My family has just settled back home after a 2,300 mile road trip from Illinois to Colorado, and back. Our primary destination was Rocky Mountain National Park, a most spectacular place composed of mountain elevations ranging from 8,000 to over 14,000 feet. To place perspective on this height, our home in Illinois is at 600 feet.
American citizens are blessed with a national park system. It is a collection of some of the most spectacular and varied natural places in the world, protected for all to experience, free from progress and destruction. It’s an understatement to call this a treasure, especially after you’ve experienced the indefinable thrill and beauty of such a stunning natural place.
My kids are sure-footed and nature-aware, but I’ll be honest: I had some worry spots as they climbed the largest rocks and balanced, with only the bluest of skies behind them, on the craggy peaks. A sense of overwhelming protectiveness had me grabbing the backs of their fleece jackets and calling loudly if the toes of their hiking shoes got too close to a rough edge. There were moments when my experience was swallowed by the watching and worrying, the mama-bear-style protection.
At one point, I pulled back. Expanded my lens and just watched. It was an Alpine setting; to get there we’d travelled into the sky over 12,000 feet. Soft, delicate tundra supported the most fragile wildflowers, as well as, the most massive rock outcroppings. Camouflaged ptarmigan and marmot moved quietly, at an unhurried pace past my children. There were winds, fresh with mountain breath that washed my heart, purified my spirit. Watch them move. Observe their skill, their comfort.
Everything was safe and balanced, and it was clear they’d learned to navigate this experience. They’d found footholds and walking sticks and a sense of keen balance. I followed them to the top of a monumental mound of jagged stone. My husband was smiling and my kids were calling to me. Our hearts were open and our minds were free.
I’ll admit, I held the backs of their fleece jackets quite a bit during our mountain vacation, mostly of habit, but I was hands-free a lot, too. I enjoyed moments during which they led and moments when they followed.
Being together at the top of world does something for familiar relationships; it removes what you think you know and replaces it with what you experience together.
There is beauty in everything, from my daughter’s brown curls blowing over her smiling face, to the most gentle of streams finding its way along mottled mountain rocks. There is unknown in everything, from my sons’ shared looks when balanced rocks instantly become a military fort to my husband’s strength as he pulls my hand upward to share a vista.
Do I want to protect and preserve this, our own reserve of unblemished space and vitality? Of course. Can I? Probably not, because this, too, will pass, but I can nourish it with my attention. I can bless it with a smile and a hug and a prayer of gratitude for all things, from peaks at 14,000 feet to the tiny dried wildflower I found in my girl’s pocket.
Glad I didn’t miss that – it was a little pocket-worn and the colors were faded from brilliance but it had lived, once, on the mountain and for now it was home with us.
Do you have a favorite, natural family destination? Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you felt that “mama bear worry” that Jill describes?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Jill Barth of Illinois, USA.
Photo credits to the author.
We are lucky to have a great tradition of National Parks too and I am sad to say, I do take them for granted. Perhaps it’s having a toddler still…but Jill, you have inspired me to get the boys out into the wilds a little more often. We do get away to a place called Mahia, at the very tip of our province, reasonably frequently: largely untouched and free of crowds – blissful.
I tried to comment on this article twice throughout the day, and it didn’t got through!! I hope this one works!
You have definitely motivated to take the kids hiking! There is so much to explore! I will do it when they get older, but I know if writer, Tara B., was here, she would say “go for it now!”
It’s difficult to choose one favorite natural destination, but I grew up by the ocean, so I am a beach girl! So, I’d say the beach, but I do love the mountains when I’m there, too.
As for mama bear worry…I used to be very on edge when my daughter was near a pool before she learned how to swim!! (I’m only a little nervous now. 😉 )
Congrats on your first post, and welcome to the team!! 🙂
I absolutely love hiking, and I haven’t been out as much this summer since having boy #2 (now 17 months). Your post inspired me to get back out into those special places (here in WA, we have many). I will do so this weekend. Great post!
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Most parks have several trails indicated as accessible, so wheelchairs and strollers can roll along. Look for those paths to take your little ones out, get them started!