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R2R2R: Day 2

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One of the heaviest rains of the season falls on the day between our hikes. At times, you cannot see beyond the stone walls at the edge of the canyon for the fog. We are very grateful to not be out in all that. We are also grateful for the ten degree drop in temperature that follows.

Despite the drop in temps, we choose to rise early again in order to be across the floor before the heat of the day. This time I begin in my fleece and gloves. We huddle at the shuttle stop with a father, son and uncle here to do their first rim to rim. Mom/wife/sister will meet them tonight at the North Rim and drive them back tomorrow.

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The South Kaibab trail is very exposed, meaning you get jaw dropping vistas all along the way. Of course, we don’t see much at our pre-dawn start. But it is fun to watch the head-lamps and flashlights bobbing like fireflies along the trail above and below us. When we reach Cedar Ridge we recall hiking this far with our children 8 years ago. We decide that was pretty ambitious given the youngest was only 9 at the time.

The sun paints the sky in muted cotton candy shades; a surprising counterpoint to the stark, jagged landscape. Puddles stand in the deep recesses of the path. Up close they are brown and nasty, but from a distance, they hold glassy bits of sky.

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Mike didn’t sleep well again and I know a part of him is worried about what this means. But as we move forward, as our bodies warm, we are both encouraged to find that nothing hurts. Our bodies feel strong. And the coolness, even in direct sunlight, is gift. Today’s hike will be very different because of it.

We have changed up our food supply a bit for day two and I love it! It was our goal to pack only enough food to last for day one. This we learned from last year. We made a resupply run to the market on Saturday. Some of the things we usually use were not available, and frankly we tired of those on Friday anyway, so we added  Pringles potato chips and Pepperidge Farm Chesapeake cookies to the mix. Every time we pull one of these out it feels like a decadent luxury. (Incidentally, we did pack electrolyte solution for both days. Not a good idea to mess with that).

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The sun has not been up long when we pass a supply train going down to Phantom Ranch. These quiet, gentle animals have served in the canyon in some capacity for years. They leave traces all along the trail. I trust I do not need to elaborate on that. 🙂

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We descend past layer upon layer of colored rock. Fragments of each layer make their way down the hillside and accumulate along the path and in creek-beds to create lovely kaleidoscopes.

It has gotten surprisingly warm by the time we reach the black bridge that will take us across the Colorado. You pass through a tunnel to reach the bridge and today with light and puddles, it takes on a peculiar charm.

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At Phantom Ranch, I treat myself to indulgence number two: Coffee. No cafe or dining establishment was open when we left for the trail, and a cup of java is sounding pretty amazing right now. I pull a chocolatey Chesapeake out of my bag and the combination is so delightful that I feel like I might float to the North Rim. Instead, I chatter my way across the floor and Mike surely wonders if that money could not have been better spent elsewhere. 😉

While at Phantom Ranch, we meet a group of folks who are part of a fitness ministry. As we talk, we learn that they were just in Franklin making a presentation at our former church, and we have mutual friends. It really is a small world. After all. We will play leap frog for the rest of the day, and run into them again tomorrow at breakfast.

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Between the cooling effects of the rain and the intermittent clouds, our trip across the floor today is a breeze. Before we know it, we are filling our bottles at Cottonwood Campground and commencing the seven mile climb to the North Rim.

From here on out, we are almost entirely in shade. There are moments when the breeze is almost chilly. Almost. We don’t talk much about last year, but we both remember slogging up this section of the trail, unsure whether we would make it out. Two switchbacks and a rest. Two switchbacks and a rest. Today could not be more different. Still, the section between the Pump House and Supai Tunnel seems interminable. When we finally see the tunnel, I have to resist the urge to kiss it. We reunite with friends from the trail, fill our water bottles one last time and sprawl out across the rocks for a final rest.

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This last section of trail we are traveling for the third time, yet we have never seen it. Last year, sunset overtook us before we made the top. On Friday, we began before dawn. I feel myself pulled forward by my curiosity. For the whole of it, we can see our destination above us. It seems so far away. But we have learned not to trust our eyes for distance here. They are unreliable.

Aspens, oaks and maples are changing their dresses for autumn, adding to the pastiche of color in the canyon. I keep stopping to take pictures. Some of them include Mike looking back at me with this expression that seems to say, “Really?! Again?!” I can’t help it. Everything is so pretty. And there is this bubbly something inside of me that already knows we are going to make it out of here, even if we have to crawl. And somehow, I want to capture this moment, to hold onto something of what it means to be here. To stitch memory into my body of the exhaustion and desire, the longing and fear, the determination and raw visceral urge, the glory. Yes, the glory.

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At the trail-head, we stop and sit for a space. I would like to say it is because we want to drink deeply of this moment and, while that might not be untrue, we mostly are just worn out. But it is the sweet fatigue that speaks of having accomplished what we set out to do. Of finishing the course. Of keeping faith. Our words of congratulation to one another are hollow beside the plain truth of being here. Of living to tell the tale. The full meaning of it will be unfolding in us for days to come.

And when life throws hard things at us, impossible things, we will remember this.

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Every second of the search is an encounter with God. When I have been truly searching for my treasure, every day has been luminous…I’ve discovered things along the way that I never would have seen had I not had the courage to try things that seemed impossible. ~Paulo Coelho

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Rim to Rim to Rim, particulars:

Stats: 45 miles; more than 10,000′ vertical gain; 13 hours the 1st day, 10:45 the 2nd; temp range 43*-95*
Hydration: Mike likes Gatorade G2 grape while I favor Skratch Labs raspberry and lemon. I began both days with Orange Juice in one of my bottles. Mike also used oj on day two.
Snacks included: Walnuts and almonds, Cliff bars, Pay Day candy bars, Sesame Rice Chips, Power Bar gels, Gatorade energy chews, Summer Sausage, Cheese sticks, Werther’s hard caramels, and the aforementioned Pringles and Chesapeakes. Mike breakfasted on oatmeal and I had yogurt and granola.
This and That: We both carried REI Flash 22 backpacks. My boots are Keen and Mike’s are Merrell. We both like wool socks; mine are Smartwool and his are Darn Tough. I would perish without Moleskin.  Several essential doTerra oils traveled in the handy keychain affixed to the outside of my pack. Walking poles are non-negotiable, in my estimation. Zip-off shorts with multiple pockets are the best. A bandana has a thousand uses. And the iPhone was camera, carrier of maps and other info, books, poems, prayers, and communication for the in-between day.
Sleeps: I highly recommend the Grand Canyon Lodge on the North Rim and Bright Angel Lodge on the South. Neither offers television if you are into that sort of thing, and cell service is intermittent at best. But for rustic charm and convenient access to the trails, they can’t be beat.
Eats: The North Rim’s Elk chili is famous (and fabulous!), and you can get it at any of their three eateries. If you leave without trying it you should be shot. Also, the Arizona Room at Bright Angel Lodge serves a mean Buffalo Burger. Recovery food, you understand. And the bicycle shop at the South Rim has great sandwiches and is conveniently located right next to the visitor center.

