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 returned from four days on the road with the Good Doctor, and am happy to report that we both survived and there was no gnashing of teeth of temper tantrums. As travel partners go, we’re quite compatible, especially when it came to barricading the door and sleeping with one eye open at the No Tell Motel that came with complimentary blood spatters on the bathroom wall. That may have been mostly my fault since I booked that particular room, but he was a very good sport and was only halfway serious about us being eaten by someone/something in the middle of the night.

            But the stars were incredible…

            Our whirlwind tour began with a hike to the amazing “Hanging Lake,” which literally was a lake in the sky, with water rushing over the edges and waterfalls that spouted out of the mountainside. The hike was a little strenuous but refreshing, until I was assaulted by a yellow jacket on the way down the mountain. He landed a solid sting on my shoulder, then embedded himself in my hair, which left me flailing my arms and jumping around until he finally dislodged. Turns out I’m not allergic, and a little baking soda paste and some TLC at the next stop helped take the sting out of my bite.

            The Good Doctor tour led us to K’s house, where we spent the evening gossiping, discussing hair products and a random nipping by the dying dog. Next stop was my parents’ camp site, where we chatted as every chipmunk and bird in the forest came around looking for food. The chipmunks are very entitled, and before long they were climbing up our legs and standing on our shoulders begging to be fed. The parental meeting went well, I think, we parted with hugs and the intention of going to search for treasure.

            We didn’t find the treasure, so we headed out to Steamboat Springs, where we met an interesting young man named Zack, a troll, and ran across that scariest neon motel sign in history at The Rabbit Ears Inn. We ate dinner and played some pool (I technically won, finally) at a local pub, with two little pool elves in the shape of young children, who removed the 8 ball and replaced it with an angry bird. I indulged in some trash t.v. once back at the Rabbit Ears, and we were up early the next forming for the final leg of our journey.

            Which took us to a beautiful place called the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya. After hiking through the brush and trees for a bit, the trees open to a clearing, where the Stupa took my breath away when I first saw it. In the middle of the woods, its intricately decorated with columns, pillars, paintings and carvings, with a great Buddha sitting on top of it. The inside was just as breathtaking, and we sat in a state of meditation for a while, and I marveled at the beautiful designs in the marble floor, as well as the carvings that covered every pillar and corner. It was beautiful and relaxing, and a great way to end our road trip.



September 8, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment