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Kids can see the impermanent nature of life

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Friday, Feb. 23, 2018 9:07 PM

It’s Saturday morning, that day that tends to unspool in generous unboundedness, buffered as it is from any whiff of the work and school week.

Except the kids woke up bickering and seem committed to zinging verbal barbs back and forth. Dan and I try intervening. We try not intervening. I try telling myself that sibling bickering is so historically and biologically predictable it’s written into the Bible, it’s explained by evolution (if the saber-toothed tiger comes by hungrily and mom can only save one kid, it’ll be her favorite, i.e., trashing your sibling in front of mom informs her that you’re superior).

Their verbal sniping is all the more exasperating because we’ve planned to hike at Sand Canyon today, the purpose of which is to cast off responsibilities and enjoy being together under the rejuvenating winter sun. I picture the car ride to be a bit like transporting a cat and dog in a very small space.

We roll out of town armed with books, a Rubik’s Cube, drawing pads and Mad Libs (because it’s never too late to have a 1970s childhood). The imprint of the kids’ raised voices still resides in my shoulders. I find myself sighing, residually, while imagining all the other siblings currently engaged in mutually supportive Saturday morning collaborations, peace doves ringing their angelic heads.

We stop for coffee and treats, festively and medicinally, in every small town west of Durango. From the backseat, Rose seeks, with a slightly dictatorial edge, adjectives and verbs for Mad Libs. Col keeps his head squarely in a book but laughs in spite of his own feigned surliness when Rose reads the hilariously silly stories aloud. Sagebrush blurs past our windows.

At the north end of Sand Canyon, ours is the only car in the parking lot. The winter colors are all the more stunning in this muted season. No longer bit players among the greens of summer, the gray-blue sagebrush, russet earth and straw-colored grasses each sing their own quiet yet striking song.

Rose offers Col a horseback ride and he jumps on her back. “Kick my thighs to make me go,” she instructs. He kicks. She shoots forward. Rose ferries her rider over the rocky, twisty trail while Col issues commands. I marvel at how every crabby comment of the morning seems to have sheared off their very psyches, while the more pressing need for fun arises like a treasure dangling in front of them.

It’s my own nervous system that is still bruised from the second-hand snark. They are as clear as a bell ringing in a silent canyon. Rose whinnies and bucks. Col starts to slide off. Rose charges ahead, rider clinging to her prancing body. Their shared laughter massages out some of the deep knots in my shoulders.

I want to tell them to be careful, to watch the loose rocks and the juniper roots bisecting the trail. I want to tell them that their relationship is precious and unique and not to squander it. But, I can sense that my words wouldn’t adhere in their minds, that they already see the impermanent nature of life, that they don’t fear conflict and aren’t keeping score. The sun makes its predictable arc across the southern sky, and I feel a rush of gratitude for all the mysteries embedded in the ordinary days of our lives.

Reach Rachel Turiel at sanjuandrive@frontier.net. Visit her blog, 6512 and growing, on raising children, chickens and other messy, rewarding endeavors at 6,512 feet.

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