 

R2R2R: Day 1

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The sky spreads over us like a sapphire sea studded with stars. We swallow clean, cool air in gulps as we pass through the sweet silence of a world still sleeping. We whisper morning prayers as our flashlights sweep the path in front of us, all the while sinking lower and lower into the canyon.

It is a grudge match of sorts, this return to the canyon. A redemption. We came last year to walk from one rim to the other, rest for a day, then walk back. But illness prevented us from completing the second leg of our hike. So here we are in the predawn hours, treading this same bit of earth where we finished last year, hoping that the training has been enough, that the changes in our packs will serve us well, that we clear the floor of the canyon before it reaches its predicted high of roughly 100 degrees.

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Dawn breaks softly, color aching back into things. By the time we reach our first water fill station at Supai Tunnel, we pack away our flashlights. Sunlight creeps over the stones liberating their brilliant hues. All day long I will watch this magic. The canyon–with its layers of white, red, green, and violet stone; its deep recesses that bend light, or catch it and hold it hostage; its peculiar promontories and funky formations that cast long, irregular shadows–is a veritable playground for light.

We reach the floor ahead of schedule, but we remind ourselves that this first portion of the “floor” has a good bit of rough and rugged undulation. (A fact which none of the sources we read ever told us, and was a brutal surprise last year. So I am telling you now.) Two or three miles later, the trail begins a long, comfortable meander along the edge of Bright Angel Creek and the gurgle and plash of water is our constant companion.

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A network of old power poles follows the basic outline of the path. Some still have wire wrapped around beautiful glass insulators. My dad, an electrician, used to have some of these when I was a little girl. They fascinated me then and they fascinate me now. I have to resist the urge to shinny up one of those poles and pull one down and shove it in my backpack. Especially the blue ones.

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Sometimes the walls of the canyon crowd very close here, thrusting skyward in an unbroken line. They provide welcome shade from the slanting rays of morning sun. Gathered round their feet and growing impossibly from crevices in their sides are an astonishing array of plants. I am constantly distracted by them

We reach Phantom Ranch a little before 11am, almost an hour ahead of schedule. I pull a stack of postcards from my pack for our children and godchildren. These I stuff into a saddlebag which will ride out of the canyon later today on a mule, the only place I am aware of in the U.S. where mail is still carried this way.

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We refill our water bottles and eat a substantial snack. 14 miles in already and I am hungry. And here I make my biggest mistake of the day. Summer sausage is a classic trail food. We brought one from home thinking we might need it before we got to Phantom Ranch. I eat half of it, 3 1/2 ounces, reasoning that I need the protein for the climb, and that it is easier to carry it in my stomach than in my backpack. It is too much at once. I will pay for that.

We walk through Bright Angel Campground just before crossing the Colorado River and commencing our ascent. The thermometer reads 95 degrees. In the shade. It is 11:15.

The next 3 miles or so are almost entirely exposed. Shade becomes a scarce and coveted commodity. Every time we find a patch of it, we linger. My stomach full of fatty sausage and the brutal heat are a bad combination. I feel sick. When we come to our first creek crossing I plunge my bandana in and proceed to douse myself from head to toe. I squeeze the water over my head and let it run in cool rivulets down my neck and back. I press it against my face. I slather it along my arms, my stomach. Then, I dip the bandana once more and wrap it around my neck. The relief of this is delicious. And completely necessary. It will make all the difference. My motto becomes: Linger in every patch of shade, dip in every creek. The water in my water bottles is becoming sickly hot. But I make myself drink it. Must drink. Must. Drink.

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Coming into and out of Indian Gardens

Indian Gardens is an oasis, literally, halfway between the Colorado River and the South Rim. Native Americans planted crops here centuries ago and now cottonwoods and mesquite grow in the same stream watered soil. We stop here for our first water fill since Phantom Ranch. It is so good to drink cool water again I down my first pint before we leave. We rest for a bit in the shade. I lie on my back and drape my feet across the top of a bench. We visit with fellow hikers and laugh at jokes that only those who have seen the canyon as we have seen her this day understand. Some folks minister to their feet, others share snacks and advice. We leave our oasis refreshed and renewed with just over 4 1/2 miles to go.

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I am infatuated with the sky. Always. But especially here. Intense cerulean, the perfect foil for the fluffy white clouds that have been increasing all afternoon. Now and then, a gray one. Interloper. A light mist begins to fall. Gentle. Cool. Most welcome. I turn to take a photograph of the clouds and when I lift my eyes from my phone, I see it. The rainbow. I begin to wonder if there is a limit to how much beauty one person can stand. I am treading dangerously close to that border. I take about 40 pictures, pausing now and then to just exult in this moment. In being right here, right now. Feeling the great goodness of the Father in the air and the mist, in the grandeur of this place, in the excruciating beauty of water bending light, in the strength of my legs and my heart, in the joy of sharing all of this with my best friend.

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The last mile and a half prove to be a challenge for Mike. Fatigue, heat, and lack of sleep the night before have conspired to make him feel exhausted and sick. But he keeps moving forward. One step at a time.

As we come to the end of the trail, there are no cheering crowds, no medal around the neck. Just the knowledge in our gut that the work of the day is done. I am as tired as I have ever been. But my heart is full…

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*All photographs in the post taken with my iphone. The only one that has been edited is the one at the top. I deepened the saturation a bit to make the rainbow more plain. However, if you look at the rainbow shot inside the post (unedited) you will see I didn’t alter it much. The colors were just this marvelous. If you would like to see other photos from our adventures out west (more than I will ever be able to use here) you can visit my photo album on facebook. I believe you can get to it directly by clicking HERE. I plan to write about day two tomorrow, so come back if you want to know how it turns out. 🙂

Being an Account of Some Days in the Woods…

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Ghost Antler Lichen

We awake in the bedroom I grew up in. My dad slices a bowl of fresh peaches. Mom cooks eggs and sausage, biscuits and gravy. We talk and eat our fill. Charcoal clouds lie heavy in the sky, menacing.  Mike and I recount our last hike to Leconte, the one when we “almost died but didn’t”. We fill our water bottles, give hugs all around, and hit the road.

