Saturday, May 7, 2016

Getting Back to Nature, Ourselves, and Each Other

April 10, 2016 looked like a great day for hiking. Sort of. I'm learning spring weather is unpredictable anywhere, but even more so in south-central Utah. We'd had wind, rain, snow, sleet, and sun in the few days since I'd arrived from Illinois. The morning had come in bright and sunny, but we knew it could change at any minute.

Bridge and I were taking advantage of this lovely break in the weather, and we were heading out for a nearby canyon. Everything we do together seems bittersweet these days; time has passed all to quickly, and my baby boy is chomping at the bit to experience life as an adult on his own. Can't we just slow down the clock and the calendar for awhile? I've often asked this question since I became a mother 29 years ago.

As we drove north, we headed into blue skies filled with big, puffy, white clouds. Simply gorgeous. When we got out of the car at the mouth of a canyon north and west of Richfield, Utah, we saw storm clouds gathering to the south. Hm...

A slot canyon formed by a river bed is not the best location for hiking before an impending storm. We weren't planning to hike long, however, and where we were, the weather was perfect. The slight breeze would keep us cool.

One of the best parts of hiking for me, besides the obvious scenery and exercise, is the opportunity for making deeper connections as we begin to relax, and talk, picking our way over rocks and boulders, walking further into the canyon. It's a good time for personal reflection, and the perfect opportunity to reconnect with each other. When we're inside, conversation seems to focus on the surface stuff; schedules, menus, upcoming events. Somehow it's easier to ask the open-ended questions outdoors, the questions we attempt to answer, but realize there may be more than one answer.

Much of our time in the canyons is spent in companionable silence. Some of my best thinking is done outside. When we do talk, most of the time, we mull over questions, and offer tentative thoughts as they come. Often, there are no hard, right answers, but I think we both come away feeling like we have been heard, and there has been a thoughtful attempt at mutual understanding. Our bond grows, as does our respect.

While exploring the red rock riverbed, we attempted to explore answers to questions like these: Who are we, really? When are we free to be our true selves? When does our responsibility to respect the opinions of others give way to respecting ourselves enough not to lose our own values and owning who we are? 

After about a half hour of hiking, we came to a rock wall, where there would be a waterfall if the creek were running. I watched Bridger as he scrambled up to where the wall was well over his head. Then he explored the banks of the riverbed, which were steep and full of loose rock. He came back with the report that the ground on the other side of the wall is pretty, but the trail didn't get any easier. I noticed the storm clouds were getting closer, and we decided this was as good a place as any to turn around. 

On our way out of the canyon, our conversation became less general and more specific. We realized there have been times in our lives we've both been like chameleons, blending into the landscape around us, whether we really belonged where we were or not. It's easy to start losing bits of yourself when you pretend to be someone you're not, trying to fit in with the crowd around you. After awhile, it's hard to recognize who you've become, and it takes hard work to find yourself, and honor who you are. We are realizing that the people who love us want to know what we really think, and how we are doing, and they will handle the truth of our hearts better than we might have given them credit for. It's better to let others live their lives as honestly as they can, and hope they will understand we are trying to do the same. Yes, the talk can get deep when we have the time.

The storm clouds were overhead as we neared the entrance of the canyon. By the time we climbed into the car, a few raindrops splashed on the windshield. We'd made it, and just in time. 

As I reflected on our day, I thought it was a good analogy for Bridger's life. Even when storms are threatening, he will take advantage of the time and resources available to make the best of things. He is willing to take risks that offer desirable outcomes. He is comfortable asking questions, and isn't concerned about not having all the answers. His positive attitude, common sense, and deep thinking will serve him well. 

I'm sad to realize the little boy I raised is gone, but I'm happy to know the wonderful young man who has taken his place. I'm so grateful for all of the laughter, the learning, and the love we have shared. I will cherish in my heart this day we spent hiking, reflecting, and talking about the important stuff. This mama's heart is so full. 

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