible for our Heavenly Father, who must always be perfectly just, to also be perfectly merciful. They believe that he paid the price for our wrongs and conquered spiritual death so that we need never be separated from our Father.
They believe that Christ died on the cross and was buried in a tomb. They believe that after three days that tomb was found to be empty because he had broken the bands of physical death for all of us.
They believe that many people talked to him and touched him after the resurrection. He was alive!
They believe that many years later He and our Father appeared to Joseph Smith and directed him to restore Christ’s church.
They believe that we’re all brothers and sisters…that bringing even one of us back home to Heavenly Father will bring unspeakable joy.
They believe that all human beings are precious to Father…that all of them are worth great sacrifices. That He loves us, every one.
They believe that we can be instruments in his hands.
They have faith that all of it is true and they testify of that truth with their lives. With their footsteps.

Later I received a letter from Beth as she was serving her Spanish speaking mission in Tampa. Florida.
That letter became very special to all of us. It was hastily written on a bunch of post-it notes accompanying a photograph. I have her permission to share it with you.

This is a picture of Florence and Sister Sanchez with the turtle. We were tracting one Sunday before church- in an area we felt we needed to go to. We knocked on about twenty doors until we got to Florence’s house. She opened the door and we did our memorized bit- and she turned us down, just like all the previous neighbors.

Just before she closed the door, my companion asked if we could help her with anything. With tears in her eyes, the old lady said, “with what? They just took my husband out on a stretcher this morning! He’s dying. I’m dying. With what?” My wonderfully inspired companion told her we could do the dishes, clean her house, whatever she needed.
Florence let us in and then sat next to the medical bed and sobbed. She said that she was praying to Jesus for help- she didn’t think she could make it without her husband- and before she could finish her prayer we knocked on her door.
What a wonderful thing to know that you are an answer to someone’s prayers! What a beautiful experience. We cleaned her house. I made plates of food for her. We hugged her. Talked with her. And cried with her.

We stopped by every other day and helped her in some way. We went to see her husband, George in the hospice. Sometimes when death is so close I think the veil is very thin. He just said over and over again with all of his energy “God bless you, God bless you.” We could barely understand him because he spoke with a whisper. But we did understand the tears in his eyes and his hand motions towards heaven and then point of each of us individually. He knew who we were. He knew who we represented.
We sang him a song and then prayed with him. Maybe when he goes home to Heavenly Father he will tell grandpa what I am up to. Wouldn’t that be wonderful!
Hermana Wagher

Millions of testimonies have been borne of the truths of the Gospel and the resurrection of Christ. I’d like to add mine to them.
None, though, are more eloquent than the stone, marble, glass and steel testimonies of the temples of the church. I know of no other faith that has anything like them.
These beautiful buildings dot the entire earth from Africa to Asia, from Europe to the Americas and the Isles of the sea.
Everything that happens inside each one is about what goes on when our life on this earth is finished.
Ties that bind generations of families long passed are put into place in those buildings. Vows are spoken between people who never have to say the most awful words ever imagined by people who love each other…"Till death do us part." Now, thanks to Christ, instead we can say, “For time and all eternity.”
Yes, everything that goes on in the Holy Temples is possible because of the atonement and resurrection of Christ.
Because He conquered death we will all live too.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ did indeed change everything about death.
For those of us who know that miracle to be true, or who maybe just think that it’s probably true, or who even only hope desperately that it is true….it changed everything about life too.
We live differently because we know the truth.

Our Father and his Son have given us gifts so great we can scarcely fathom their significance. They love us so much. We are all precious to them.
They ask just a few things in return.

What do they ask of us?

Well, they ask us to love. This above all.  Love one another.
And they ask those of us who know to tell the others. Tell the others the truth.

Please, tell the others.          

Sunday, September 13, 2015

A Wild Pig Nation Visits

President Spencer W. Kimball is one of my favorite prophets.
He has some remarkable counsel for us concerning animals in a talk called, "Fundamental Principles to Ponder and Live." Among his many wise words he urges kindness and appreciation for all of our Father's creations.
He says that one reason that the Lord placed animals on the earth is not only for our use but for our encouragement.
I never thought of it quite that way, but it's certainly true isn't it? Animals have encouraged me many times in my life. Sometimes just the sight of them lifts and cheers.
You can hear the Prophet himself give this talk on the internet. A modern miracle for sure. (Yes, even I can appreciate the blessings of technology every now and then.)

Henry Beston was an American naturalist and author that I admire. In the 1920's he spent a year living in a small cottage isolated along the shore of Cape Cod. I think I feel a bit of a connection with him because of my own family's time in the "little house in the big woods," as our girls called it.
During his year, Mr. Beston was blessed to observe closely some of Father's creations. The passing seasons, changing weather, calm and stormy seas, countless stars, and native animals became part of his every day experience. Afterwards he wrote his famous book, "The Outermost House."
It contains a quote that I love.
"For the animal shall not be measured by man. They are not brethren, they are not underlings, they are other nations caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners in the splendor and travail of the earth."

I agree with the Prophet and Mr. Beston and am grateful for the times in my life when I've been blessed to glimpse some of these "other nations."

Living here in a desert city, and now with physical challenges, my own travels to visit animals have become limited, but still very rewarding. And thankfully, some nations continue to visit me.

Birds of many kinds drop in, including some hummers that I swear are tame. Every time I go out to water they come to dance around the silver stream from my hose. I try to give them a drink but they always reverse their engines and fly out of range.
A small green bird hops around the branches and yellow flowers in the little tree that grows just outside my kitchen window. I can see it from the sink as I work there.
And every now and then a parade of quail appears, sometimes with babies. I watch them as they walk, elegantly dressed in their little feathered hats, across the front yard.
Butterflies stop by to flit around my flower pots on their way to California or Mexico or wherever they're headed.
Little lizards still climb the block fences just as they did when we first moved here. Often they stop to show off their pushups and sometimes blue bellies under the bouganvillia. They must be the grandlizards of those we first knew.
Big black June bugs buzz around the patio from time to time and once we even had an entire swarm of bees stay for a day in one of the big trees.
Thankfully, those sorts of nations still drop into my life.
I'm even putting out a welcome mat this season. I've looked on-line for plants to put in my pots that will attract them. I've sent for "milkweed." An unfortunate name but apparently butterflies love it.
Then, the other day, something started me off on a memory trip, I think it must have been something Larry said, to days when we were often caught with larger critters in this web of life and time.

Back when we lived on the mountain one ordinary morning suddenly became special with a surprise visit.

I had come to the front porch to sweep. Larry was working in the garage, which was a separate building a little ways off. The garage door was open, our big, old Suburban parked in front.
I glanced out to the dirt road and strolling down our long gravel driveway came a group of four javelinas. Wild pigs. A couple of them were quite large and had long, curved teeth sticking out of their bristley snouts. They ambled along as if coming for a friendly visit. But I knew enough about javelina to know they could be extremely dangerous and even if I didn't know, those teeth gave me a clue.

I hollered over to Larry. "Larry! Don't come out of the garage! Get in the car and shut the door!"
He came out looking in my direction, headed straight into the path of the pigs coming up behind him, and yelled, "What did you say?"
This startled the pigs, who snorted and squealed, which startled Larry into a hasty retreat and some unprintable exclamations.

Well, it turned out that this particular delegation from another nation became our guests for quite some time.

Larry made it to the house safely, and the pigs found shady spots in the yard to dig holes into and lay down.

Then we called Pete, our local sheriff and "go to" guy for both human and animal law and order, to make the pigs go away.
Pete came over pronto.  He was an avid outdoorsman, and was thrilled to see our visitors. He explained that it was very unusual to see javalina this high up the mountain. We were at around 7500 ft, you see, and these types of pigs usually stayed in lower elevations like around Roosevelt lake. He explained all this patiently and went on to tell us that they were protected.
I explained that we would like to be protected too and that the pigs were hanging around close to the car and now we were afraid to get in it.
He said yes, we must be careful, as wild pigs could be very agressive and he'd seen some terrlble injuries caused by javelina. He promised that they'd move on in a bit, just be patient and don't hurt them. Then he rushed back home for his camera and returned to take pictures.

Of course we had no intention of hurting them, but life had to go on which included all of us getting out to work and school in the morning. When we went to bed that night a flashlight showed bright, beady eyes shining from the beds they'd made earlier that afternoon. I suppose they were tired after that long walk from lower elevations. We hoped they'd be rested and gone by morning. They weren't.

The next morning found us, dressed and ready, looking out at four wild animals with long teeth resting in holes they'd dug too close to the car to enable us to make a safe getaway.
Larry went out to the porch to make some noise to scare them away. Nothing. That's when I noticed that javalina are not only unattractive but they also have attitude. No amount of noise scared them.

Larry then said, "Give me something to throw at them."
I looked around the kitchen and brought him a potato. He shot it out there at the biggest pig. The potato went over its head but he, (the pig), got up to go see what it was. When he found out he started eating it, which brought the others out to investigate and ask for a bite. Not politely either.

"Good! Good! Good! Larry shouted, "Bring more potatoes and run to the car while I pelt 'em!"
This became our exit strategy for about a week.
Which helped the pigs to decide that they had found a new home. They were staying. It was comfortable after all, and people came out of their house periodically to throw food at them.

