We are at 11,500 feet, staring across a sloping meadow, wildflowers swirling in a Monet-like blur of color.
Three kids are bent over a gopher hole, every cell in their bodies magnetized to this precise spot. The other two kids are out of view, proving the axiom: When you hold a slingshot, every tree looks like a target.
It’s so cool, everyone absorbed in their own particular experience of the moment. But wait, the adults are trying to do this absurd thing of propelling ourselves forward on a trail to a destination. You know, actual hiking.
I glance at the aggregating storm clouds and wonder about our destination above treeline, wonder how to motivate the kids to keep moving forward and wonder why adults and children have such different goals.
“Rach-uhllllll,” 5-year-old Teo calls to me, still crouched over the gopher den, “come see! Dere’s a whole ’nudder world!” It’s like being challenged by the smallest Zen master, urging me to trade my future agenda for the splendors of now.
The slingshotting boys come into view, curtains of hair eclipsing their chiseled tween faces. They hardly notice the waylaid herd of parents on the trail, for their deep discussion regarding slingshot rules and regulations.
We’re so close to our high ridge destination, where a view of forever-mountains saws open the sky. Just to take in the wild country – alpine snow swatches, gouging drainages, aspen-electric slopes, secretive forests – fills me with a sense of peace and inspiration. I could walk that ledge between mountain ranges all day, feeling deeply fed by the interconnectedness of this ecosystem. We arrive and the kids want, simply, lunch.
Turkey and cheese slices are passed around, oranges peeled and shared. I imagine us all taking monk-like vows of silence to better hear the raven wing beats above, or a butterfly slurping columbine nectar or to simply absorb the mountains’ particular July song. But no. The kids shout to each other from 10 inches away. They negotiate, fiercely, the splitting of energy bars. They snarf their lunches in minutes and are on their feet discussing, with amplified passion, rules for the slingshot competition.
It is so lovely to be here in the mountains for three days with this tribe of families. The kids form permutations that change as dynamically as the weather. The girls emerge from tents each morning with brushed hair and eye-strainingly high ponytails; the boys have become their own traveling Maker Space of sap and dirt.
Possessive pronouns lose their edge as we all feed each others’ kids and forget whose camp chair belongs to whom. I understand that the kids are here for something completely different from us adults. They are masters of searching out the next exciting thing, while I await my own predictable nightly hour of reading in bed with an embarrassing amount of enthusiasm. On the hierarchy of kids’ needs, adventure and play can eclipse, well, dinner. Everything is fair game in the pursuit of fun. I remind myself of this when the volume soars, when the campfire becomes venue for circus fire tricks, when slingshot safety is drowned out by the roaring call to push the limits into the next galaxy.
Lunch is packed up. Clouds are zipping around tauntingly. The adults long to climb higher on the ridge, to gain the whole enchilada of San Juan mountain views from Lizard Head to the South San Juans. Meanwhile, the kids’ world has distilled down to one spot of earth where slingshot competitions are heating up. It’s almost funny, how we were once them, and they will someday be us. For now, I am grateful to share this place where inevitably everyone gets what they need.
Reach Rachel Turiel at email@example.com. Visit her blog, 6512 and growing, on raising children, chickens and other messy, rewarding endeavors at 6,512 feet.