The rain begins almost immediately. We drive in and out of it over the next two hours. But then, just before we reach the trail-head, it stops. We strap on our packs, eager to be on our way.

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The hike to Alum Cave is one of the most popular in the Smokies because of interesting geological features, historical significance, and diversity of habitat. For the first mile we hike along Alum Cave Creak, its gurgle and leap a constant music, and sometimes there is a canopy of gnarled rhododendron. The first geological landmark is the Arch, created over hundreds of years as water washed away the softer layer of rock underneath the bedrock. We ascend a set of carved stone steps to emerge on the other side. I do admire this use of local materials–stone steps, log bridges–elements that already belong to the landscape.

The trail bends away from the creek here and we cross Styx Branch, considerably smaller and, on this day, dry. Along the way, I notice several dead trees, their branches cloaked in what looks like a fine frost. Lichens. Still able to find the nourishment they need in the decaying wood, the lichens become a beautiful ornament, a contrast of silver among all the green. And they provide food and nesting materials for a variety of animals.

Just before reaching Alum Cave Bluff, we come to Inspiration Point where we can see Duck Hawk Ridge with it’s “Eye of the Needle”, a circular opening in the rock which admits the blue of the sky, a delightful curiosity which I was unable to capture in a photograph.

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 Alum Cave Bluff is the final destination for many making this Hike. For us it is nearly half-way. The Epsom Salts Manufacturing Company mined this area in the early 1800s. Later, during the Civil War, it became a source of saltpeter, used to make gun powder. It is an imposing edifice, framing the world below. Our experience of it differed considerably on our ascent verses our descent, as you can see. We linger here for a bit, listening to the drip drip of water from the edge of the bluff, looking out over the great expanse of earth spread out beneath us.

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Over the next two and a half miles or so we are nourished by a proliferation of wildflowers (and fungi), occasional openings in the trees to jaw dropping vistas, and the sweet scent of evergreens, made more pungent by the recent rain. The last bit of the trail passes through dense spruce forest. It is dark and lovely, mysterious and magical. Then, the forest opens out again into a bit of a clearing, and we are arrived at Leconte Lodge. Last year, we only paused here for a bit to pour the water out of our shoes, hover around the wood stove, and try to dry out our clothes a bit before heading back down. But this year, we are staying.

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We are received by a dear man with a long white beard whose name I wish I remembered. He tells me the names of all the flowers growing up on the mountain. He also gives us our pail for fetching water and our orientation: “Here are the outdoor latrines. Here is the faucet for cold water, already filtered, ready to drink. This faucet (on the back of the kitchen) is where you will collect hot water (in the pail) for washing. Here is the dining room; dinner at 6:00, breakfast at 8:00, coffee and hot chocolate available any time. This is your cabin, the basin for washing, and your key to the latrine. Light the kerosene lamp like this. Do not turn the wick up too high or it will smoke the glass. This is your propane heater.”

After our orientation, we walk a half mile beyond the lodge to the highest point on Mount Leconte. There, Mike ceremonially adds a stone to the cairn that marks the third highest peak in the Smokies.

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We wash, put on a dry shirt and a fleece, take all our snacks to the metal containers in the lodge where they will be safe from small furry creatures, fill our cups with coffee and hot chocolate and sit on the porch til supper. When the dinner bell rings, we all gather round large tables with people we do not know, passing steaming bowls of beef and gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans, cinnamon apples, and a skillet of warm cornbread. The room thrums with conversation.

We turn in early, just as the rain begins. First a pitter patter, than a pounding of raindrops against the tin roof. Thunder booms overhead and lightening flashes in one window and out the other. And the raging storm becomes our lullaby. (I should here mention that outdoor bathrooms, while certainly adequate, are not especially charming in a storm.)

We wake to a world washed clean and a mist that moves before our eyes and all around us. We feast on pancakes and eggs, biscuits and apple butter, and steaming mugs of coffee and hot chocolate. We have an enthralling conversation with two musical brothers and their dad. The oldest brother is a sophomore at Eastman School of Music studying the clarinet. I ask him if he has played Rhapsody in Blue and he laughs. “Yes, but only the second clarinet part so far.” The younger brother plays mandolin and I wish Jake were here as we talk Chris Thile and Sam Bush. This is actually a trip built around him. They are visiting Appalachia to better understand the roots of bluegrass. Dad, incidentally, is a jazz pianist. And happily I wonder how, out of all the people in the world, we ended up across the table from them.

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Back on the trail, we are so deep in conversation, we miss a cut off and take a one mile detour before getting back on track. But the trail is so pretty and the morning so new and fresh and full of promise, there is no space for regret. The cloud that last night enrobed the top of the mountain has now slipped down over her sides. We stop sometimes to watch the mist moving around us til it makes us dizzy and we have to move on. Many of yesterday’s vistas are hidden today. On the other hand, new waterfalls have emerged along the cliffs and Styx Branch, which yesterday was dry, is gurgling and tripping all over itself.

At the trail head I give thanks that no bear tore open the soft top on my Jeep to get at the overripe banana I unwisely left inside. (This has been causing me no small worry once I realized what I had done.) We drive a few miles up the road to the Newfound Gap trail-head where we are treated to an astonishing view before even leaving our car. Here begins the serious part of our training. 1.7 miles on the Appalachian Trail (mostly up), then 3.7 on Sweat Heifer Creek Trail (mostly down), then, turn around and come back. The fog has lifted, the sun is shining, and it is hot.

The AT is over and around rocks, up and up all the way. When we reach the branch for Sweat Heifer Creek trail, two ladies remark that they went a ways down and were not thoroughly convinced it was a trail at all.  The high grass on either side leaning over the small strip of dirt tends to support their assessment. But this trail has been recommended by a seasoned hiker whom we respect, so we recklessly plunge in. Soon, the grassy sedge gives way to a soft trail of needles and leaves, wide and accommodating, though strewn with the occasional rock or root. We meander down and down, past the named creek, past spruce, then hardwoods, down and down.

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At bottom, we find the perfect spot for lunch. (Lunch being, I should here qualify, a shared summer sausage–I wish I could tell you how amazing this tastes on the trail when my body is salt deprived from too much sweating and I find myself thinking far too fondly of the salt blocks my dad used to put out for the cows–sesame rice chips, almonds and walnuts.) A restaurant would charge dearly for a view like this. And perhaps the luncheon would be more elegant, but I doubt it would taste better. “Nothing seasons food like a hearty appetite.” I can’t remember who said that, but it is oh so very true. We sit on the edge of the bridge with our legs dangling and savor each bite as though it were the only thing standing between us and starvation.

