Success is stumbling

This seemed a fitting place to photgraph our fearless little Schipperke. Donner Memorial State Park, California, 2004

This seemed a fitting place to photograph our fearless little Schipperke.
Donner Memorial State Park, California, 2004

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”
Winston Churchill

One of my favorite places in California is the haunting Donner Memorial State Park near Truckee.  It’s beautiful country, but there’s an eerie stillness that lingers in memory of the tragic history of the Donner Party, for whom the park is named.  Even for the survivors who eventually reached their destination, life was anything but easy.  Yet they and other pioneers persisted in the face of one setback after another, and today we enjoy the fruits (literally and figuratively) of their efforts.

The park features a striking monument to all the trailblazers who ventured westward to settle in California.  Atop the tall stone memorial is a statue of a pioneer family, with the plaque pictured above at its base.  Though the engraved words feature archaic language, and bewildering line spacing and punctuation, the underlying tribute is clear.  It describes a strength of character to which we can all aspire.

As we embark on another year, I hope we will think of these words, which evoke traits that are powerful when linked: competence with kindness; bravery with benevolence.  Whatever we face in 2014, may the year find us indomitable, and unafraid.

One year ago today

Try again


  1. Good morning, Julia. thanks for this interesting look at the Donner State Park. I’ve read about the Donner family but didn’t know about CA’s Memorial Park. Thanks for sharing this great photo.

    • Yes, the Donner party’s story (dramatized in a very good PBS documentary by Ric Burns, Ken Burns’ brother) is an amazing and sobering tale of sacrifice, survival, and the tragic consequences of poor decisions. Of course, it’s easy to second-guess them from this comfortable distance. Donner Park itself, and the surrounding country, is gorgeous. I find it much more beautiful than nearby Lake Tahoe. In the entrance hall of our York home, I have a small etching of Donner Pass and Donner Lake. I’ve visited there several times, but hope to return again.

  2. This blog has become my favorite uplifting source of keeping me sane. I love all the quotes and insights. I keep you and yours in my prayers.

    • Wow Cherie, what a lovely compliment – thank you! We so appreciate your visits here, and especially your prayers. Hope you are having a lovely late December.

  3. raynard

    Julia something you just said reminded of a old time magazine. It spoke of insurmountable odds.(now slip in the old FedEx commercial where the guy talked really really fast lol.there were times when my life was crumbling like a fresh baked cooked,then a relationship that was sucking the life out of me like”Dracula (yes I got rid of it like yesterday’s trash).Going back to the simpler things like God,family friends and new ways to encourage and bless more people. Pictures I sent were formatted in Windows movie maker. I’m running Windows 8.1 operating system the latest. I learned from you this year encouragement doesn’t have to come from Oprah ,a self help book or sitting like a monk chanting. I did try that split like Jean Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris. All I got out of that was a ripped pair of pants.Wait my wife still has that sewing machine I brought her last Christmas lol be blessed

    • I’ve always said it’s great to have a sewing machine even if one only uses it for mending, which is about all I’ve done in recent years. I think the clips you sent were opening in Windows Movie Maker but that’s a program I’m not familiar with yet although I do hope to learn to use it to make some videos myself. As much as I love and embrace the idea of the simpler things, I do find technology fascinating in terms of all the opportunities it gives us. Hope you are having a nice week; thanks for your encouraging words!

      • Sheila

        Julia, this weekend finds us at WillowTree after many busy holiday weeks since we were here. Our “Tin Condo” was a welcome sight. 🙂 We are looking forward to the new year, 2014. We always try to be realistic regarding our hopes and resolutions. Health and happiness sounds pretty wonderful to me. I wish the same for you, Jeff and Matt.

        • Sheila, I’m so glad you are able to get back to Willow Tree! It really has been awhile, hasn’t it? I hope your day was as warm and pretty as ours was. We too are looking forward to 2014, with more optimism than we felt this time last year – so we feel really blessed! Thanks for being here.

  4. MaryAnn

    When my grandson, Aaron, was in 4th grade, his teacher did a great presentation of the Donner Party. They read the book: “Patty Reed’s Doll” and went on a field trip to Sutter’s Fort in Sacramento, CA to see the actual doll. To see it the 1st time is surprising for all.
    I was expecting a normal size child’s doll, but this one is tiny. It fit in Patty’s pocket. It is amazing that “Dolly” is still available to ponder. Here is a good description:
    Julia: you & I can go to Donner Park and Sutter’s Fort when you visit CA. !Mi casa tu casa!

    • Mary Ann, when we went to Sutter’s Fort and saw the doll, they were selling replicas in the same size (though it bore only a superficial resemblance to the real doll) and I bought one which I use as a Christmas ornament. You can see a photo of what it looks like here. I hope we can go to those places together! I have had a trip to CA planned for some time, but it keeps getting postponed. I’m not giving up, though!

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