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gorging on the offerings of right now

2022 October 3
by Rachel Turiel

I am measuring the passing of time in birds and backyard fruit. It’s all happening on a micro-scale. Time shuttles from the season of grosbeaks messily eviscerating chokecherries in search of seeds, to the season of tanagers plucking singular grapes from the vine, their beaks deftly working skin and pulp. Up next: siskins and goldfinches crash landing on sunflower heads, gorging on the offerings of right now.

Grapes are long gone, and already nostalgic for the yellow-suited tanagers I jokingly wondered if putting out a plate of store-bought grapes might lure them back. “They like their grapes on the hoof,” Dan pointed out. Of course. Leave it to the humans to want to manipulate, secure, and hold down what we like, rather than releasing each moment back to the mystery of life.

Outside, the wand of waning light is brushing the land and everything is exquisite: the tomatoes plumping and sweetening; the trees burnished with color; the morning chill creeping its tendrils through the house.

And inside, Rose tells me, “I’ve come to realize you and dad aren’t gonna add decorative fall touches to the house, so I’ll just rely on you two for the big stuff.” Whew. This follows the daily emptying of her backpack with thrift store finds, our house becoming populated with small and sundry pumpkins: ceramic, woven, felted sweater-wearing. She also just dyed her hair purplish and explained that it’s a manifestation of her “bad bitch energy.” There is space for it all, pumpkin bitch.

Col, after years of Covid loneliness, is suddenly and platonically beset with girl-friends. What a relief. “It was only a matter of time before girls discovered him,” my mom says. And true. Despite listening to hiphop that rings all my feminist alarm bells, he is kind and gentle and knows how to have a conversation, and also how to hang out in comfortable silence. And he is welcome to use this as a personal profile someday.

My kids love it tolerate it when I send them photos like this. (Seen outside the Coffee Bear in Silverton – photo taken with my flip phone and converted to sharable photo by Rose, i.e. excuse the fuzziness.)

I apologize to return to this space after months away for such a short post. But I want to share a couple things.

  1. I am offering in person, drop in, donation-based Coaching for Parents of Tweens and Teens on Weds afternoons, starting Oct 5th. We will drink tea, support each other, and explore strategies to increase household trust, honesty and connection, based on principles of Nonviolent Communication, brain science and my understanding of how teens are impacted by cultural messages, social media and the nonstop input endemic to our times. No commitment needed, come check it out!More info on Coaching for Parents (and guardians, foster parents, teachers, family members) of Tweens and Teens here

2. A little something I wrote about how to repair when our behavior impacts someone.

3. This Ted Talk “This could be why you’re depressed or anxious” resonated with every fiber of my being.

If you are not local and are interested in a class for parents of tweens/teens, email me. I am collecting names.

With love and faith and pumpkins and bad bitches,


The bottom line

2022 June 15
by Rachel Turiel

Rose is cleaning the bathroom while a chirpy female voice broadcasts from the phone propped on the counter top.

“What are you listening to?” I ask.

“A podcast. Tips on how to live a healthy, happy life.”

“Oh cool. How old is she?”


Col consents to go on a run with me, earbuds affixed, transmitting music that often sounds like someone is shouting at me, though he swears helps him feel calm and focused. We charge up through the robin-flocked ponderosas, their collective spring song such a practical approach to dating. I am here, love; come find me. The sun is medicinal, coaxing sweat from every pore. I would make time daily to run alongside my son if he consented, trying to keep up with him while he explains the dynamics of hiphop diss tracks. “So, I’ve been thinking,” Col says, apropos of nothing, “dating a pansexual would be really hard.” 

I am increasingly aware that these kids will leave us; that this is the modern way of things. Our remaining time together is in some way preparation for that next, unimaginable phase. It makes it hard to know whether my job is to convey my unconditional faith in them or to gently explain that brushing ones hair is a socially constructed norm that puts other people at ease by conferring the message that we care about ourselves. (i.e. please go brush your hair before work).

We’re at the point in the family novel where every character is known and accepted. Dan’s hiphop name is Gruff Baby Daddy, but he’s also the parent most likely to make a proper family dinner and give the kids calf rubdowns after CrossFit. “Tell the bus driver to stop for roadkills,” he reminded Rose every time she was ferried home from a high school soccer game, anchoring her to her roots. He sends me texts from work that include the word “amorous” and is currently wearing a divot into the couch watching NBA games, which everyone is happy to see because otherwise he doesn’t stop moving, plus we all know where to find him.

NBA must have been on break this night. And, still snuggly.

I am most likely, when well-resourced, to make space for any and all adolescent emotions, with full blown acceptance and care. And, when under stress, most likely to unleash unsolicited opinions connecting all teenage angst to phones and capitalism. I also find myself doing a lot of relational repairing lately. Ah, you want to be greeted with enthusiasm in the morning, not interrogation. Got it. Thank you for letting me know. The kids are good at letting me know, thank goodness.

