Tabatha Deans

Bringing Integrity to the Written Word

Family Traditions

I don’t remember how old I was the first time my parents took me and my siblings camping at Spirit Lake. I do know I can’t remember ever not going to Spirit Lake in the summer when I was a kid. So I’m going to say it’s been about 40 years that I have been participating in this family tradition. For the past 20 years I have been taking my own daughter,Jessica, and the past two years have included the attendance of my granddaughter, Petra.

Spirit Lake is not for everyone, as the air is thin, there is no running water and cooking breakfast can be a morning-long event. Coffee is made over Coleman stoves or an open fire, dinner often involves a stick and some sort of processed meat, and the main source of entertainment is a trip to the lodge to see what everyone else is up to. There is no reason to rush at Spirit Lake, and the altitude has been blamed for killing brain cells, thus removing any thoughts of stress, angst or irritation of everyday life. Life is good there, and sometime in my life Spirit Lake became “my” place. All of my friends have made the trip with me to experience the magic, at least once, although apparently not everyone is as enchanted with the place as I am.

This year’s trip began with some mild drama, as Jess and I vehemently argued with the navigational app lady who sent us circling the I-70 on ramp rather than just getting us on our way. After a little cursing, wondering and a few blocks, we turned her off and relied on Jess’s atlas. We had a relaxing drive across Colorado, en route to pick up my childhood friend Kathy. Kathy is one of my trusted “Grand Council” members, and has had a great influence on Jessica’s life. I knew this trip would not only be entertaining, it would be epic.

This trip was a “girls only,” at least for the first four days. After which time Robert and Jess’s significant other would be joining us. After stopping in Vernal for food and provisions, we headed to Spirit Lake in separate cars. I had Petra in tow in hopes she would nap along the way, and Kathy and Jess tied up some loose ends in town. As soon as I turned off Highway 191 onto the road to Spirit Lake, I rolled down the windows and inhaled the fresh air.

The next few days were pretty much the ultimate Hen party, full of hours sitting around the fire, hiking through the woods, cooking, cleaning up and generally doing a whole lot of nothing. Petra made friends with the little girl whose parents were running and living at the lodge, and we made friends with just about anybody who passed our campfire. We took our annual boat ride, which involves me protesting loudly and adamantly about my fears and the lack of safety of boats. Jessica won, as usual, and I found myself with a death grip on Petra as the four of us rowed about the lake. Naturally Petra was not okay with me holding onto her life jacket, and insisted I “move away” so she could sit by her mom and be a big girl.

People from all over the world come to Spirit Lake, and most of them begin their conversations with “last time I was here.” One morning I was taking a short cut along the stream toward the lodge to get some water, and as I came around a corner I came within about ten yards of a giant male moose. Moose are a common sighting at Spirit Lake, and my family  has had several run-ins with them, but this was my first up-close encounter. I slowly backed away and headed up another trail, which took me directly through another camp. As I reached the edge of the camp I came upon two young boys, about eight or nine I would guess.

“Sorry,” I said. “But there’s a moose in my path so I have to go around.” The oldest of the two got a scared look on his face, his eyes got big and he looked toward where I had just come from.

“When I was here last year there were 50 mooses.” He said enthusiastically.

“Oh wow, that’s a lot,” I said.

“Yeah, and I wasn’t scared at all.” He said proudly. “But this year, I asked Siri about moose,” He paused and blew out a breath dramatically as he ran his fingers through his hair. “And Sheeeesh. Sheeeesh.” It was clear Siri had taught him about his previously unknown dangers of moose. He quickly went the other direction, back toward his camp and the safety of his father’s supervision.

