Love and Squalor


This was a very tough weekend for me. It was the memorial service for Lee and Judy, and as wonderful it was to hear stories about the two of them, I don’t seem to feel any comfort from my deep sense of personal loss and grief. I find myself thinking of them as much as I did before, only the hurt became more acute as I sat there, listening to how wonderful they were, learning how much they had touched other people as well. It did change my perspective in some ways… I realize that as great a loss as this has been for me, it has been even more so for those who have known Lee and Judy for a long period of time. For me, it is like the loss of a potential life that I was going to have, and only got to briefly taste… for those that knew them for a long time it is the loss of a lifestyle.

The stories of Judy and Lee were fantastic. I could have listened to everyone’s testimonials over and over again. I was especially moved by the words about Judy. Her sister was there, and really gave amazing insights into Judy’s life. Judy was always very caring and motherly. This, it turns out, was in spite of her difficult upbringing. She was raised by a single mother and was the oldest of the three children. Her mother always expected Judy, the oldest, to take care of the kids, and to sacrifice every time. She rarely got to spend time with her mother, rarely got to hold hands with her mother, because, as the oldest, she had to sacrifice so the little ones could hold their mother’s hand. Her mother died at an early age, and Judy became the mother figure. Not once did she complain, not once did she cry about her suffering. She took on this burden with a grace and duty, and persevered to become the wonderful radiant woman that she was. I believe this experience, this suffering, turned her into one of the most compassionate people I have ever known, thinking of others and putting them before herself. And, as another friend so eloquently spoke, it could be downright annoying!. A friend of Judy’s came to town and they planned to go to dinner. She suggested a Thai place, which the out of town guests thought was a great idea. Then over and over, again and again, Judy would ask, “is that alright with you?” “if you want to go somewhere else, that’s OK?” “Are you sure that is what you want, because we can go somewhere else if you would rather go there.” The funny thing was, she was so concerned that her guests got what they wanted, that they were getting annoyed, and ultimately yelled “Judy, lets just go. WE’RE STARVING!” It reminded my of our playdate how she was constantly texting us to make sure we were OK with everything and that we knew our daughters were OK, then apologizing several times when they went to bed a little on the late side. I had to laugh, recognizing Judy precisely from his comments.

I think my favorite story about Lee and Judy, though, was about Esmé’s first steps. Lee and Judy and just arrived somewhere from out of town, and when they got back, realized they only had a few diapers left. So, late at night, when most places were closed, she asked Lee to go get more diapers. Lee obliged (I am sure rolling his eyes!), and off he went. In the meantime, Judy was spending time with Esmé, who was just starting to stand. Judy held out her hands, and encouraged her daughter to come, and Esmé took her first steps. Judy was beaming. Nearly crying with joy, said a few things about how wonderful it was, and then, with a sudden gasp of guilt, thought about Lee, who she had sent on the less glorious task of buying diapers. They made a pact not ever to tell Lee. When he came back they didn’t say a word, but encouraged Lee to try to get Esmé to walk. Lee encouraged his daughter, with some difficulty, to walk again. When she finally did, Lee exploded with joy, yelling “Mark the time! Mark the time!” and posted it all over Facebook, and emailed his friends the time of Esmé’s “first steps.” They kept this secret from him until the end. I imagine Lee, listening from heaven to the ceremony, hearing this and laughing out loud with a huge beaming smile.

“DUDE!” he would have said.

I had always thought Esmé was a beautiful name, and it was pointed out that this was from a JD Salinger story. It turns out to be from a short story, published first in the New Yorker in 1950. It is called:

“For Esmé- with love and squalor”

It is an eerily appropriate story for Esmé, and a wonderful read.

Judy and Lee were great friends, great people. The world is a less wonderful place. We will miss you. You have touched so many.


Mt. Rainier trip- Plummer Peak


My wife and I had reserved a room at Mt. Rainier’s Paradise lodge prior to hearing the news about Lee and Judy, and even though we were still in mourning, we decided to go anyway. It was especially difficult knowing that we were going to be leaving our kids behind, just like our friends did, and go a bit “off trail” to the top of a mountain with steep drop-offs on all sides. Our goal was to get to the top of Plummer peak, one of the few peaks in the Tatoosh range across from Mt. Rainier, and a fairly easy peak to bag. There is only a very short scrambling section, aided by a few dead trees that offer plenty of places to hold on to, so it would be quite hard to fall on this hike. This was my wife’s first mountain peak.