We retrace our steps, up being much more difficult than down, obviously, but not so very much slower, which is surprising. As we rejoin the AT, we meet up with a group of twenty-somethings here from New Jersey for ten days, sharing a cabin and hiking all over the Smoky Mountains. And I wonder why we were not more industrious when we were their age. They tell us which trails they have loved so far and ask what is down that peculiar, half-hidden trail we have just come up.

When it is over, we put on dry clothes and complete our toilet, as best we can, with a couple of wet wipes. Convincing ourselves we are somewhat presentable, we stop for pizza and beer to reward ourselves for our effort. And dream of the deep canyon, a few hundred miles, and just over a month, away…

Out-takes:

Ok, so there is only one outtake. And it is not so much as an outtake as a photo that I couldn’t figure out where to insert, but I love it so much and it is my blog after all so I can put anything I want to on here. So there was this tree, threatening to crush us on the trail to Leconte, and Mike had to hold it up…

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He is really strong. But maybe not that strong. 😉

*We are grateful to our friend Hugh for directing us to the AT/Sweat Heifer combo that gave us a chance to hike mostly down, then up, like the Grand Canyon.

**Also, I can not recommend highly enough the site hikinginthesmokys.com for trail info on all the major trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He lists trails by difficulty, by features, and by area, and gives vertical gain, mileage, and thorough descriptions of each. Invaluable.

Gosh! I love summer!! …when fresh, delicious fru…

Gosh! I love summer!! …when fresh, delicious fruits & vegetables become ordinary, everyday graces.

RT @jenniferlynking: Today we walked out of the li…

RT @jenniferlynking: Today we walked out of the library w/40 books for summer reading. Recommendations for summer reads: http://t.co/xsvQHNY

Trail Song

Early morning exudes a distinct scent. Especially when the night has been washed by storms. Clean, earthy, dark. Cool.

Just beyond the bridge leading me away from the asphalt and into the woods, shards of sunlight stab their way through the trees to the misty clearing below. A warren of rabbits scatters frantically like we are beginning a game of tag. I, apparently, am to be “it”.

A swallowtail flutters over a thistle blossom. The hillside is covered with them. I think how many summer days my brother spent with a mattock eradicating these hazardous menaces from our cow pasture. Here they are welcomed. Nourishment for butterflies and birds. Context.

Queen Anne’s Lace forms a brilliant fringe all along the dark green edge of the forest path. Like a petticoat. As a little girl, I used to bring their cornmeal scented blossoms home to my mother. I remember tugging at their woody stems til my hands were raw. Most often, I ended up extracting them by the roots, leaving their grooming to my mother. I also remember that sometimes there is a single, tiny violet blossom in the center of all the white. I have never known why this is so.

A pair of mourning doves have planted themselves atop a fanciful bend in a very old tree. They look for all the world like an elderly couple perched on the front porch with coffee and newspaper. Surveying their world with aplomb. Underneath them, a busy squirrel skitters about frantically. I imagine he has been sent out on a breakfast run.

I have been pondering mushrooms. They distract me with their exuberant extravagance of form, texture, and hue. My favorites are the dark gray ones that nod atop slender white stems. Whimsical little things, they, with spidery tracery corralled by tight, gray curlicues. I am also intrigued by golden torpedoes that open into delicate, lemony parasols fit for a geisha. A very small geisha.

If silence could be gathered into melody and sung from one person to another, it would sound very like the music of Arvo Part. He has been singing his liquid silence to me since my run began. It is rather peculiar how the music screens out distant car horns and screeching brakes, but manages to admit birdsong and the beating of wings. Synergy. This music. This place.

As I run down the hill, my eyes wander to a spot in the grass, by the side of the river, where earlier this week a man took his own life. And I wonder, what caused him to despair? To whom did he surrender his last measure of hope? How deeply must one be hurting to come to this place throbbing with glory, and still want to die? My heart hurts for him. And for those who love him. Lord, have mercy.

And I carry all these things inside me. Grief, yes. And blossoms, and butterflies, and birdsong. Whimsy, exuberance, and joy. Gifts from the trail. Sustenance…for whatever comes…

I’ll Be Seeing You…

My darling, you know I adore The Notebook. The romance, yes, and the fury of new love. But mostly, the deep, enduring love that doesn’t know how to let go. The kind of love that shows up day after day to tell the same story over and over again.

It occurs to me that, with 30 years under our belt, we are coming to share more with that seasoned couple trying hard to remember than with the combustible pair of young lovers. It also occurs to me that, in the event that I am Allie some day and you must be the custodian of our memories, you might like a little help…

Please don’t ever let me forget that Sunday morning when first I saw you, bursting through the back door of the choir loft at Laguardo Baptist Church with a bundle of music in one arm and a Mellow Yellow in the other. Or that week volunteering together at VBS…and the grapes. You might want me to forget that you borrowed money from me at Taco Bell on our first date, but I probably won’t. 😉 Remind me of the fast and furious knowing, the summer evenings sitting on the floor at Robbie and Clayton’s, talking late into the night, asking all the questions, until  a sleepy Clayton would call out from the back of the house, “Mike, don’t you think it’s time to be heading home?”

Tell me stories about our “young married” days at Haywood Hills; about Paul and Debo, Chris and Trisha, Rebecca and Katherine; about house-boat trips and Sunday night Pictionary. Tell me about our first house on Debra Drive and how we didn’t notice there was no dishwasher til I was standing there with a dirty plate in my hand, about the horrible grasscloth we ripped off the walls, and the night the water heater exploded and flooded the basement. And don’t forget the tiny furballs.

Make sure you tell me about our babies and how you “conducted” them into the world (always patterns of four despite the nurse’s instructions to count to ten). It seems to have worked. They are all musical. 🙂 Talk about homeschooling and children’s choir, about cub scouts and sports teams, about the puppies and the farm, about talent shows and camping trips and church camp, about watching these remarkable humans grow into themselves.

Remind me of all the places we have been. Of England and France (This is your chance to tell me we saw Prince Charles on the Chunnel Train with none of the children to correct you.) It might be best if you do not mention that we almost lost each of the boys in separate metro incidents. Mind the gap!

Include something about Venice, the Cinque Terre, Meteora, the Hagia Sophia, Costa Rica, Alaska, and the Dingle Peninsula. Tell me that once I stood before the Book of Kells. Remind me how we crossed the Grand Canyon on foot. Twice.

I might be surprised to learn that we have run marathons, even an ultra-marathon. But tell me about those. Especially the one up Pikes Peak. And in the Tetons. Tell me about the crazy cold Disney Marathon when the sports drinks and gels froze, but fire pots were burning in Epcot and I cried all the way through the Magic Kingdom.

