We arrive with our lowland shorts into a different world.
This is our fifth trip here during mushroom season, and the land is like a historical record of how we’ve grown and changed. Contained in the tawny, decaying corn husk lily are a scrapbook of memories: napping bodies steaming in a sauna of a tent, coaching the kids through squatting in the woods, reminding the children not to insert sticks in the fire and then wave them, hot and burning, around each others’ faces. Okay, some of this we’re still working on.
The kids pile out of the truck, each in their own sensory memory immersion. Rose bends her back to the earth, hands aiming for wild strawberries. Col immediately finds the hook on a string he left here last August, its use as cryptic as ever, though “sister-taunter” is investigated as potential application. By nightfall, the children are in our laps, between the fire and the insulative power of a parent’s body, watching the Perseid meteor shower flash above our heads. (Although in the truest meaning of irony, the kids beg to go to bed, while we beg them to stay up for the rarified astronomical display). Coyotes howl in the middle of the night, lifting us from our dreams, a PSA from the wild world.
In the morning, we search for mushrooms. The pace, slow and meandering, suits the children, plus, there’s just enough uncertainty in the hunt for meaty fungal treasure to make it irresistibly challenging. We weave through the trees, parallel to each other, trying to cover the most ground before the children inevitably end up velcroed back to my side.
Mid-afternoon, I recline in a camp-chair, finishing the morning’s coffee, trying to do nothing more than allow my senses to fill with this place. Rose nails sticks into mud with a hammer; Col swings his hook-on-a-string through the meadow, liberating seeds from ripe grasses. We don’t bring much in the way of toys (see above: hammers and hooks on ropes). And it’s not that my kids are welcoming of the emptiness, or on hands and knees, studying subalpine insect life, dutifully recording data in journals. No, they wouldn’t mind an entertaining blast of Disney right about now. But, I know the quietness, the space, the pause in their modern, busy lives is taking hold somewhere in their hearts.
At a recent Shabbat service, Rabbi Eli explained that on Shabbat, in addition to not working, we stop doing, stop trying to figure out, fix, get ahead, create, follow through. Instead, we rest, celebrating the miracles of now. This liberated my heart in an instant: sometimes the appropriate thing to do is to enjoy, allowing the beauty of the present moment to eclipse our worries for the future.
On this trip, I finish The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, blubbering in my tent while kids slumber beside me. Without giving anything away, this novel, written from the perspective of a teenager with terminal cancer, is deeply moving. The character, Augustus Waters, says: “The real heroes aren’t the people doing things; the real heroes are the people NOTICING things, paying attention.”
How difficult this is! We want to make our mark on the world, to prove our capabilities and talents, to see ourselves reflected in the universe. But what if it’s the universe that needs noticing? What if this beautifully imperfect world can leave its mark on us? What if, just for a short time – say, the 24-hour period of Shabbat – it is enough, not to be known, but to be an astute, appreciative observer, to try and know the world?
A shadow flashes through the meadow – a hawk chasing a golden eagle – showing up as if to prove something about miracles. But it’s all awe-inspiring: our basket of edible fungus and their unicellular spores surfing the sky, the mountain plants fading out of summer-green, these children being imprinted on by the wild world.
Reach Rachel Turiel at firstname.lastname@example.org.Visit her blog, 6512 and growing, on raising children, chickens and other messy, rewarding endeavors at 6,512 feet.