Creamy Miles of Quiet

Quiet at Donner Lake
Quiet at Donner Lake

“Creamy miles of quiet….Giant swoop of blue.” Naomi Shihab Nye

I pull the car over, suddenly, a little bit recklessly

and ask you to take a photo

to capture that moment that I feel should last just a second longer

the tranquility, the stillness, the beauty

of that flash in our ordinary day.

I want to envelop it in pale pink satin and wrap it around me

gently forcing it into every pore of my skin and

pushing it deep into my core.

That twinkling of light, and silence,

and you

and creamy miles of quiet to come.

Words on silence inspired by January prompt-a-day with writealm.com

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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No New Year’s Resolutions

Donner Lake, CA
Donner Lake, CA

“Mom, do you make New Year’s Resolutions?” my son quietly asked as we drove down Donner Summit.

I glanced over at his fuzzy head, his cheeks tinged pink from a morning of skiing. “No, not anymore. Why?”

The water of Donner Lake sparkled to our right. He hesitated before responding.

“Just wondering. Why not?”

“Well,” I hesitated, not wanting to dim his desire for goal setting before the new year has even hit. “I just got frustrated with them, especially when they didn’t turn out the way I wanted them to.”

He sat with that for a moment. “What do you do instead?”

“I choose a word instead – kind of a mantra for the year. That seems to work better for me,” I replied.

“Oh, that’s cool. What was your word for this year?” he quickly shot back.

“I had a hard time thinking of one, to be honest. It turns out that the word just sort of came to me, eventually.”

“Well…..” he pushed further. “What was it?”

My eyes stared forward, the snow and majesty of our location dimming. “Change,” I answered quietly. “This year was about change.” I could feel the tears welling in my eyes.

“Oh.” His mouth turned up into a sly smile. “I think my word for the year will be rambunctious.”

“Really?” It came out as sort of a sputter as I tried not to laugh.

“Yeah. Rambunctious. I don’t really know what it means, but I like the way it sounds,” he stated confidently. At least he could pronounce it, I thought.

“Why don’t you look it up first before you decide?” I replied, not so sure about his choice as the rigors of his new ski academy lifestyle flashed in contradiction.

I heard the unmistakable beep of his phone. “Siri, what does ‘rambunctious’ mean?” Oh right -he is fourteen, after all.

“Rambunctious. Difficult to control or handle. Wildly boisterous. Turbulently active or noisy,” Siri acknowledged in her methodically calm voice.

“Oh.” The smile slowly left his face. “Maybe I’ll think on that.”

“Yeah, think on that,” I echoed as we turned into the parking lot. “Let’s go get some lunch. You must be hungry”

Do you make New Year’s Resolutions? What word would you choose as your mantra for 2014?

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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This Moment

Donner Summit LookoutA Saturday afternoon on Donner Summit. We’d been up early-early enough for the sunrise. The brisk morning air shocked my senses, sending me shivering for a warm sweater; my body obviously not adapted from the valley summer to the mountain fall. On the drive up to Sugar Bowl that morning, John asked Cameron if someday he thought he’d ever get up to the train tunnels. “Someday,” Cam replied.

It’s been a particularly busy fall so far. As high school draws to a close for my oldest, afternoons and weekends are bursting with college applications, essay drafts and redrafts, and ‘lasts’ – last first day of school, last homecoming, last SAT test…so saturated are the days that I find myself rolling out of bed in the morning wondering how I’ll possible have the energy to make it to bedtime. The morning rituals of coffee, journal and quiet help me to center and make it through, but I find myself heaving a huge sigh as the last activity concludes and I sink back into my chair, spent from the exertion of teaching, mothering, and just being. Too many things pushed aside for someday, not today.

Driving down old 40 that morning, Donner Lake sparkled sapphire blue in the distance. A quick cup of coffee beckoned on our afternoon break in Truckee, desperately required to make the final push through the afternoon and evening festivities. Taking advantage of the blue skies and absence of snow, rock climbers scaled the granite walls and tourists pulled into the overlook to gasp at the Tahoe vista. Enchanted by the natural beauty, we too pulled off for a peek.

I paused at the majesty of the crystal blue lake, shimmering below the peaks tinged with white. As fluffy white clouds silently drifted by, a flash of red caught the corner of my eye. My boy, unharnessed, clambered up the boulder to my right and smiled broadly as I walked towards him. “Hold on, Mom, I’ll meet you around back.” My maternal instinct flared, sure that it wasn’t a good idea. Old 40 snaked beneath him. He was so confident, so happy, I couldn’t tether him in.

