Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2008, a few days after Mattie's first limb salvaging surgery. Despite his right arm being wrapped up and in pain, he was up, moving around, and was going through his UTZ potato chip phase at the time. In fact, Mattie would only eat this brand of potato chip. Go figure! Mattie went through food cravings through treatment, some of you may remember the Dunkin Donuts vanilla frosted, rainbow sprinkled craze, or how about the McDonald's vanilla shake phase, or even the Scooby Doo mac and cheese phase. Chemotherapy impacted Mattie's appetite significantly, so whatever worked and he wanted, we were going to get it for him. Fortunately for us, we had Team Mattie behind us running all over town to make these cravings possible! I happen to like this picture very much, because to me it speaks to Mattie's strength, character, and ability to have fun.
Today, Peter let me know that Mattie has been gone from our lives for 400 days. While, yesterday marked the 57th week Mattie has been gone. Peter counts in days, I in weeks. As I stop and reflect on this tragedy, I feel this picture makes me pause and remember an amazing boy. A boy who could play, talk, and function through incredible amounts of pain and suffering.
Quote of the day: You may forget with whom you laughed, but you will never forget with whom you wept. ~ Carie O'Leary
I want to thank my readers for tuning back into the blog today. I tried posting this last night, but we lost internet connectivity, and I ended up chatting with the technical support staff at midnight in Australia to try to solve this problem. The problem did not resolve itself until this morning! Being away from writing for one day was an interesting feeling, especially when I have been used to writing consistently over the past two years. Going on vacation is frought with all sorts of issues for Peter and I, and despite school being in session at this time of year, we saw plenty of children on our journey. I do think that taking the train to the Grand Canyon and the Grand Canyon itself attracts many families, and fascinates young boys. I remember how Mattie's face would light up when seeing a train!
My mom took this picture of Peter and I inside the train on Tuesday. The four of us sat together, in seats that faced each other and we watched the wonderful scenery go passed us at only 30 miles per hour. The train went slowly so we could appreciate the countryside. We saw antelope and cows along our trip, which is fascinating considering we are 7000 foot above sea level.
Stepping onto the train and then debarking at the Santa Fe depot felt as if we were walking back through time. After all from 1909 to 1968, the main form of transportation that brought tourists to the Canyon was by TRAIN!
We stayed on the South Rim of the Canyon in a place called The Bright Angel Lodge. Literally the hotel was feet from the rim of the Canyon! We learned that the average visitor spends a whole 45 minutes at the Grand Canyon National Park. They drive in, visit, eat, take a picture, and leave. I found this fascinating in and of itself, since this is truly a natural marvel to observe. However, I also observed that people visiting the Grand Canyon follow a sunrise to sunset routine. After the sun sets, you see very few people walking around outside!
Bright Angel Lodge, designed in 1935, has a natural, rustic character, and is a Registered National Historic Landmark. Designed by famed architect Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter, it has always been a popular place to stay and the center of South Rim activity. As you can see from this picture, above the fireplace in the lobby a dramatic wooden thunderbird is displayed, and this thunderbird is known as the "bright angel of the sky."
Mary Jane Colter had a 40 year relationship with the Fred Harvey Company. Fred Harvey revolutionized the way travelers experienced the Southwest. Prior to Mr. Harvey, tourists to the Southwest experienced considerable hardships: poor food and rude service, with “highway robbery” prices. Seeing these miserable conditions, the visionary immigrant from London took the opportunity to improve the food and service offered to railway passengers in a historic partnership with the Santa Fe Railway. Together, the Santa Fe railway and the Fred Harvey Company created a legacy in the Southwest that endures to this day – a legacy of comfortable travel, elegant dining, and memorable experiences. Although Mr. Harvey died in 1901, he and his company influenced the lives of many working women by hiring thousands of women to work in his restaurants – waitresses known as Harvey Girls. The company also established a Southwestern Indian Detours (a tour company) and hired young, college-educated women to conduct tours of the Southwest. The Company hired a young, female designer, Mary Colter, who changed the course of Southwestern architecture forever.
In the lobby of the hotel is a wonderful picture and story about Mary Colter, known as the "Architect of the Southwest.” She was a school teacher in St. Paul, MN, in the 1890s, Mary Colter became an architect, designer, and decorator for the Fred Harvey company in 1902. Her designs were unique for their time because she used the cultural heritage of the region rather than imitate European styles. With style and imagination she designed and decorated many Fred Harvey hotels, restaurants, and union station facilities. It was a position of unusual power and influence for a woman. Colter designed many of the buildings at the Grand Canyon.
The Grand Canyon is 277 river miles long, an average of ten miles wide and nearly one mile deep, the Canyon is widely proclaimed as one of the wonders of the natural world. It was established as a forest reserve by President Benjamin Harrison in 1893 and later set aside as a national monument by President Teddy Roosevelt in 1908. It received official national park status in 1919. The Canyon ranges from an elevation of 1100 feet along the river at the Canyon’s western end to more than 9000 feet on the North Rim. The Canyon was created through the erosion of the Colorado River, which occurred in the past 5 to 6 million years, which in all reality is a blink of the eye in geological terms, and insignificant relative to the 2 billion year old rocks at the Canyon's bottom.
The next five pictures will give you a feel for the amazing sights we saw in the Canyon. We took over 200 pictures, which I will be sharing with you over the next couple of days! However, the Grand Canyon would be the ideal subject matter for an impressionist like Monet. The beauty of the rocks is that they change in color and contrast depending upon the sunlight and the time of day. Monet would have loved to study the change in one rock formation over the course of the day, as the light changes the rocks' brilliance.
In this picture you can see the Colorado River running through the bottom of the Canyon. Typically the river is a blueish green color, but since there was a massive rain storm last week, lots of mud filled the river!!!!
Notice the Bright Angel trail where people are walking down to the bottom of the Canyon. This is a LONG hike and it is NOT recommended to walk from the top to the bottom, and back to the top of the rim in one day! Also note that mules take this same path down the Canyon. This pathway is SUPER narrow, but in all these years there has never been a mule accident with a passenger aboard. Amazing!
Peter took several pictures in honor of Mattie on this trip. The first one features a Grand Canyon chipmunk! Mattie loved chipmunks. He became acquainted with these furry creatures when visiting Peter’s parents in Massachusetts. He affectionately referred to chipmunks as “chippy.” He even wrote a kindergarten story about Chippy! So in honor of Mattie, we took a picture of a Southwestern Chippy.
The second picture is one that I love. This lone tree captured my attention today and I asked Peter to snap a picture of it. It is a small tree, growing in isolation, in a very challenging location. However, despite its odds, it is a strong tree, a vibrant tree, and a tree that leaves a lasting impression on your mind! This lone tree has all the same qualities that Mattie possessed. I couldn’t help but think of him immediately when I saw this natural composition.