Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: undaunted courage

History Book Brings Me to Tears: Breaking News

How many times has a history book kept you on the edge of your seat or brought you to tears?

Here’s the thing; I didn’t know much about the Lewis & Clark expedition when I picked up this book. I have been to the Three Forks, Montana area, about fifteen years ago, on a camping trip with my family. We went to some exhibitions, museums, and historical sites, mostly by lucky accident, planning to return some day and check it out more thoroughly. It hasn’t happened yet, and now my children are grown and on their own. Maybe they’ll take their families there some day and build on what we learned when they were kids.

history book doesn't do it justice
My Children In Yellowstone – 2008

That reminds me of the quote from Nietzsche that I shared on Instagram this morning.

Thinking back on the book, I can see that some of first chapters and pieces along the way, hinted at what the author believed I already knew, but didn’t. Lewis abruptly ended his life a few years after returning from the Pacific Coast. My heart broke reading it, like I’d just heard the news of an old friends’ demise.

So much work to get the expedition on its way, so much planning and sacrifice. All that he, along with Clark and the Corp of Discovery, went through to gather and document along the trail. They lost no one along the way. And only got into one fatal skirmish with tribe on the way back. So much to gain from all that knowledge. And there he was struggling in his mind at the end.

Undaunted Courage is an amazing history book. I’ve never read anything like it. It reads more like a novel so that every day I read I don’t want to put it down and look forward to picking it up again. Every page was wonderful, insightful, and honest.

Honest! Yes, our views have changed 200 years later. He’s honest about how they dealt with native tribes, women, and slavery. The politics of our nation are not whitewashed, but neither are the triumphs and discoveries diminished.

This is Lewis’ story and it’s beautiful. I didn’t realize how much was going on and what it meant. I closed the book thinking, “Oh, Lewis. If you could only have held on for another year or two.” And “Jefferson, did you not know? Did you regret your inadvertent roll?” If you never read another history book about the late 18th and early 19th century, read this one. You won’t be disappointed.

PS Bring some tissue for the last few chapters.

Return to my first post, “Undaunted Courage: New Read” to find more posts about this inspiring book.

You Gotta Fight for Your Right…

Yeah, I hear the Beastie Boys every time I hear “fight for your right.” 8o’s kid. What can I say?!

Short (and a tad rough) post today because, once again, it is my “calling day” and I have things to do and people to see OUTSIDE my house!

Yoga, skipped. Meditation, shortened. Journal, I’ll do it later. Breakfast, rushed. THAT’S how much I want to share this thought with you. In the past, I’ve tried to keep my posts neutral. There is little that I am so sure of that I’ll go to war to force you to do what I think is best.

But I will fight (and by “fight,” I mean use my words and my money) for my right to be left alone, so that you also have that right.

fight for your right

“Lewis asked that volunteers sign up for twelve months’ service and ‘thus prove themselves worthy of their fathers of ’76 whose bequest, purchased with their blood, are those rights we now enjoy and so justly prize; let us then defend and preserve them, regardless of what it may cost, that they may pass unimpaired to the next generation who are to succeed us.’”

I read this line from Undaunted Courage and teared up a bit. Sentimental, maybe. Possibly a little nationalist, but…dammit it hit home this morning.

Our nation was not founded on perfect principles, but it was a start. Every step toward independence and freedom for all is better than going backwards.

When we give away our rights in the name of safety, we give away our children’s, and our grandchildren’s, rights away as well.

When we allow the use of force on one person, we allow it on ourselves.

When we give power to one entity, we give it to all, and they will use it against us in the future.

I’ve run out of time this morning and I have so much to say, with little know-how to say it, and with a lot of fear of expressing it, which pisses me off even more.

I’ll leave it here today. We all need to stop and think before we authorize and back-up the use of force on others, inside AND outside our nation, state, town, or business. “Do unto others as you would have done to you.”