I bought more bags of potatoes in town and since Larry often had to leave before we did, Beth and Kelley both developed a good arm and could shoot spuds out there quite a ways, giving us time to get ourselves, books and lunches safely in the car. We kept a bag  of spuds in each car for use when we needed to get back in the house.
But after a while we got tired of this and called Pete for more help.
He called the Game and Fish guys.
The Game and Fish guys came out.
They told us not to hurt the pigs and wasn't it unusual to see this species so high up the mountain.
But they had a plan.
They decided to tranquilize the pigs so they could be rendered unconscious and safely taken down the mountain and let loose near Roosevelt Lake where they would be happy.
We were happy for their plan.
So the Game and Fish guys put tranquilizer in canned dog food and placed dishes of this treat strategically around the yard. The dishes led to a big trap that looked like a giant beer can on its side. There was more spiked dog food inside, and a trap door that would shut when the pig, or pigs, went inside.
From the looks of all this we assumed this might be an ongoing project of some duration.

(*Special Note Here)
We had cats. Two were ours and they lived mostly in the house with us. Then there were the friends of our house cats who came by to share the dry cat food that we left on the porch for our own should we be late getting home and cause them distress about dinner. Our cats had many friends.

When we came home from work and school that day we found the porch littered with sleeping cats and the pigs still alert, in their beds, waiting for more potatoes.
We picked up our own cats and took them inside. They slept for two days with only an occasional twitch but recovered fully. Apparently cats like tranquilizers with dog food but wild pigs don't care for it. They prefer potatoes.

The Game and Fish guys came back to see if the pigs were asleep, found them wide awake, and so decided to go with plan B.
By now the pigs were so at home that they wandered around our entire little acre, settling in holes they'd built all around the front and back. And four wild pigs can dig a lot of holes, let me tell you. But in the mornings they always moved to the front in time for our exit and their breakfast.

The Game and Fish guys came out with tranquilizer guns this time. They were determined to make those critters happy around Roosevelt lake.
I wasn't home but Larry was. When the Game guys arrived the pigs were nowhere in sight. It was pig naptime. We knew the pig's schedule well by this time. They looked and looked but didn't spot them.
Finally Larry came out on the porch and pointed. "They're over there," he said.
"How do you know?" the Game guy asked.
"Look at the cats," Larry replied.
There were our cats and some of their friends. All sitting upright in a row on the front porch, silently staring off intently in the same direction.
Apparently the cat nation had had some dealings with the pigs too.
They felt it best to keep a watchful eye.

That's good advice too.
Watch out. Keep a sharp eye.
You never know.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Animals and Fear

This is another re-post. I'd like to explain.
I'm preparing to take an on-line class in writing from BYU.  Before I sign up I'm trying to correct some of the many mistakes in earlier posts. You see, my stories have always been "told."  Writing them on two dimensional paper has been very difficult for me. What words indicate "eye rolling" or a disgusted look for example? Is there punctuation for a pause longer than a comma's worth? No? Well, making some up has been my solution.
Anyway, I'm afraid that a real writer/teacher might see my scribblings and then I'll be embarrassed, perhaps even mortified. 
Please pray that even an old dog can still learn. 
And thank you so much for your many kind comments. They've kept me from giving up on this "old dog's new trick."


When we moved from the big city to the woods several years ago it was for an, “I promise, we’ll just try it and see,” time. Our family business had just closed and we were at a crossroads. 

Our two oldest children were all grown and living productive lives of their own in the desert city where we lived, but we still had two young daughters to raise. 
Larry and I were both ready for a big change so I had sought and been offered a job teaching in a small rural district in the Arizona mountains. His family had a summer cabin there so that’s where we were headed. He would look for work when we were settled. There was no rent to pay and we didn't have to sell our city house. No risk. Just try it and see.

None of us was at all sure this move would work out well, but some in the family, namely our young daughters, were more than just reluctant, they were downright terrified. 
We were leaving a comfortable urban home near every convenience to move to a tiny fishing cabin in the wilderness. No joking here….. lots of snow, heated by wood stove, 17 miles to work and school.  Had we lost our minds?
It wasn't just our girls who wondered either. Most people we knew thought we were certifiably insane. 
So we made a deal with our kids. Our daughters were promised that they could make the decision to move back to the city at semester’s end if that’s what they wanted.

As it turned out, I taught for well over a decade at that small rural school in the mountains of east central Arizona. Larry worked for the sawmill, schools, and Forest Service until he began driving his beloved big trucks, building highways all over those now also beloved, big mountains. 
We added on to the cabin and stayed until the girls grew up and left for college and a mission. 

After that first terrifying semester which included many tears and fears, our daughters said we could go back to the city if we wanted. They were staying. The bishop's family would take them. They'd already asked.
You see, while we lived there all of us had made dear friends, and countless mountain lives “touched ours for good” as the hymn says.

Now, back in the city, one Sunday as I was singing those exact words about lives that touched for good, my thoughts drifted back to our “mountain years” and all those many lives that made ours so much richer. 
I realized as I considered this that some of those we remember so well weren’t even human. 

