It turns out my trip to California in June will have a lot to do with story gathering and making.
A return visit to Yosemite National Park has been on my bucket-list for about 10 years.
I was beyond awed when Jim took me to Yosemite for the first time in June of 1959. We went back every time we had time when we came for a visit. Jim's hometown, Madera, CA, is less than two hours away.
We had several Christmas visits later on. Then Jim's cancer interfered and four years ago Jim died. Since then I have only run into town to see the family on short visits.
But this year is a milestone year. I turn 80 in July. I have a Sharpie in hand to check off important Bucket List items - just in case.
When my daughter Robin called last week and suggested we go to Yosemite this time since we will be in Madera for the Famly Reunion my tears filled my eyes. "Yes". What a stroke of luck. Jimmy is attending the reunion too and he will come up to Yosemite with us. He was two years old when he was with Jim and me on the first trip.
I guess, since I was pregnant with Robin at the time, you could stretch it and say Robin was there too.
Why now? Robin knows I am working on my bucket list and assumed going to Yosemite would be high on the list.
We have also added another special moment in addition to going to the mountains. We will have dinner in Fresno with my dear friend Joyce Aiken the night before we go to Yosemite. She knows Robin and Jimmy - its like a smaller family reunion - that connects several parts of my life.
She and I worked together during the 1970s - for women artists and their issues. The surprising funny thing was - she and Jim grew up in the same neighborhood and went to Fresno State College in the same Class. Although she and I were a continent apart we were elected together to lead the new Coalition of Women's Art Organizations. Fate, right? I missed seeing her last December - not this time.
My friend Joyce told me today "the falls are full, Ellouise. They are particularly beautiful now."
I remember the day we were there for the first time. We sat on a very high rock formation with a great view of
Bridal Veil Falls in the distance. I was so uneasy - scared really - of the heights, that I had such a tight
grip on Jimmy's arm it began to turn blue. Jim's teen-age sister Mary and her friend who were with us thought it was ridiculous for me to be afraid. Jim was surprised. Raised in the shadows of the Sierras he did not understand what a difference they would be for a NC girl who only knew the NC mountains near Asheville. My mother called them "the high mountains" but that day I knew she was mistaken. I experienced the grandeur of truly "high mountains" for the first time in Yosemite.
Not until 1970 did I see those mountains through the eyes of Ansel Adams in his photographs.
In many ways this trip will be a pilgrimage.