Marblehead Patch columnist Brenda Kelley Kim talks about nature, national parks and a Navy Commander.
“Nor need we power or splendour, Wide hall or lordly dome; The good, the true, the tender, These form the wealth of home.” - Sarah J. Hale
Anyone who knows me knows how much I love to travel. I am never so happy as when I am busy planning a trip. When I’m traveling, I’m like a kid again, wanting to see all the silly tourist attractions and taking embarrassing snapshots of my kids.
This past school vacation week was no exception. This year we departed from the normal amusement park/cruise ship kind of vacation and went rogue. Well for me anyway, which means we went into the wilderness, but we didn’t exactly rough it. I don’t think there is ever a good reason to sleep outside on the ground in a cloth bubble held up by flimsy sticks. A zipper is not a door, netting is not a window and a bag is not a bed. But more on that later.
We chose to see a national park, where the nature was viewable out the window of our hotel room. A room equipped with satellite television, running water, and wi-fi. Hey Boo-Boo, we were on our way to Yosemite National Park to see waterfalls, giant sequoia trees and maybe a smarter than average bear.
Yosemite is, in a word, ginormous. I knew before going that it was big. Or I thought I did. All the guidebooks, the pictures and postcards do not really convey how freaking huge this place is. In one day, we slogged through ankle deep snow and then hiked to a waterfall where it was seventy degrees and sunny.
Walking back from Yosemite Falls with my kids, I looked into the woods next to the trail and saw a cat. More specifically, a bobcat, with paws that seemed (but likely were not) the size of canned hams. Yes, I freaked out. I am not an outdoorsy kind of girl. I like nature behind a nice fence, with a gift shop and a snack bar. Not for nothing, the only bobcat I’ve ever seen was moving mulch around when the local playground was built.
After spending a few days in the woods with the beasts and the children (and trust me at times it was difficult to tell the difference) we finished our trip in San Francisco. We watched the seals at Fisherman’s Wharf, rode cable cars and did all the tacky touristy things families do. And I even managed a short visit with a friend I haven’t seen in way too long. And then it was time to come home.
No matter how much fun I have on a trip, I am always glad to be home. In my own bed, my faithful pug on the floor and the seagulls and ocean right up the road. This is my place. No matter how far I go or for how long I am away, it will always be home.
I was pretty convinced I knew what it was like to come home to the relief and comfort of all that is familiar after days of hotels, restaurants, rental cars and sightseeing. Turns out I didn’t have a clue.
I came home to the happy news that Commander Lee Stuart, the husband of a dear friend, had landed on American soil after serving a year in Afghanistan. I wrote about this family here last year. They are just as amazing now, as they were then. For a year his wife Kaaren, and their three boys Max, Alex and Kenneth have kept it together while Lee stepped up for his country.
In his journey back, on Monday of this week, he was a mere 250 miles from his home. Yet he will likely not be in the arms of his loving family until Friday night due to out-processing, flight schedules and other commitments. Wow. And I was put out when my flight to San Francisco was delayed three hours. While I almost had a stroke because a very tame animal walked by me, this Navy Commander kept his entire team safe from things far more dangerous than an overgrown housecat. I had the nerve to be sick of restaurant food; he spent a year eating out of vacuum-sealed envelopes.
I was wrong when I said there is never a good reason to sleep outside on the ground in a cloth bubble held up by flimsy sticks. The men and women of our military do that and more every day, and in conditions far worse than a national park. Welcome back Commander Stuart. Thank you for your service and for showing me what coming home is really about.