The trip gave me plenty of time to ponder. Mostly about my life. My life now, my life when I was younger, and my life when I was young. There was a moment when Jessica and Petra were standing out on the dock looking into the lake, that it was clear to me each phase of my life, at least vicariously, was present at Spirit Lake this year. I remembered being there as a child, then as a young mother in charge of a child, and now as a grandmother in charge of a young mother who is in charge of a young child. The dynamic kind of blew my mind, and brought tears to my eyes. It’s long been said that “the minute we are born we begin dying,” and naturally as I grow older I can’t help but fear my ultimate future, which, like everyone else, ends with death.

But watching those two–my child and my grandchild–standing on the dock, I was overcome with a sense of peace, almost joy, as I realized that ultimately I will never be completely dead. I caught a glimpse into the future, and saw generations upon generations standing on that dock. Parents holding their children’s hands, and the little one saying “Mommy, tell me again about Grammy Deans…”



August 11, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment



               I have spent the last six weeks tromping about town in my winter boots, regardless of the fact that temperatures have been near 50 and no snow. I despise being cold, especially my feet, so have not taken any chances. By the time I make the one mile trek to the light rail station each morning, I’m drenched in sweat and nearing heat-stroke. But I’m prepared.

               Until the day I wasn’t.

I had ventured to the Good Doctor’s place directly from a business conference, clad in dress boots instead of winter boots, a fancy scarf instead of a warm scarf. The next morning was chilly but no sign of snow, and with only dress boots or tennis shoes at my disposal, I donned the tennis shoes and headed for the office. By early afternoon the snow was falling and the temperatures were dropping. At quitting time I reluctantly left the warmth of the office and headed to the bus stop, where, due to bad weather and driving conditions, I stood for nearly 45 minutes before the next bus made its way up the hill.

My feet were frozen, my cheeks were bright red and chapping, and my fingers trembled as I fiddled with my transit pass. Standing in the cold, ill-prepared, for so long gave me plenty of time to scold myself for not being prepared, and for my mind to wander to that dark place that we don’t really like to go.

What if I were homeless? What if I had nowhere to go to escape the cold? What if I didn’t have bus fare to get off the cold street and onto a warm bus? As the cold set in and my eyeballs neared freezing into icey orbs, I seriously pondered the question. Would I dare ask the people going in and out of the closest store if they could spare some money? Would anyone give me any? Maybe just enough for a hot cup of coffee.

After much thought I decided my first point of action if I were homeless would be to get the heck out of the colder areas. I would hitchhike to California, or Florida. Someplace warm. My second choice, if I was forced to stay in Denver, would be to find a nice place to dig a cave. The banks of the Platte River are home to many homeless people, but also a place for extreme abuse and killing. Being homeless, or sleeping outdoors anywhere near or in Denver is illegal, so I would need to keep a few steps ahead of the law.

So I believe I would find a nice suburb, like one near Tim and Mona’s or the office, where there is a park with a long walking path along the canal. Then I would dig a discreet cave in the bank, under the cover of shrubs or trees, and make a cozy fire. Of course in my mind, a shovel and plenty of energy to dig are miraculously provided. I believe I could make a nice little hole for myself, at least enough to survive. Maybe I’d catch squirrels for food, or hit the trash bins hoping for leftovers from people who sit in their cars at the park for their lunch hour, eating and reading a book or napping in their car.

My toes were officially  frozen and unable to move independently when I was roused from my pondering by the bus. I paid my fare and enjoyed the wall of warmth that greeted me on the bus. Another 20 minutes of waiting for the light rail left me frozen again, and the six block walk up the mall  was enough to convince me to splurge $5 for a cab ride the rest of the way home. The streets were full of groups of homeless people gathered together, sharing cigarettes and possibly using their bodies to stay warm. I wondered where they would stay tonight. How many of them would freeze. And if it was possible to achieve a state of slumber when temperatures were approaching zero.

Disturbed, I climbed the stairs to my 300 square feet of home, where I settled into my chair in front of the radiator, book in hand, trying to cleanse my mind of the injustice of humanity, and take my mind off the thought of having to sleep outside.

January 12, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 1 Comment