Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial: They also serve who only stand and wait

 On His Blindness

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest He returning chide,
"Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?"
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, "God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts. Who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly: thousands at his bidding speed,
And post o'er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait.
John Milton

Friday, May 17, 2013

Frances Monson passing

Frances Monson, wife of LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson, passed away this morning, May 17 2013.  She was 85.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

In Memory: Gene and Mary Cook family photos

 Gene and Mary wedding

My sister Mary passed on today, Thursday 16 May 2013, a merciful end to a bitter long battle against breast cancer.  She leaves behind her husband, a daughter and two sons, and many grandchildren, as well as her mother, five sisters. and two brothers.

Mary was truly a benevolent, loving person through and through.  She was an influence for good with everyone she ever had dealings with.  She had a lifelong career as a mother in addition to her work in the public schools, as a speech pathologist and audiologist, teaching, helping and serving children and many others who were in need.

Her passing is mourned, by loved ones and friends, and she will be sorely missed.

I am using this blog page to gather photos of Mary and her family, as a memorial to the exemplary life she lived.

Note: photos collected from all over...
Mary was never a very eager subject for photography.
There are not as many photos of her as I would wish for.
But there are a few great photos of her and her family!

Saturday, May 25, 2013, 10:00am PDT at the Fallbrook LDS Chapel, 621 Stage Coach Lane, Fallbrook, CA.

Family and friends are invited to the Cooks home after the Funeral Around 1:30

Memorial Day Postscript:  The funeral for Mary was an impressive showing.  Many of those she had shared her love with came to remember and try to give something in return.

Anniversary Update:  Uploaded a recording of the Mary Cook funeral, accompanied with a slide show of family photos.

I was feeling rather ill most of the weekend and did not participate much.  Particularly disappointed that I was not able to walk well enough to get around and take pictures.  But on this Memorial Day I think it appropriate to write down a few fond reminisces.

About Mary, I remember, first and foremost, that she was ever the most consistent and predictable member of our family group.  She was always very unselfish.  Unlike my relationship with some of my other sisters, which has been rather unpredictably hot or cold at times, Mary was always one who was there when you needed her.  Perhaps I flatter myself, but I felt like I could understand Mary, where there have been many times that I have been confused about my standing with other family members.  I long ago learned to stay away from where I'm not welcome, but it seems like Gene and Mary's door was always open, and visiting their home in Fallbrook was always a bright spot in an otherwise dark and dreary world.

Not that she had no quirks.  I think Mary was obsessed with perfection.  She refused to be involved in anything that she felt like she could not excel at.  On many things she was uncompromising and firm in her convictions, and never very reluctant to express her real feelings.  She was ever tactful and sensitive, but not bashful about telling you when you were mistaken.

Early on, this led us into situations that had me rather baffled, until I finally caught on to what she was thinking.

One incident that stands in my mind took place on a family camping trip, I believe it was in Yosemite.  I had been enthused about climbing up and down some of the trees around our campground, and I got the impression that Mary was also wanting to climb up one, but could not manage that first long stretch from the ground to the lowest branch.  I offered her a boost up, thinking she just needed a helping hand.  She was reluctant, but accepted my offering my hands fashioning a sort of stirrup that she could use to stretch up to those first low-hanging limbs.  But it wasn't quite enough, and she made motions as if to retreat, and started articulating doubts about really wanting to try this.  I thought she just needed a little bit more encouragement, so I rather ungraciously started trying to push her up, with my hands boosting her by the seat of her jeans.  I was rather disconcerted when she began screaming and crying for me to let her down, she did not want to climb up the tree.  I couldn't understand the change of heart, but helped her down, and she ran away crying.

In retrospect, I can see that Mary was really frightened by the whole prospect of sitting in the tree, and was not enjoying the idea of climbing far off the ground.  I was unaware that she was uncomfortable, because I never tried to see it from her point of view.  I was trying to be like a monkey, scrambling around up in the trees, but it seemed only natural to me.  She apparently did not share that outlook.

