8 Nov

While the whole world worries about today’s election – wondering if Americans could possibly choose to elect a bigoted, misogynist, narcissistic, rude, crude, tyrannical bully with zero qualifications to head a school committee, let alone lead a country – I thought it might be a good time to offer a much-needed distraction.

You know how the best surprises come when you least expect them and need them most?

Well, a couple of weeks ago — when my husband and I were driving to our Airbnb rental in Yosemite National Park — I was definitely expecting the worst.

We had just left San Francisco where several people had expressed concern over our choice of lodging in the park: a rustic Airbnb cabin (that may or may not have an adequate source of heat) located 25 winding miles south of the Yosemite Valley entrance.

Adding to the doubters, we had heard that it had recently snowed throughout Yosemite and that some of it was still closed, including the Tioga Pass over to Lake Tahoe where we were driving next.

To make matters worse, our Airbnb host had been incommunicado all week when I tried to contact him about the aforementioned concerns.

In the past, I have always had excellent experiences with Airbnb hosts. I look for the 4 and 5-star reviews and read a lot of the comments. Like all the others, this particular Airbnb host (I’ll call him Jasper) had great ratings, so I was completely baffled by his lack of communication.

Jasper had not replied to a single one of my emails, and when I called the cell phone listed on his profile, the automated voice mail message informed me that his message center had not yet been set up.

Finally I tracked down a family landline number (through some googling) where I left a rather desperate message informing whoever lived there that we were just a few hours away and would very much like someone (anyone) to call us back.

About 45 minutes before our imminent arrival, and despite very spotty coverage, my cell phone rang. Jasper! I was so relieved to hear his voice… until he actually started to talk.

To put it simply, Jasper sounded somewhat “dazed and confused,” barely increasing my confidence in the pending accommodations. However, he was able to confirm that the cabin existed, that we could still stay there, and that there was a working propane heater.

Forty-five minutes later, we pulled up to Jasper’s house where he told us to meet him. Of course, no one was home. We knocked and rang and peeked in the unlit windows, but nothing. The sun had already set and it was starting to get cold, so we followed the only sound we could hear… a leaf blower off in the distance.

Lo and behold, it was Jasper blowing away pine needles in the woods.

He was tall and lanky, with wide eyes and a full beard – and not surprisingly, he seemed surprised to see us.

After introducing ourselves, Jasper led us to the bottom of the hill to show us our rental. To our utter amazement (and enormous relief), the tidy cabin was toasty warm and fully equipped, with a huge deck and a gorgeous view.

Because of the recent snow, the nearby river was rushing – an added bonus, Jasper told us, since it had been dry since the end of July.

Suddenly, our host had an idea. Would we like to take a night-time walk along the rushing river at that very moment?

Why not, we thought. We were freezing and starving and needed to unpack the car, but the moon was full and the air was sweet.

As we stepped outside, Jasper asked us to wait a minute while he ran back to his house to get his dog, who hadn’t had a walk all day. That was fine with us as we love dogs and were missing our own.

So we sat down on the lovely deck and waited for Jasper to return.

A few minutes passed, then 5 minutes, 10 minutes… 15 minutes. We began to guess what could have happened:

a) Jasper got hungry and decided to make a hamburger.

b) Jasper turned on the TV and got sucked into a rerun of My Favorite Martian.

c) Jasper noticed he hadn’t finished the Sudoku puzzle in the newspaper and was working on it at the kitchen table.

Just as we gave up, stood up, and opened the door to our cabin, we heard a peculiar whimpering noise through the trees. I squinted into the dark as my husband shined a flashlight up the dirt driveway…

All at once, a stampede of eight tiny puppies tumbled down the hill, followed by their mom who was herding them forward. Pulling up the rear was Jasper.

“Everyone wanted to come,” he called, “but it was hard to get them all organized!”

You know, you really haven’t lived until you arrive in the quiet forest of Yosemite National Park as the sun is setting and the water is rushing and the full moon is shining and 8 puppies remind you just how truly spectacular the world can be.



Another 5-star Airbnb rating for Jasper and his awesome cabin in the woods.



(Organizing everyone in Jasper’s truck after the walk)



15 Replies to “#ImWithPuppies

  1. Puppies make a beautiful distraction to election day raucous! And as only Beth Atkinson can tell it! I’m going to enjoy life a little bit more today because of your post. Thanks.


  2. What a lovely post! What could be better than a truckload of puppies in the moonlight – except maybe a thorough trouncing of MR. T.

  3. Tell us what you really think about the election! 🙂
    We rented through Craigs List this summer and it was a scam…lost $850! AirBnB is much safer.

  4. I enjoyed your presentation at the Central Mass Book Festival. Looking at your website for the first time, I’m disappointed to read your comments on the election. I would have loved to see you use this as an opportunity to encourage your young readers to discuss important attributes of a leader.

  5. Thank you for your kind words about the festival. I would have been happy to discuss the important attributes of a leader if the president-elect possessed any leadership qualities. Unfortunately, he stands as a symbol for the appalling, racist, bigoted underbelly of our society.

    You’re correct in that I could have couched my beliefs in more neutral terms, but I was upset and still feel deeply upset by the results, and I refuse to normalize his alt right views by presenting them as anything but grotesque.

    As Elie Wiesel urged all of us, “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” I believe it’s important, especially as an artist, to call out cruelty.

    This morning, I received a letter from Author & Illustrators for Children which sums up our collective response: “Today, sadly, we are writers with few words. It is difficult to think of anything to say to address the shock, anger, and dismay we feel… While we gather our thoughts, let us share the words of one of the greatest of our profession.

    In 1973, E.B White wrote the following reply to a man asking White’s opinion on what he perceived as the bleak future for the human race.

    ‘As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.

    Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say, the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society — things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly. It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right. Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.

    Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.

    E. B. White’

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