I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. I know I can.
Perhaps you learned this iconic quote in childhood. It is attributed to Watty Piper, a pen name of Arnold Munk, owner of the publishing firm of Platt & Munk. Munk wrote children’s books, including this favorite, The Little Engine That Could.
Growing up, we read the Little Golden Book edition of The Little Engine That Could. Our favorite book soon became tattered, torn, faded, and fingerprinted with our love. With eight years between us, I read the book to my younger brother.
On February 10th, we had a group of young men at our place to take down three old Doug firs. The approximate height of these trees was 135 feet. We knew that a lot of work and, yes, a mess would remain.
We understood that some existing shrubs and plants might suffer damage. But these trees had to go—they were encroaching on the front of our home. One of the first things we noticed was that a grouping of hyacinths were gone. Smashed by limbs bigger than the hyacinths would ever be.
Yesterday I noticed one white hyacinth was up to proving it could survive anything! I could hear that hyacinth repeating the words, “I think I can.” Today Bob pointed out there were two hyacinths there, both white.
How symbolic this is of what we need to embrace today. In the face of this unknown virus and misinformation about it, we need a sense of calm coupled with determination. We need to prove we can and will survive this crisis. Further, we need to support our neighbors and community. And despite misinformation, we can find an authentic and reliable source.
And we need to adopt the mantra of that little engine of long ago and two white hyacinths beating the odds. Repeat after me:
I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. I know I can.
Yesterday morning we sat at the breakfast table reading our morning devotional and sharing morning prayers. Our local classical radio station played in the background. I heard the on-air host announce the next song, Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles. The song was written by George Harrison while walking through Eric Clapton’s garden.
I looked out the window beside our table and there it came—the sun shining through our trees leaving dappled sunlight here and there. What a beautiful start to our day!
Usually, the rain sticks around Portland well into May but this winter has been different. It seems winter has been different almost everywhere. To experience sunlight during the wettest, darkest season of our year is a gift. Like this song by George Harrison.
Yesterday was a bit different from other days since my recovery began. I had an unexpected visitor arrive. Despite plenty of books to read, knitting to knit, and writing to ponder, the days are often somewhat boring. And it doesn’t help that I’ve had a minor setback that limits my activity level.
Back to my unexpected visitor. Looking out the large window into our backyard, I noticed the leaves on our vine maple fluttering. If there was a breeze blowing, none of the other trees were joining in.
And then I spied him. A small squirrel bouncing from limb to limb. Stopping here and there to find a nibble of something. Then off he’d go either higher or lower on a branch, all the while bouncing as he went. I found myself giggling with joy. Laughter bubbling up inside me. This little fellow was so entertaining. At one point, he jumped from a branch and it came right back and hit him in the keister. Double laughter!
Tell me God doesn’t know when we need a boost, and I’ll tell you why I know otherwise. Here sat a woman wishing for a day brightener. And into her backyard came a squirrel with a routine at the ready. As he munched and danced his way through the tree, he also performed acrobatics. And all for this one woman-audience.
I felt lighter as he bounded on his way to his next assignment. His little impromptu performance filled me with gratitude.
Forever memories are those that stay with you for…well, forever. In conversation with others, forever memories trigger a certain response from you. You want to share the excitement, the reactions you felt, the way the memory has lasted. Almost as if whatever happened was yesterday.
A decade or so ago we took a vacation that has become a forever memory. And if you’ve read William Least Heat-Moon’sBlue Highways, you know what blue highways are. If not, the answer is simple. Older Rand McNally road atlases and maps identified the various types of roadways with color. Major highways appeared in red. Out-of-the-way highways running through small, almost unknown, rural towns appeared in blue.
Our trip was not as long as Heat-Moon’s nor was it circular as his was. But we did have certain restrictions that forced the use of blue highways:
The direction in which we traveled remained unknown until our morning of departure. This part of our trip was decided over breakfast. We would pull a direction—north, south, east or west—from a hat. Bob drew north.
A hard and almost fast rule depended on one condition. Travel had to be via blue highways unless there was no access between Points A and B other than a major highway.This forced a sense of nostalgia and relaxation as a major component of our travel.
We confirmed no reservations for overnight accommodations. And only once had a difficult time finding availability.
No time schedule was set for each day. Serendipitous activities awaited us. We visited attractions we’d never heard of and visited parks we’d never passed. Meals took place in some of the greatest eateries along the way.
As we headed out of Portland north on Highway 30, we had no idea where we’d end up that night or what we’d see along the way. By lunchtime, we found ourselves at Mt. St. Helen’s and enjoyed a brief visit there as well as had a picnic lunch we’d brought along. The rest of the day we wandered along blue highways. The casual drive presented beautiful farms with old barns and outbuildings. Another bonus was the beauty of the world around us, the peace and quiet of rural Washington state.
By dusk, we started searching for a place to stay. A look at the map showed we were not far from Centralia, WA. Centralia is 90.8 miles and 1.5 hours from Portland. It is clear we didn’t make it very far that first day. Yet, our plan was to relax and enjoy this trip, not worry about a schedule.
Over the next 10 days or so, we spent our time the same way. We visited interesting towns and places we’d never thought about or heard of. Our travel took us as far north as the Northern Cascade Mountains where we saw snowfall during June.
Our memories of this trip are quite memorable. Their uniqueness makes them unforgettable. We have talked many times about how much we enjoyed this trip and how we’d like to do it again.
We haven’t yet, but there is always tomorrow. And there are plenty of blue highways we haven’t hit.