But I also had another reason for going to this particular peak, instead of pinnacle peak or one of the others. You see, I remember one day seeing a picture of Mt Rainier, reflected in a beautiful little lake framed by gorgeous trees, and it was an almost idyllic spot, one of those pictures that just makes one think WOW. When I saw the picture, I wanted to find that little lake, but when I looked at the topographic maps, I could’t find any lake that would fit the bill. I also looked at the trails on the maps, and none of them seemed to go to any lake that would fit the bill either. Being the geek that i am, I decided to try to find where it was in the most geeky way possible. I got out a ruler, and lining up prominent points on the mountain decided that the location was somewhere between Pinnacle peak and Denman peak, making Plummer Peak, which sits right between them, the most likely location. I knew from previous trips and pictures of the Tatoosh range that Plummer peak has a few snow fields the seem to be permanent, and since no maps showed a lake, the picture had to be from a tarn formed by snow melt. But where? Cross referencing the map with a picture of Plummer peak taken from the summit of Pinnacle, I found a few different possibilities for the Tarn’s location, made a bunch of sketches on the maps and headed out to find the location 2 years ago. It turns out, it was the first guess, and easiest of all of them to get to, located right in line with the “trail” (technically, all of this is off trail). The only trick is that you have to get there at the right time. The tarn is tiny, and the snowfield feeding covers the tarn location most of the time. But, if it melts too much, then the tarn will go away as well. Two years ago I hit the tarn at the ideal time- it was August 20th, there was still plenty of snow behind the tarn, and the banks were dry, so you could get the maximum reflection possible. For a pic of the tarn location, click the picture of Plummer Peak.

Unfortunately, this time we got there too early, despite it being September already. The tarn was present, but the snowfield jutted far into it. Also, the snowfield was undercut by the tarn, and I didn’t want to have it collapse from my weight sitting on it. So, the only way for me to get pictures was to lie down on the snowfield, and get my camera as close to the water as I could. But due to the smaller size of the tarn than previously, it wasn’t quite the same as it should be, but made for decent pictures anyway.
After a brief stop here, we continued up to the top of the mountain. The trail branches off before the tarn, and then climbs steeply up over loose scree fields. On the way up it is actually very difficult to follow, and seems to disappear multiple times. When coming down, however, it is much more clear where the trail is. It climbs steeply, then cuts into some trees very close to the top. Here the trail is very steep and has large steps, but you can use the trees to help lift yourself up. Once past the trees, it is about 10 more vertical feet and you are on the summit.
From here, there are views to Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams, and even Mt. Hood in Oregon. But most spectacular is the view of Mt. Rainier, huge and unbroken from this angle, looking to the North. There is a spectacular 360 degree panorama of the cascades from the summit. You have to be quite careful at the top, though… the top is loose rock, unstable, and there is a very steep several hundred foot fall on several sides of the peak. Be careful.

After a good night’s sleep before heading home, we decided to go on one more short trail, so we chose the Lakes trail, leaving straight from the Paradise Lodge. This was a wonderful trail, full of wildflowers, and with a Marmot who seemed to really want to be photographed. It winds past babbling rivers, small waterfalls, and beautiful fields of flowers. The trail starts by going past Myrtle falls, then cutting across a face just above the road from paradise, then climbing a short but steep set if switchbacks onto a beautiful meadow, that meanders downward to a point at which you can overlook the Stevens Canyon. The most beautiful wildflowers, I think, were along the trail above the Paradise road- they were tightly clustered and very dense along the 10 feet or so on either side of the path, which was ablaze in pinks, purples, and reds.

Pauline and I had done this hike once before, on our first anniversary, and at that time, in late September, the fall colors were glorious… the entire hillside was a deep red. I was hoping this would again be the case, but it is just a bit too early in the season. We were also here about a month before, and the wildflowers were much less impressive. It seems like September is the ideal time to come on this trail.