Want to read more posts inspired by this book? Click back to my first post, “Undaunted Courage: New Read.

Taking Pictures to Trigger Memories

If it weren’t for taking pictures wherever I go, I’d have so few memories about the details.

From “Undaunted Courage” by Stephen E. Ambrose, “He (Lewis) was a man whose mind never stopped working, and during his long walks on the plains or in the mountains he had plenty of time to think – even though his eyes were constantly picking up flora and fauna, geographical features, the distance to this or that spot, and registering them in his mind so he could write about them in his journal.”

At this line, I wrote a small note in my book, “I’d forget all about the details by the time I got to writing it down.”

It’s something that frustrates me and why I take a lot of pictures…and then get so discouraged by the people that say you’re not in the moment if you’re always taking pictures.

taking pictures
My First Photo Album

I take pictures to remember the details. I may recall where I was and who I was with if I don’t, but in the long run and especially if I want to think on and write about the day later, the pictures stir the memories back to the surface.

I started taking pictures when I was around 11 years old and got a camera for Christmas. It took square pictures. From that day on, I snapped pictures of my toys, my brother, my friends, the playground, my mom, everything.

When I was in high school, I got a Minolta camera that I carried around with me on a Mickey Mouse strap that I bought at Disneyland. I took it everywhere and filled scrapbooks with photos and notes about them.

taking pictures
Loved This Camera SO Much!

Digital was a dream come true. I could take even more pictures of my day and not worry about the cost of printing them all and throwing away the bad ones.

And then they put a camera on my phone. Best invention ever! And instead of putting them in a book with a note, I can post them on Instagram for the world to see.

There was a downside to that. People and their opinions. I started to let those opinions change my actions. They started to diminish what I love with their petty bullshit.

I don’t consider myself a photographer. Most of my pictures are not “art,” they are memory triggers: I saw this, I want to look into that, this was interesting, etc. I used to put them in a photo album, now I put them on Instagram. I make a note to remember what I was thinking or where I was, with who, and leave it, creating a printed photo album at the end of the year.

I’d like to start taking some time at the end of my day to reflect on the pictures I took and write more thoughtfully about them, instead of posting throughout the day.

Strange that I didn’t realize how much I enjoy taking pictures and how I had let it be ruined until just now, reading about Meriwether Lewis walking the Rocky Mountains and returning to journal about his discoveries. Can you image in he had social media and the internet? Would he have changed he wrote down or how he felt about the exploration if he had been confronted with public opinion at every turn?

Go back to my first post, “Undaunted Courage: New Read,” to read more.

Keelboats & Trees: Craving Adventure

Funny thing, reading “Undaunted Courage” the author mentioned, “It was basically a galley, little resembling the classic keelboat of the West.” I thought and noted in the book, “Good thing he said that because I was imagining the keelboats at Disneyland.”

keelboats
Early Morning Time In My Book

I grew up at Disneyland and I’m always amazed at how much I relate everything in my life to the park. Something the kids do, a book I’m reading, a hiking spot, a museum, a conversation with a stranger, all remind me of something I saw or did at the park. It was a major portion of my life and something I never thought I’d leave behind, but here I am. It feels so strange. I won’t say that I’ll never go back. You just can’t know what the future holds, but I so feel like a door has closed.

Do you remember the keelboats on the Rivers of America?

My last memory of them was when I was working there around 1996/97ish. A friend came rushing into the shop to tell us about one of them flipping sideways in the water…with guests on it…and how they were there helping people out of the water, amazed that no one was seriously hurt. I remember thinking, “Nothing crazy like that ever happens to me when I’m in the park as a guest!”

So here I am, years later, reading a history book, and thinking, “How are they going to travel up these rivers with all this stuff and people on that little keelboat?!” Imagining the ones I remember from Disneyland, loaded top and bottom with Mickey ear headed guests with Mickey balloons tied to children’s ice cream dripping hands.

