Dan had a conference in Lake Louise this past weekend. James and I did two beautiful hikes. The weather has been uncharacteristcally warm and dry. I couldn’t believe our luck.
On Friday, we hiked up to Little Beehive from Lake Louise, then down by way of Lake Agnes.
On Saturday, we drove into Yoho National Park and hiked to Paget lookout.
I suppose I’ve said this before, but I think it’s so important – vital, in fact – that new parents find ways to get out and do what they love. Oh the joy of putting James in his fleece bear suit, tucking him into the Ergo Baby, strapping on my backpack and wandering down a trail! He drifts off to sleep pretty quickly, and then it’s all quiet – except for my breath and his, sucking in the cool mountain air.
When I was in Minnesota, a friend of my parents and I were talking about skiing. Both native Minnesotans, we now both live at the Rockies’ edge and can’t believe that skiing big mountains is something we can actually do on any given weekend.
“I love it,” she said. “And I love how everybody is just so happy out on the hill. It’s not like golf, where everybody is frustrated and cursing.” (This woman is an avid golfer.)
That is what I love about hiking and skiing. There’s no score, no real endgame, the idea is simply to be out there and use your body in a beautiful place. You win just by showing up.
On our way back to Calgary, we stopped in Banff where I met Meghan Ward (the adventurous momma I once quoted here – who is busy starting a Rocky Mountain culture publishing house and print magazine and writing a book). We talked about getting our little ones outside and she said something along the lines of:
Even if they can’t remember the specifics of these early years, they will remember it in some elemental way. They’ll remember it in their bodies.
I often marvel (and sometimes lament) that James will never remember this year. But I believe Meghan’s right.
To this day, when I lace up my boots and strap on my backpack, I think about my early memories of being outside. Of piling out of the car at our Northern Minnesota cabin, the smell of evergreens and the steady lap of Lake Superior in the air. The feel of the trails, soft with pine needles, skipping over the roots.
And Montana too – the leathery smell of the shed, manure and hay in the stables, the dry summer heat. Eating sandwiches up high, looking out over the Beartooth mountains.
Yes- those are all specific memories from later on in childhood. But they live somewhere deeper than my mind; they hum through my veins and prickle my skin whenever I’m on the trails.
Being outside – on an adventure – felt magic to me growing up; it still does.
Sometimes, I feel pretty daunted by raising a child in the digital age. Screen time. Social media. Internet trolls. Not-yet-invented-technologies-that-require-discipline. Ugh. It already overwhelms me. I know I’m not going to be a perfect parent when it comes to all this. But even if I can’t shield my child from devices until they are 19 or so, I can commit to getting outside as a family – to showing up.
I know I’m going to love telling James stories about the adventures we have had with him this first summer – the thunderstorm in the tent, his bear suit, the way he slept so soundly as we scampered about the Rockies with him in tow.
I’ll leave you with a quote from one of my heroes, Rachel Carson, on sharing the mystery and beauty of the natural world with her nephew, Roger (from her book, The Sense of Wonder):
We have let him join us in the dark living room before the big picture window to watch the full moon riding lower and lower toward the far shore of the bay, setting all the water ablaze with silver flames and finding a thousand diamonds in the rocks on the shore as the light strikes the flakes of mica embedded in them. I think we have felt that the memory of such a scene, photographed year after year by his child’s mind, would mean more to him in manhood than the sleep he was losing. He told me it would in his own way, when we had a full moon the night after his arrival last summer. He sat quietly on my lap for some time, watching the moon and the water and all the night sky, and then he whispered,
“I’m glad we came.”