Be sure to include stories about the long walk across Spain. Don’t forget David and Jan, Samra and Perry, Rhys, Otto, Jose, Jorge and Kelly, Paul, Mike, Adam and all our other beloveds… Talk about the hill towns, the vineyards, and the Botafumeiro.

It will be difficult to tell me about the hard time, that season when we weren’t sure we would make it. You will want to be self-deprecating because that is your way. But DO NOT let me forget that you loved me fiercely, even when I made it so hard. Remind me of friends who stood with us, who challenged and encouraged. Never let me lose sight of the fact that seasoned love is a miracle and a gift.

Talk to me about the ancient Church. About how it is so different than anything we have ever known, and yet, how arriving here was like coming home. Talk to me of the beautiful sensuality of worship, about the deep theology, about how it asks so much of us, and yet gives us so much more. About how we found healing here.

And please, please, tell me about our granddaughter. Remind me of sleepovers and duplos and make-believe, and how she gave us the opportunity to see the world like it was brand new. Tell me about the sweet surprise of godchildren and how they have blessed our life.

And when you have told me all the stories, just be with me. Sit beside me. And let the knowing between us keep us company.

Thank you, my darling, for living and loving long with me. I know it has not always been easy. Perhaps it has never been easy. But God has made something very good of our love. And I am glad you have all our stories. And I am glad neither of us has to begin again. May God grant us many more years of growing into one another, til all borders become permeable and the knowing is complete.

To be continued…

A story thirty years in the making is far too much to cover completely in one blog post. Here are a few previous posts that tell a little more:

The Martyrdom of Marriage
23
Gift
I Choose You
Further Up and Further In
Ripened Love

 

 

 

The Halftime Report…

birthday

As of today, I have breathed upon the earth for 50 years. Given that this birthday comes just five days short of my grandpa’s 100th, I am choosing to see this as roughly halfway. 🙂

For someone with my disposition, it is impossible to arrive at such an auspicious waymark without a fair amount of reflection and rumination. You might expect me to share with you some of the wisdom I have acquired over low these many years. And while I do pray that I am wiser than once I was, mostly I find myself overwhelmed with a profound sense of gratitude for the beautiful adventure that has been my life, thus far. So much more than I could ever have thought to ask for…

My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior…for He who is mighty has done great things for me, and Holy is His Name. ~Luke 1:46,49

For planting my roots in Appalachia…
For lightnin bugs and cold swimmin holes
and the Christmas trees we dragged from the woods
Bare feet in warm soil, scent of freshly turned earth
Wobbly-legged calves still glistening and new
For tender lettuce and onions in hot bacon grease
Wild muscadines eaten right off the vine,
I thank you

For a mama who read stories to me in that voice
that will always be my favorite
Who wakened in me a love for the piano and then
showed me how to make the magic
Who sewed my clothes and permed my hair
and dried a million tears,
I thank you

For a daddy who worked two jobs to make sure we had enough
and brought treats home in his lunchbox
Who taught me to be curious
and to work hard
and to sing
and to never stop learning,
I thank you

For my brothers and cousins
For painting with poke berries
and traipsing through wild places
For all the bicycle rides
across the honeysuckle bridge
through the woods
to the store on the highway
And for the rides home
eating candy necklaces
from our sweaty necks,
I thank you

For the church that smelled of cedar
and teaberry gum
tent revivals on summer nights
hymns and Hallelujahs sailing out into the dark
For foot washins and singins
and dinner on the ground
and all the people
and the way I first learned to love You there,
I thank you

For every teacher
every mentor
who saw something in me
that I could not see
and ruthlessly drew it out,
I thank you

For that adorable 22 year old boy
who scurried into my life on a Sunday morning
and stole my heart
and upset all my plans
and became God’s provision for me
Who has stood with me
in cathedrals and canyons
and emergency rooms
Who meant it when he said better OR worse
and has loved me more than I deserve,
I thank you

For a warm, sweet bundle of joy
who exploded all boundaries of love
when she made me a mommy
and who continues to teach me about love
daily
with her life,
I thank you

For the first boy child
grabbing life by the horns from the get go
For music and hikes and food
and long, deep talks into the night,
I thank you

For the baby boy
who is taller than us all
For the way he makes life a celebration
For his courage and curiosity
his talent and his zeal,
I thank you

For the wee one
For the way I am meeting the world
all over again
through her
For the way she teaches me to wake
each morning
eager and expectant,
I thank you

For all the beauty…
For the delicious agony of words
and the excruciating ecstasy of music
For the grandeur of mountains and vastness of the sea
For lavender, and butterflies, and red tailed hawks
For cardinals in winter and the first blossoms of spring
For the wildness of summer storms
and the silence of snow
For glaciers and rain forests
and the stark loveliness of the desert
For the extraordinary places all over the world
where it has been my privilege to stand,
I thank you

For found friends in far flung places
who have knit themselves into my heart
And for friends nearby
who love relentlessly
who see what could be
and make it so
who have made my life immeasurably rich,
I thank you

For faith
that has traveled long and endured much
and just when I least expected it
blossomed into something so rich and wide
that I will never come to the end of it
For all that is mystical and sacred
For the gift of Your Presence,
I thank you.

 

*And for you, dear reader, wherever you may be, for visiting these pages from time to time and sharing your life with me. Thank you.

Ripened Love

love

Give me a ripened love
full of recollection…

love tender and fragile in
the wild, impatient spring when
romance was new and
each day a discovery

love that has borne
the heat of summer defending
its yield against storm
invader
drought
sending roots deep
to drink the earth

love that has endured the
measured violence of pruning
and known the consolation
of the Gardener

Give me a scarred love
bent by wind, whose branches
tell a story long in the making
fruit distilled
to a warm dark sweetness

ready for the pressing
and aging
still to come

and the final surrender
and the drinking up

~sm

for my darling who has loved me long

love2

50 Reasons Why…

photo(19)Fifty years ago today, a baby boy entered the world, full of promise. In the years that followed, he would stitch himself deeply into the hearts of friends and family, and into the heart of one lucky girl who would have the good fortune to be his bride.

My life has been blessed in a myriad of ways because of Mike. But mine is not the only one. So I asked a few friends and family members to share why they are glad he is in the world. I was hoping for 50. I received more. Their responses have had me in stitches. And in tears.

(It should be said that I asked them to keep it brief. Not an easy task. Also, I have arranged individuals in roughly the order in which Mike would have come to know them, except that I kept families together.)