He eventually reappeared, energized from his accomplishment. I exhaled the breath I’d been holding, climbed back in the car, visions of fresh brew in my mind.

“Turn off here, Mom,” he shouted from the back seat. The Prius shuddered a bit as I hit the brakes, not sure what he wanted. “Let’s hike to the train tunnels!”

I saw the moments ticking by. Seriously? The tunnels, normally buried by snow, towered what seemed to be miles above us. As I pulled into the turn out, I wasn’t convinced it was even feasible. “Come on, Mom. Let’s do it!” he pleaded.

I stopped the car and he hopped out the back seat, reckless abandon in his eyes. “I’ll be right back,” he grinned.

All my body wanted to do was sink into the driver’s seat, pull out my book and wait. But as I looked into his eyes, the choice became clear. “Hold on,” I replied. “I’m coming with you.”

Cam smiled as we stepped into the brush. No trail in sight, he jumped from boulder to boulder as my eyes scanned a more sensible route. “Thanks, Mom. I really needed this. I’ve been cooped up way too long.” As he veered left, my common sense went right and I called out “meet you at the top” with hesitancy as he quickly disappeared from view.

Not as bad as I imagined, I made it to the tracks quickly. Of course, he was nowhere in sight. A sudden movement caught my eye, and his head popped into view, his body clinging to granite. “Hurry up,” I called to the distance. I was eager to get up and down, my impatience growing.

“Coming, Mom,” he shouted as I approached the top. For years I’ve driven below the rectangular tunnels, visions of Chinese workers laying tracks and the Donner Party floating through my mind.

Graffiti on Donner Summit Train TunnelTo my surprise, all that lay before me was a dirt road running past graffiti laden walls, no tracks anywhere to be seen.

My disappointment was quickly distracted by the sight of my son, arms spread wide to the world atop the tunnel. I sighed before shouting my warning as he began scampering away from me. Impossible to see the depth of danger he was in, I followed along from the bottom, somehow thinking that if he lost his footing I’d be there to catch him. The wind was picking up. I heard a train whistle sound in the distance.

Train Tunnels at Donner Pass

My protective instinct took over as he hovered, one foot poised to jump to the loose granite below. “Don’t jump,” I called as he swung his arms and did it anyway.

Donner SummitHe landed, proudly smiling the whole way back down to me. I hugged him and began to walk back to the tunnel.

“Stop, Mom,” he called. “Let me take a picture for your blog.”

Along Donner Summit Train Tunnel roadMy heart, still pounding from his death-defying leap, swelled a bit as I slowed down. The breeze was tossing my hair, cool as it touched my skin.

“Mom!” his voice broke the air. “Take a picture!”

My eyes found him horizontal, face down on the concrete beam. “Take it shooting up towards the sky!” he directed. I snapped the shutter just as the clouds drifted by.

Donner Pass TrainMy Keens slipped as they hit the loose gravel. I descended carefully, feeling my years juxtaposed against his youth. This time, though, we traveled together, watching the climbers scale down the rock to our right. “Aren’t you glad we did this, Mom?” he whispered.

I hesitated before responding, reflecting on all the walks we took when he was a little boy, pausing to remember his face as he discovered rocks, sticks, and treasures along the way. Peering into his deep brown 14-year-old eyes, my throat tightened, my eyes welling up with tears.

“I really am, buddy,” I replied. “I can’t imagine anywhere else I’d rather be right now.” Looking up, the hiker’s trail marker came into view, assuring me we were on the right path. Together.

Tahoe Rock Trail markerHe was right – we did really need this. Someday is today.

The coffee could wait – this moment would never come again.

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Friday Photo: Shifting Gears

The week before winter break is never easy for a middle school teacher. The combination of high energy and anticipation levels of the students juxtaposed with the need to finish units, projects and assessments makes for an exhausting experience. Add to that the needs of my own children at home, the cards, gifts and holiday cheer and I am not sure if I am coming or going.

Late last night as Leno wrapped up his monologue, I catch myself in an unsettling space between gearing up and winding down. A kaleidoscope of ‘to-dos’ spins through my mind. Fortunately, sleep kicks in, and eight short hours later, I have a flash of clarity.

After driving through the mountains in the predawn hours, my son and I pass Donner Lake, and in that moment, as the water and sky met and steam hissed from its surface, I quickly stop the car. My brain pauses and we drink in the tranquility of the water before us. Silently I breathe deeply, wait, and shift back into gear with a new sense of calm.

Try it. Breathe. Pause. Wait. Shift.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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