Want to hear something crazy? I’ve only seen a couple real rivers. I drove over the Columbia River in Washington once and I’ve been around the Snake River in Wyoming and Montana. When I see them, I marvel about it. Once, when we were camping at the Grand Tetons, my sons and I looked out over the river next to a park visitor center. They jokingly asked what it was and I told them it’s a river. It’s what people here call a wash but with water in it. And they played along. Their eyes wide, they answered, “You mean all the time!” The ranger behind us laughed.

I’ve never seen the Mississippi river. When I google pictures of it, and the area where Lewis and Clark departed, I’m at a loss for words. All those rivers. All that water. The trees and landscape. It’s crazy. I want to go there sometime and explore, but I’m afraid. It’s so far away and I hear there are tornados. So scary.

I was born and raised here in Southern California, land of sunshine and beaches, but we don’t have much in the way of rainfall. We don’t have rivers; we have riverbeds that usually trickle water and sometimes fill up in an occasional heavy rain. Here on the desert side of the mountains, we are familiar with “washes,” places that fill up with water when it rains hard but usually stay dry and sandy. Trees only grow in the mountains, and where they are planted and watered in people’s yards and along the freeway or in parking lot planters.

Another sidenote: trees. The pandemic and all this eating outside stuff really showed me how few trees we have. There’s no shade anywhere. Even parks only have a few. It’s frustrating.

I’m one hundred and ten pages into this glorious book and they are just now getting started on the journey. I’m loving every page, but it’s really starting to make me want to go on a long adventure myself. Maybe I can convince my husband to take a trip with the trailer, work our way back east from Washington someday.

Undaunted Courage: New Read

Recently, I was reading a book about writing that mentioned “Undaunted Courage” as one of the best historical narrative books ever written, and when I saw it in a pile of free books last December, I snatched up in glee. It was fate that we found each other.

Undaunted Courage
Reading In Bed with Peanut Butter Pretzels – Love

How does one get choked up over a history book? When the author makes it personal. The introduction got me right in the feels. They had taken an extended trip along the route Lewis & Clark took with friends, students, and their children. Driving, hiking, camping, and canoeing.

“We canoed the river at every stop. Each night, around the campfire, we would read aloud from the journals.”

“Around the campfire we took turns enumerating the reasons we loved our country (not so easy to do with young people in 1976, in the wake of Richard Nixon’s resignation and the fall of Saigon, but we did it with great success).”

That…sniff… Stuff like this makes me feel better about out current time. Yes, things have always sucked for someone somewhere at some time. But there are always reasons to be happy and proud.

I’ve been in the area with my own family a few times. On our first trip to Montana, we stumbled across the Lewis & Clark Caverns and found many museums and trails that commemorate the exploration. We’ve sat around the campfire reading from books we found at the museums. My personal favorite was a kid’s craft book we found someplace that helped kids make small canoes, build fire starters, and make maps while we hiked trails, pretending we were explorers.

On the back cover I read, “Ambrose follows the Lewis and Clark Expedition from Thomas Jefferson’s hope of finding a waterway to the Pacific, through the heart-stopping moments of the actual trip, to Lewis’ lonely demise on the Natchez Trace.”

The first thing I thought was, “He should have just checked Google Earth.” I’m hilarious. But think about that. When planning any trip, we don’t think twice about the best way to get there or how long it will take, how much food and water we’ll need. We just type in the location and the phone gives you the route, timeline, and alternatives. So much easier and leaves us with all this extra time to argue about where we will stop for lunch and whether we will get to see that roadside attraction before dark.

This book is LONG, nearly 500 pages, so I’ll be in it awhile. Have you read “Undaunted Courage” by Stephen E. Ambrose? I saw that he’s written several other books that look interesting. Let me know if you read him in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

Read more of my thoughts on this book at:
Keelboats & Trees: Craving Adventure
Taking Pictures to Trigger Memories
You Gotta Fight for Your Right
History Book Brings Me to Tears: Breaking News

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