Animals, especially wild ones, were a vital part of daily life on the mountain. This was something very new for city folks, I can tell you. Our encounters with critters of all kinds made a lasting impression on us which is actually kind of surprising considering that contact with wild animals tends to be pretty brief. 
I know it’s not just me either, because often, so many years later, someone in my family will say wistfully, “Remember the time we saw ……..” 
Anyway, in addition to the wonderful people, I’m grateful for all the critters, large and small that have crossed my path. 
In so doing they have enriched my human experience.

Elk, deer, skunks, raccoons, javalina, bear and even mountain lions were native to our area. Their presence was a blessing in many ways.

I remember fellow teachers heading out before school started in the morning when deer and elk season began. They'd be off to hunt wearing their ties and dress shoes, trekking out behind the Circle K on the hill just outside town, hoping to get a deer or an elk to fill their freezers and feed their families for the winter. This was easy hunting, not much glory, because everybody knew where the animals crossed as the sun came up each day. But elk tacos, chile, or tamales made fine meals on a snowy night, glory or not, and a teacher’s pay needed to stretch as far as it could. The animals provided and were taken with gratitude.

Every now and then animals could be a problem though, as with skunks. Our bishop’s dog captured one once and drug it through their house to show off his prize.
And on one occasion folks in town kept up a cougar watch as a big cat was spotted sunning itself on a high rocky ledge above the main road into the school. 
He never came in close enough to bother anyone though and so was left in peace.

The school playground was lushly green, the sky above it always filled with huge banks of snowy cumulus clouds moving fast on the high winds aloft. We could often spot hawks circling effortlessly under them, their wings outstretched but never seeming to move. 
Ravens would sometimes fly so low, we could hear the swish of their great black wings as they passed. 
These were not city skies for sure, no pale blue and wispy white here. Someone once told me it was the high altitude, but I don’t know if that’s true. 
Outdoor lunch duty actually became a pleasure instead of a chore as teachers sat together talking while kids gathered around or played ball on the grassy fields. These were not just students either, but young friends, the children of friends, and children of our own. 
In fact, one of our daughters was a student in my class one year. I always say her success in life can be attributed to her fine 5th grade teacher….she just laughs when I say that.

At days end, as we drove home, the girls and I sometimes could spot bald eagles roosting in tall snags jutting through the pines along Highway 260. Their white heads seemed to shine above dark bodies on the bare branches left from some long ago forest fire.

We learned after a while where we needed to slow down on the 17 mile trip home. 
Elk and deer cross in herds and in the same place and time usually. No speed limit signs needed for locals.
Bear were common too, but usually only a single cinnamon or black body ambled across our path when we spotted them. Though once we saw a mother with her cubs. 
Back at our cabin, bears were common visitors too. Larry once mistakenly took off after one with a rake, thinking it was the sheriff’s big hound, Blue, rooting through the garbage. He hurried back to the porch when he discovered it wasn’t.

The years we spent in the mountains, living in our tiny cabin in the woods, working in the little community nearby, are filled with happy memories of the people, land, and animals that lived there. What a blessing it was to raise our two youngest children among them! How thankful we all are to have been blessed with that time in the woods.

I sometimes think about how much we would have missed if even one of us had given in to the fear and anxiety we all felt at leaving the city and all that was comfortable and familiar to live a completely different kind of life. 
Along with the wonderful mountain people we never would have met the deer, elk, javalina, bears, mountain lions and all those other non-human lives that touched ours for good. 

That move away from our desert city was a big risk for our family. 
There was a lot to worry about……..icy mountain driving, chopping wood to heat the cabin , deep snow, no friends, miles and miles to the nearest small store, no cable TV, malls, doctors, or restaurants nearby.
We prayed about it beforehand, of course, and Heavenly Father didn’t say “No."  We were sure of that.
That didn’t keep the fear and self-doubts from us, though. This was a huge risk, an enormous change for all of us. 
Maybe we were crazy to even think about it.

I have since learned that Heavenly Father doesn’t send fear and self-doubt as an answer to prayers about what course to take in life. 
Those feelings don’t come from Him. He sends His answers in other ways. 
That’s a good thing to know for future reference isn’t it?    Never let fear make the decision.
Do your homework about what’s on your mind. Check it carefully out. If it feels like the right thing to you, then take it to Heavenly Father for his approval. If you get it, then move ahead with confidence.

Fear of the unknown, or doubts that you can do it, or panic because you might fail are feelings that don’t come from Him.  
You might miss some of life’s greatest blessings if you let fear make the decision. 
That’s a good thing to know, isn’t it? 
Fear shouldn’t decide.

"And because of Him, our hearts need not be troubled or afraid, and we will be blessed to hush our fears."
 David Bednar