For you, my darling, a little birthday something…

photo(18)Mike, words cannot express the deep love I have for you. You make me so proud to be the dad of such a godly young man. Happy Birthday! ~Dad

Mike, Happy birthday! I am so proud of you and all your accomplishments, but most of all for the godly man, husband, dad, and granddad that you are. I love you so much! ~Mom

You are my favorite roommate, other than my wife! Thanks for the years and years of companionship and fun! Couldn’t have asked for a better brother. Happy Birthday! ~Ray

I love the way you care for those close to you! You seem to know when to let go of your own agenda. Glad you’re my brother-in-law! Happy 50th! ~Lori

You are the most stylish old man I know!!! Happy Birthday! ~Alex

You’re a pretty cool uncle!! Have a happy day! ~David

Happy 50th birthday! Thanks for loving me!! ~Ellie

Uncle Mike is funny. He makes me laugh! ~Keeli

One of my favorite memories is seeing Mike and Bryan, as babies, sitting in their jump seats side by side, swapping pacifiers! ~Betty Arnold

Some of my earliest and fondest memories would include you Mike. From learning to swim at Battlewood together, to playing with “Billy Blast-offs”, to going to church camp our first time away from home. So many memories that make me smile and some even laugh out loud. Shelia asked me to list something I admire and it is hard to narrow it down to one but from my earliest memories you constantly displayed a well honed sense of fairness and gentility that belied your age and best I can tell you continue to bless others with these and other gifts still today. ~Bryan Ansley

Mike is my cousin and I love him; I know him to be a warm, kind person with a great sense of humor.  And I remember him complaining that Gwen was such an immaculate – compulsive? 🙂 – housekeeper that his friends hassled him because his bedroom looked like a picture from a J.C. Penney catalog. ~Julie Reynolds

photo(17)I remember one day, I think it was the summer of 1980, my Aunt Gwen was babysitting my sisters and I. She had given each of us a couple of Chocolate Chip cookies for snack. Of course, I wanted more, lol. I asked, but she said NO, because she was making a big Spaghetti dinner for the family, and didn’t want me to spoil my appetite. My cousin Mike told me to meet him in the car port out in back. So I went outside, and then Mike came out, slipped a Chocolate chip cookie in my hand, told me to eat it quickly, and swore me to secrecy. I guess that is just the kind of person he has always been. The kind who will do what it takes to make others happy. Such a rebel. Happy Birthday!!!! ~Andrea, Mike’s cousin

I have lots of fond memories of Cousin Mike, but the one that most often & most vividly comes to mind is this one: when we would all get together at Mamaw & Papaw Crouch’s house. Whether it was Christmas or just Sunday family lunch, Mamaw would always want Mike to sing “Rise Again”… And he always would! Her face immediately lit up with the biggest smile! To this day & forever, “Rise Again” reminds me of Mike … & my Mamaw. Just a couple more: Going to Brentwood Academy to see Mike in Hello, Dolly! I just thought he was The Best!!! And, Mike took me to my 1st Amy Grant concert. I was probably around 9 or 10 & it was a late concert (or at least late for me). At the end of the concert, I woke up & was Mortified!!! I had slept thru half of the concert. I’ve been teased about that over the years, but I’ll always remember that night! It meant so much to me that Mike would take me, his much younger 😉 cousin to such a grown-up event. Happy Birthday, Mike!!! ~Stacie Neely

It is hard to write a few words about this guy as we have known each other for around 45 years or longer. If I summed it up in one word I would say “genuine”, always there and always doing the right thing! Mike is Real! Happy Birthday! Age is just a number! ~Buddy Bacon

Mike, My favorite memories of growing up include you! Thank you for your Godly example , encouragement and friendship! (You and Shelia even singing in my wedding!) Happy 50th sweet friend! ~Kim Burgess Jones

The first thing that comes to my mind is the first thing I ALWAYS think of when I think of Mike. When we were teenagers we were in the youth group together at Forest Hills. Since the Mullicans lived right down the street from me and since Mike is several years older than me, he would often give me a ride home before I could drive. Sometimes no one was home when he dropped me off. When that was the case, Mike never let me walk into the house alone. He (usually accompanied by Kirk McLemore) always went inside with me and checked things out before they left. Now, in all honesty, this was often pretty comical because they would pretend they had guns and would go from room to room for the “all clear.” It’s likely that they had been watching way too many cop shows! But, in all seriousness, I do remember vividly him always making sure everything was OK before he left me alone. And I seriously doubt that he has any memory of that at all, which is one of the things that makes Mike who he is. He cares well for others and doesn’t give it a thought. It’s just who he is and what he does. Always has, always will. And I’m thankful to have known him for more years than I really want to admit! ~Gena Rogers

Mike, if ever there was a time for you to heed the warning “Beware the ides of March”, this is the time to hide!  50 years is, well … getting up there.  I consider myself a very lucky man to have known and worked with you over the years.  I’ve always admired the tremendous love and devotion you have for your family and how you have lived a personal and professional life epitomized by trust, integrity, and kindness toward others.  (With parents like yours, you must’ve just been wired that way.)  Not only were you a great and valued business partner, but you continue to be a great and valued friend.  I hope this Saturday finds you surrounded by the love of your family, lots of fun and laughter, and a truckload of Little Debbie snacks!  Happy 50th Birthday, Mike!  ~Ed Routon

We first loved you because you brought joy to our daughter. Then we loved you for yourself. We knew you would always take care of Shelia if she would allow it. You always have a positive attitude. We like that you feel comfortable to look for something you like in our refrigerator and cabinet, and if we’ve moved the goodies it doesn’t take you long to find them. 🙂 ~Diana and Wesley

photo(16)Fifty years on this earth,
1964 was the year of birth.
A little bitty baby, oh so small,
Who even as a man never grew very tall.
A kind heart for others
Treats everyone as a brother.
Fell in love with a sweet country gal
Quickly became the whole Howard family’s pal.
Built a house, became a daddy three times over
Must have found him a four leaf clover.
He is one lucky man, this Mike Mullican
To have so much love in his life.
Friends and family galore
All celebrating many years more!
You, Mike, deserve the best of it all
So treat yourself kindly and have a ball!