On that same family vacation, I remember Mary and Kathy scrambling up the steep sides of one of the big granite domes, up around Tuolumne Meadows.  I forget which dome rock it was, but it looked like fun to scramble up the steep slope.  That is, of course, until you got up fairly high above the meadows, and stopped to look around.  At that point Mary was frightened by the heights, and scared about downclimbing.  So instead of hiking down the reverse of their ascent, she decided it was safer to slide down - sitting on her bottom.  As a natural result of abrading by the rough granite rock, the seat of her pants quickly wore out.  She got a big hole in her pants, exposing her derrière the rest of the day.  She placed the big binoculars case to hang strategically over the hole in the seat of her pants.

Much later, I was visited in my Colorado Springs place by Gene, Mary, Aaron, and Ben.  Sadly, I had to work, but I got to hear all the exciting stories when they would all gather back at my apartment each evening.

They had come with a plan to travel to the top of nearby Pike's Peak, then descend the fairly steep trail of the west face on mountain bikes.  The Cooks got all ready for the adventure, rented their bikes, and were ready.  Mary, however, declined to even ride along with us in the truck to the summit of Pike's Peak to drop off Gene and the boys at the trailhead.

Turns out my apartment was right across the street from the public library.  Mary borrowed my library card, went over and checked out a whole bunch of Dick Francis novels, and contentedly curled herself up on the couch at my apartment to read, while I ferried Gene and the boys up to the top of the mountain for their adventure, then hurried off to work.  She apparently had no taste for mountain biking, and was happier spending the day quietly reading.

I was a little surprised when later on in that expedition, the Cooks all decided to take a white-water raft trip down the rapids of the Arkansas River, and Mary bravely went along with them.  She was not at all a coward, just inclined to pick her own challenges to face.  As I recall, they all had a memorable time, a wild and wet ride, including Mary, although I seem to recall that Gene lost his car keys somewhere along the way.

I've already related the story about Mary nearly falling through the rafters from the attic in the garage.  There was another similar incident much later that ended with similar results.  After one family dinner, Mary and I were washing the dishes together.  She was working the dishwater at the sink, and I was with the dishtowel, doing the drying.  Mary was in the process of washing some large bowl, one of mom's family heirloom dishes that we used only for special occasions, when she lost her grip and dropped the big bowl into the sink.  It shattered into several shards, while Mary was making a grab for it trying to save it.  One of the shards punched into her hand, right between her two fingers, and she started bleeding profusely.  I was panicked at the sight of so much blood, by she stayed calm.  She wrapped it up in the dish towel I had been using, attempting to staunch the flow of blood, but it was too much, and soon the dish towel was drenched and red from the blood.  But Mary didn't want to tell mom, because then mom would find out about the breakage of the old dish.  It took some arguing, but finally we agreed that she needed stitches to close up the deep wound, and I summoned mom to take Mary to the doctor.  As in the earlier incident, Mary was more concerned about the broken dish and upsetting mom than she was about taking care of herself.

Mom and I were talking about the funeral last night after we got home, and she said it doesn't seem real that Mary could be gone.  We agreed that we enjoyed the family-oriented aspects of the funeral, and that it was obvious that Mary's family believes in and is looking forward to their eternal family gathering.  Mom said it was difficult to think of Gene without thinking of Mary, or vice versa.  They were truly a couple that complemented each other.

One of Ben's stories about Mary's use of the phrase, "Tough beans!" perfectly characterized his mother's attitude toward confronting the biggest challenges of everyday life head on.  And when Gene described the way Mary approached life, with an organized learning plan outline, everyone that knew her laughed, because it explained so much about her relationship with so many people.

Just prior to her death, I had a private conversation with Mary about death and dying.  I told her that I had been in such circumstances, facing the end of life, many times before, and though I had escaped, it reinforced the realization that death will come to us all, eventually.  I told Mary I didn't feel like her circumstances were particularly fair or just, and that if anyone came undeserving of such a slow and painful decline she was certainly the one.  She responded that she realized somewhat about what she was facing, and did not feel afraid.  She regretted only the separation from her family, and even that would be a temporary thing.

We will miss her, until we can meet again.  I look forward to that day...

Gene and Mary wedding

Four Generations

Grad photo
Gene, Mary, Kathryn

Nappin at the park

Mary and Aaron

Mary, Aaron, Gene

 Mary and Gene in the kitchen

Mary and Gene with Kathryn, Aaron, and Ben

Family photo

Family photo

Mom, Sarah, and Mary

Mom, Sarah, Mary, Gene

 Mary and young Darth Vader (Aaron maybe?)

Jim, Bill, Mary, Kathy about 1955

 Jim, Bill, Mary, Kathy about 1955

Mary was always ready with a brilliant smile.  Even way back in 1955.

 Gene and Mary at Winterwarm

Gene, Ben, Mary, Aaron, Kathryn

Kathryn at Big Bear Reunion

Mary, Ruth and Sarah
Flattening Pennies on the Tracks

Mary at High School

 Mary and Gene with Baby Aaron

Aaron, Kathryn, Mary, Gene, Ben
at Lehman Cave

Mary at the Punch Bowl
Brother Tom's Wedding Open House

Bill, Jim, Mary
Kathy, Tom

Dad in the traction bed at home with the whole family
Tim, Mom, Dad, Mary, Kathy
Ruth, Sarah
Bill, Tom, Cindy, Beth, Jim

Kathy and Mary at Temple Square in Salt Lake City, 1971

Monday, May 13, 2013

Utah Places: Hovenweep

Hovenweep is a fascinating site for those with an interest in ancient ruins.

 The site contains numerous towers and dwellings supposedly constructed by Anasazi indians who lived in this area ages ago.  The Anasazi civilization mysteriously disappeared at some point in the distant past.  By about 1300 AD, Hovenweep was deserted.

sunset at Hovenweep

The slots and doors of Hovenweep Castle, in Square Tower Group, have been shown to define an apparent solar calendar. The building is aligned so that light is channeled through openings into the building at sunset of the summer solstice, the winter solstice and the spring and fall equinox. The light falls in a predictable pattern on interior door lintels.

Sunlight illuminates a spiral petroglyph

ancient ruins at the edge of the canyon

curious dwelling constructed in the shelter of a boulder

map of the region

detail of masonry wall construction

Hovenweep Castle

ruins at sunset

 petroglyphs of hands

Utah Places: Goblin Valley

Goblin Valley State Park

Goblin Valley is a great example of the unique geological formations found in Utah.  In the valley, there is an unusual concentration of bizarre sandstone formations commonly known locally as "hoodoos".

Sunset in Goblin Valley

According to geologists, the formations resulted from erosion of a softer stratum of the supporting column, while the more obdurate caprock resisted weathering.

Whatever the reason, the weird gnome-like formations abound in this particular locale to make a showplace unlike anything else found on earth.  Not specifically the formations by themselves, which are spectacular enough.  But just the sheer numbers of them in concentration is impressive.  Goblin Valley enjoys some degree of obscurity, being so out-of-the-way and unknown.  So there are relatively few visitors, and you may find, on a casual visit, that you have the place pretty much to yourself.  If peace and solitude is what you seek, this is a good place to find it.

 Goblins galore

Not only that, but Goblin Valley State Park sits like an oasis in the desert, with camping facilities and all kind of modern amenities.  For those wandering souls who have been braving the desert sands for any length of time, it may be that the nice clean restrooms and public showers are the main attraction.

Goblin Valley location and nearby attactions

In addition, the allure of the San Rafael Swell country beckons to the bold.

In the immediate vicinity are a number of stunning slot canyons, some of the most spectacular places on earth.

 Pothole in Little Wild Horse Canyon
 Little Wild Horse narrows

 Crack Canyon trailhead

twists and turns in Crack Canyon

driftwood lodged high up in Crack Canyon

 Crack Canyon narrows
If 4wd exploring is your interest, the "Behind the Reef" trail and some of the many other dirt trails that wind through the desert may prove attractive.  Many other unique geological formations characterize the San Rafael Swell area.

characteristic "hogback" ridges in the San Rafael Reef

4wd tracks and Factory Butte

The Factory Butte area has become the focus for many wilderness preservation arguments.  The area is a popular destination for 4wd enthusiasts, motorcycle riders, ATV operators, and mountain bikers.  Erosion and vandalism of historic mining works have become common.  Some wilderness preservationists have objected to the use of sensitive desert areas for such abusive and destructive traffic.