Just the Right Amount of Snow

Dear Will:

Last month I took my family up to the mountains of Wyoming for a family reunion. It promised to be a fun-filled week in the middle of paradise: a cabin on a private lake filled with good food and the people I love most.

Then it started to snow.

That’s right. Apparently Wyoming missed the meeting about summer beginning June 21, because snow started falling on June 22. My kids—born and raised in sunny California with almost no firsthand experience with snow—were thrilled to see those first few flakes. We told them not to get their hopes up, explaining that the little flurry they were seeing would do little else than wet their noses when they got out of the car. . . . Three days later, it was still snowing.

Needless to say, my family was not prepared to be snowed in. Fortunately we had brought warm jackets (we were at 9000 feet, after all), but nothing in the way of gloves or boots for the kids. Rather than fishing and hiking for a week, we spent a lot of time indoors playing dominoes and reading. It was forced togetherness for a group that had certainly intended to be together—just not that close together for so long.

I suppose I should mention that I have six siblings, all but one of whom were there with spouses and children. We are a close-knit family, I suppose, but we do not live near each other. As a result, we are almost never all together at the same time. This reunion was a rare event indeed (held to commemorate my parents 50th wedding anniversary). So to put the 40 of us together in three large cabins, with nothing much to do but wait for the weather to clear, promised to be an interesting test to say the least. I watched with curiosity to see how we would interact: how the cousins would get along, how the various in-laws would blend together—better yet, how my siblings and I would do, living together as a family for the first time in many, many years.

I won’t kid you; there were a few situations in which we got a little testy for one reason or another. But for the most part, the cabins were filled with laughter and geniality, with moments of tender and sometimes hilarious reminiscence mixed in with quiet expressions of admiration and love. It was, in spite of the snow—or perhaps because of it—what you would hope for from a week together, especially knowing that, with my parents growing older and our various families growing larger and more dispersed, it may be the last time we are all together in that fashion.

I suppose I could throw in a pithy comment or two here about the importance of families and eternity, but you already know all that, so let me just wish you the best of summers, with just the right amount of snow to keep you near the ones you love.

PW

On Sacred Ground

Dear Will:

I’ve lived in California since I was seven years old, so those who know me probably don’t realize that I come from pioneer stock. Before they were married, my grandparents, Lloyd and Louise Taggart, were sent as children along with their families to settle the Bighorn Basin of Wyoming. But well before them, my grandfather’s grandfather, George Washington Taggart, crossed the plains along with many other Mormons in the mid-1800s. Some rode, but most walked on those journeys, in the process wearing holes into their simple shoes.

Holey shoes. Holy shoes.

I mention this because in a couple of weeks I’m taking my own children—the 6th generation—to their Wyoming homeland for the first time. We’ll travel up through South Pass, driving east along the path trod by our ancestors as they journeyed west. We’ll stop along the way at Rocky Ridge, where so many died in the blizzards of 1856. Men . . . women . . . children . . . giving their souls as the ultimate act of faith.

First their soles. Then their souls.

When I lead my family up onto that ridge, it may seem fitting for me to take off my own shoes as a tribute to those who wore so little on their feet when they traversed that path so long ago. Besides, it’s always appropriate to remove your shoes when walking on sacred ground.

PW