We love you and are proud to call you family!
Love,
Marvin, Tammy, Andrew, Tabitha and Samuel

To belittle is to be… little. Mike? Still laugh when I think about that one! It takes a big man to put up with this family and you’ve done it well. Thanks for marrying my sister and becoming my brother. Happy Birthday and may God grant you many, more wonderful years. ~Monty, Kristina & younguns

Mike, I appreciate the way you have become a part of the family that you married into.  We’re a pretty big group and we must have seemed pretty overwhelming at times.  I admire your quiet sense of humor.  Most of all, I appreciate your devotion to your family.  They are a testament to your love and devotion.  Happy 50th!  May God grant you many more years. ~Wanda Fowler

Mike has a way of making the people around him feel like they matter. Whether it’s engaging them through shared experiences, careful questions about their lives or disarming awkward situations with humor, Mike is simply enjoyable to be around. He helps create an inviting atmosphere that is admirable. ~Amy and Buddy Creech

Mike, Happy Birthday to you my brother!!!! Thankful for the day God crossed our path at Haywood Hills Baptist Church. Such sweet memories of you as Minister of Music and our small group of young childless couples. Though the years  have taken our families in different directions, some of our fondest memories of our twenties include you and your beautiful bride! We loved spending time in your home on Apollo Drive, and our late nights in our basement apartment playing Pictionary. We never lacked for fun and laughter when we were together. I remember all those movies (at least the beginning of them) that we slept through as Paul and Shelia watched to the very end.  They would tease that we slept together while they watched….scandalous!! I never eat at a Mexican restaurant, to this day, that I don’t think of you.  When I see the word quesadilla on the menu, I am reminded of you and your pronunciation to our server was typically, “quaz a dilla.” Random memory, but it’s there. There are many many more, but most of all, we just want you to know how thankful we are that God crossed our paths in this lifetime!!! Love you lifetime friend. ~Paul and Debo Morris

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Daddy, I’m so lucky to be your daughter. You have led our family courageously through good and bad. You have a humble and graceful strength that I admire so much. You have the best sense of humor, and every time I see a video about farts I think of you. I love you! ~Kelsey

Hey pops! Its crazy to think that you’re already fifty years old! And to think, you don’t look a day over forty eight. Only joking. On a more serious note, I’m so thankful to have had such a strong patriarch in my life. You’ve shown me what it is to be a man in every sense. A person who can be emotionally strong, financially responsible, and most importantly be a man of God to everyone I encounter. I’m glad I’ve been blessed with such great parents. Here’s to another great fifty years of companionship, father and son. I only hope I can be half the father to my children that you have been to me. I love you dearly. ~Jake

Hey Daddio! It’s Josh here. You are such an amazing father. You have supported me in every way possible. You have given me all of your love, attention, compassion and forgiveness. You have given me hope and the power to dream. You have given me a place of comfort and a place of refuge. Throughout these 16, almost 17 years I have spent with you, you have given so much. Today however I get to give back to you. I get to give you the happiness you have given me. I get to give you the love and compassion you have given me. I get to show you the amount of fun that you have showed me. Today is your 50th birthday, so Happy Birthday, Daddy. Thank you for everything you have given to me and here’s to another year of laughter, joy and compassion. I love you! 🙂 ~Josh

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I’m thankful for Sonic tipping (or lack of), U.S. Women’s Soccer, debits and credits, and a chance to work with people that were far smarter than I. But mostly I’m thankful for Jesus in my life because Mike made it so clear He was in his. Happy birthday to Mike! Thank you for everything! ~Rebecca Whitney

Mike is one of the best business partners anyone could ever have.  He is smart.  He is fair-minded.  He is kind.  He is focused on the right things.  He can do the hard things if he needs to.  Mike has been a huge part of what business success I’ve had, and he’s been a great example to me as both a business person and as a friend. ~Jim Alcott

Mike…you and Shelia were the very first couple that Brian and I met when we moved to Franklin 22 years ago.  So thankful that you bought that beautiful black piano and had it proudly on display in your window…cause that’s why the “mayor of the neighborhood” thought we should meet.  So glad we did.  Your friendship through the years has blessed us and we’re so grateful that the good Lord caused our paths to cross. ~Wendi Green

Great memories of singing with this precious Irish tenor! Blessed to share life’s winding road with this “cousin” and fellow child of Abbot Maolain. Mike, you, like our ancestor, personify all that reflects God’s love in this world. Sláinte! Lá breithe shona! (Cheers! Happy Birthday!) ~Rhonda Kemp

Inner strength; outer graciousness. Quiet when he needs to be; speaks up when he needs to. Reliable. Faithful. Responsible. Mike actually is what he appears to be. That is rare. ~Dick Wells

Happy 50th!!  Mike, it’s been great to have a friend with so much in common; even our kids and wives have enjoyed friendships over the years with each other.  Writing this takes me back to our adventures in Kosovo and Rome.  Good times.  I am grateful, friend, for your generosity, consistency and firm humility. ~Ken Morris

For Mike: when I think of who you are as a person I think of these words- forgiver, grace giver, fighter, friend. Happy birthday!! ~Kathy King

Mike has been a constant source of encouragement and example of personal discipline. I can only hope that others would look to me as I look to Mike. What a gift he is. ~Chad Jarnagin

Mike I have such respect for your quiet strength. You are a man that possesses great power within you coupled with the wisdom to know when it’s use would be for the benefit of others. Happy 50th! ~Bethany Gaddis

It is difficult for me to boil down my appreciation for Mike into a one-liner in a blog post, but if I have to choose, I would say I am constantly bombarded by Mike’s unique capacity to lead boldly and simultaneously gently with wisdom and thoughtfulness. I’ve yet to meet another person who can deliver important wisdom with clarity and gentleness like Mike – I’ve benefitted from it personally countless times. As a person far-too cavalier with my own words, I am always challenged by a man who selects his carefully and delivers them thoughtfully – reminds me a lot of how a divine Jewish carpenter would interact with a woman at a well.

The other thing I like about Mike is that in contrast to all of the above, we can laugh about having gas and the number of times he pees at the office. Now that’s a comprehensive man for you! ~Seth Davis

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Happy 50th Mike! We love you dearly as a friend and all the more because you are such a loving godfather to our sweet Ezra. May God grant you many, many years! ~Jon and Jen Gillett

Uncle Mike, you are the best! I love you! Happy Birthday to the best godfather ever! Wanna cracker? ~ Ezra

One thing comes to mind when I think of Mike: integrity.  Integrity in business, family, friendship, and life. You are such a great example.  I couldn’t think of a better person to almost get horribly t-boned by a drunk driver with. ~Jonathan McAdams

Mike…the world would be sadly lacking in fart jokes without him!  (just kidding!) I am forever grateful for the wisdom and business advice – and countless prayers – so generously given to me during ‘the spa years’. We would not have achieved the spiritual things that took place in that spa without his willingness to walk that road with me! Since that time, his support and encouragement to me has literally kept me alive – spiritually and physically – on the mission field! Without Mike’s generosity, without his kind concern, without his support and encouragement, I would not be on this field! I am glad there is Mike in the world because his generosity has made a huge difference in the kingdom of God! And all this sounds so serious for such a funny guy! ~Izabella Italia

I have always felt that Mike has had wisdom beyond his years…now the wisdom and years have simply caught up with each other! Happy Birthday Mike and may the Lord continue to shower His blessings on you and your sweet family. ~Jeff Sheets

What I love about Mike is his kindness, generosity and encouraging spirit. You guys have always been so loving and welcoming to Layza and I. ~Josh Cassidy

Mike, I’m thankful that you’re a friend whose actions & words form one giant invitation to the life abundant–constantly challenging others to believe toward a journey of greater reward & truer joy. ~Nina Coyle

Happy Birthday Mr. Mike! Growing up I always felt at home when I was with your family, and I still do. Your family has been such a blessing to me and I am so grateful to be a part of it. ~Andy Webb

Mike is steady, real, a great listener and a committed friend. He is gracious, generous, and in the midst of all of that awesomeness keenly witty. I love how he patiently takes in whatever is going on or what you are say and how when he responds wisdom and quiet inner calm and insight calms you. Wait…can he really be that awesome? 🙂 ~William Guice

Thank you, Mike, for being a man of great integrity, strong character, & frequent laughter. Your joy is contagious, & the leadership you exude inspires others. Thank you for serving the youth for many years & sharing your life as a testimony of the love of Christ. Thank you for allowing me to walk life with your entire family & raising your children to love others well. May God richly bless you this day & always. ~Heather Norvell

Eric and I were thankful for our short time with Mike in Adziwa. That trip was something that bonded us all for life!! Remembering an afternoon on the bus after a very hard day, seeing an adult with one of our school bags we’d given to the children, watching the children carry off our trash like it was treasure, and seeing a mother beat her child to take his bottled water that we’d given him. Mike brought his sense of humor and levity even when things seemed so dark. So thankful for that, and our “essence of tuna” sandwiches! Happy Birthday Mike!! Love, Ruthann and Eric Ross

Mike is such a humble, gentle business leader.  It’s encouraging to see someone that cares for people so well in the midst of everyday life.  Thanks Mike for offering great council to me as a a young man just about to enter the business world!  Happy Birthday to you! ~Tim Harms

When Mike and I attended the same church I knew how and where to find him.  He always sat near the front.  If I scanned the faces near the front and spotted one that was smiling, smiling at me, It was Mike.  Recently I received an e-mail suggesting that I might have lost Mike’s address.  It was a digital smile that invited me to a closer friendship.  Done deal.  Happy Birthday from an old geezer.  Come on in the water is fine. ~Ken Davis

Mike, I appreciate your heart for others and your calming spirit. Your presence brings Peace to everyone around you. Yakoke, Charles Robinson

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I’ve always appreciated Mike’s loving nature, helpful wisdom, and sense of humor, but what stands out most to me is that time when you guys were at my house and he plopped on the couch, put his feet up, and sprawled out. His comfortability and make-himself-at-homeness is now one of my favorite things about him. ~Alece Ronzino

50 years!  I feel very privileged to have been a part of your journey so far… I’ve rarely met a man as dedicated to the path of loving and serving God and others is such an unpretentious way.  I’m thankful for men like you who remind me that real goodness, perseverance, faithfulness, etc. exist in this world.  Many years, my friend!! ~Monte King

I love how beautifully you love your precious wife. ~Gail Hyatt

I love Mike’s integrity and humility. I remember when he made a special trip over to my house to let me know about a mistake that had been made when we had done business with his company several years before. It really wasn’t necessary, because all was well now, but he was very sensitive to it and wanted me to know. I really admired that. ~Michael Hyatt

Mike, My backyard party would have been incomplete (or on fire) were it not for you knowing how to light tiki torches, and the resident after me in Sylvan Heights would be enjoying a new TV on her wall were it not for you unmounting it. Thanks for always being ready to serve those who need an extra hand. Or two. And a screwdriver and propane. (I’m grateful you have opened your home to me after my heart surgery, and after a heart break or two, too.) ~Anne Marie Miller

A little 50th birthday perspective:  50 years is: 1/2 a century; 10 decades; 600 months; 2,600 weeks; 18,250 days; 438,00 hours; 26,280,000 minutes; 1,576,800,000 seconds!  May God help you to make the next 1,576,800,000 seconds even better than the first! ~Joel Smith

Mike, it has been a real pleasure singing with you in the choir, and getting to know you. Not only are you a talented dude, but your sense of humor really lifts my spirit. I’m thankful for you. ~Dave McEver

There are so many things I admire about Mike, so where to start?  I suppose what strikes me the most is that Mike always seems to have a joyful countenance whenever I encounter him.  As Orthodox Christians, we seek joy in communion with God rather than happiness in the world.  Mike is one of those people whose joy, for me, is infectious. So, Mike, happy fiftieth, and may God grant you many more joyful years. ~Dr. David Oxley

I am so glad you are a part of St. Ignatius. ~Jack Parsons

Mike Mullican is one of the nicest guys I know. There is nothing counterfeit about Mike. Without exaggerating or inflating my adjectives, Mike Mullican is a personable, approachable, unassuming, understated, seasoned, and low maintenance kind of guy who won’t retreat or devalue a friendship in a rough spot. You can trust the gospel in him. His Christ is first warm, then merciful, wise and forgiving. This kind of nobility is rare indeed and I am honored to acknowledge that openly on his behalf. I like what his friendship says about me. ~David Teems

Mike has a loving smile and presence that lights up the darkest of rooms. ~Andy Sowell

Mike is one of those rare selfless people who is constantly and genuinely concerned about everyone else. He is a friend who keeps up with what’s going on in others’ lives, asks specific questions, and listens attentively to the answers. Mike, you make us feel very loved. Thank you for being a great friend and example! ~Sarah and Joel Finley

I love and respect Mikes casual sense of humor.  He is always smiling, always friendly and always quick to laugh. ~Carl Meier

From what I know of Mike, He is gentle and loving. He always comes across as wanting to listen to the heart of others. He seeks to improve the way of life that other people wish to shoot for. He might drink lighter and maybe a little more girlier drinks than we do, 🙂 but I’m still a fan! ~Tracee Persiko

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My darling, you are my favorite companion on the many adventures of life, the ones we choose and the ones that choose us. You have loved me better than I deserve, but I don’t mind. 😉 It has been a gift to watch you shepherd our children into adulthood, and a joy to watch you dote on our granddaughter. I look forward to growing very old with you. Many years, my love!

mikegc

Here’s to all the adventures that await you in your next 50 years…. Godspeed!

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