Rose is the cleanest, best-smelling, most domesticated among us. She will text me from her job at the local food co-op to ask, “do you sanction me getting some new, grapefruit dish soap?” (While the rest of us may have lost the distinction between dish soap, hand soap, body soap, shampoo…). She purchases her own sets of blank greeting cards, decorative ice cube trays, and has distributed little packs of tissues throughout the house. Last night she emerged from the bathtub, hair mushroomed under a shower cap. “Don’t you have to be over 40 to own a shower cap?” Dan wondered aloud as her skin flung lavender from its surface. She texts me approximately 134 times a day to keep me apprised of her emotional temperature. 

Example from sleepover:

Rose: I feel so jealous of X cause she has so much stuff and such an expensive home

Me: All that nice stuff feels pretty attractive?

Rose: ya I just don’t understand how they have such a fancy house that seems so different than ours

Me: A little bewildering how their house could be so big and new and with so much nice stuff?

Rose: I see you NVCing me

Me: ha ha is there a different way you’d like me to answer?

Rose: idk

Rose: i just want a solution

Rose: but I guess there isn’t really one

Me: My best solution would be to cultivate love and gratitude for all you have.

Rose: Loved “My best solution would be to cultivate love and gratitude for all you have.”

Rose: I agree

Rose: But it’s nice to share my feelings with you

Me: You are always welcome to share how you feel with me.

Arlo has found work! 

Col is on the cusp of getting his driver’s license (He’s created a whole playlist of mom-friendly music to play in the car while he’s getting his driving hours. This is our mutual favorite). He is soon leaving for a month of art school in San Francisco. I can’t even imagine all the opportunity that awaits him. He is exploring his Jewish identity and intrigued by what lies outside the homogeneity of Durango. He is encouraging his Jew-fro and likes to say after a shower, “it’s gonna poof!” Every night I recite my mom prayer. Please find the nice kids whose rebellion leans towards societal commentary in the form of art and notice when your socks need changing.

Col, self portrait. Oil paint on paper. Follow him at @artbycolhinds

We’ve all heard it said that raising teenagers is hard, possibly the hardest stretch of parenting. I agree, though am increasingly seeing that the challenges primarily lie outside of them, not within them. They are in one of the most creative, energetic, open, adventurous, curious phases of life, and society serves them a bland stew, pretending there’s nutrition in the mix. We’ve created these phones that steal their attention and choice, and then get angry with them about using them. We know that contributing our gifts and presence gives purpose to our days, and yet much of adolescent meaning is comprised of appearance, achievements, and acquisitions. Fitting in can mean giving up on authenticity. Being authentic can mean not belonging. 

My friend recently asked me, when I was recounting a current parenting struggle, “what’s your bottom line?” I knew immediately: “Maintaining honesty and connection.” This guides me. When I feel anxious, I want to control, which only encourages sneakiness and resentment in my kids. So I aim to care for that anxiety and breathe my way into the molten core of trust that lives in me. From here, I can actually see the teens in front of me as trying to thrive in a world that doesn’t currently prioritize true individual or communal thriving. From here I find compassion; though, this requires a lot of walking through the garden doing my childbirth breathing.

Rose’s podcast blares on from the bathroom, our one bathroom (yes, I do want extra credit for this, or at least not another damn form of soap), and I can hear the perky female voice extolling her happiness tips. “Every time you click on TikTok you get a lot of dopamine,” her disembodied voice announces, ”which isn’t good, which is why I think you should delete it…”

(Spoiler alert: Rose deleted TikTok a month ago and reported that it was easier to love herself. Then things shifted internally and she added it back, noting that it no longer interferes with her self concept. And, Col has figured out that wearing a hat is almost like brushing ones hair.).

Also, I have no idea what’s happening with this blog here. Is it over? Is it waiting to be turned into an advice column, and would you submit questions if it was? I have been sending out fun, relational and informative newsletters from my professional website, which you may enjoy. Archived newsletters here. 

Also #2 I wrote an Op-Ed about the City of Durango yellow slip we received citing us for “maintaining a nuisance,” or more frankly, the anonymous neighbor who complained about our “overgrown mess of a yard.”

Also #3 I really resonated with this article about teen depression in The Atlantic.

With love,


The Other Gift Guide

2021 December 22
by Rachel Turiel

“So, does this mean we’re not exchanging presents?” Rose asked, eyebrows narrowing into adolescent cross-examination. Col’s face was unreadable behind ever-affixed earbuds pumping hiphop into his skull cavity. 

I had just presented my Hanukkah redux proposal to the family. It could be the antidote to every previous holiday moment spent squinting at a cheery store display trying to determine if any particular item would confer the mythic rush of surprise and delight we’ve been conditioned to covet. 

“Here’s my idea. We each make a request to one another, asking someone to do something that would make our lives more wonderful,” I told assembled family members, feeling a bit like I was peddling a new improved multi-vitamin to a crowd who’d ordered a pizza. I had been inspired by a quote from Marshall Rosenberg, who developed the communication tools he called Nonviolent Communication. He said, “instead of playing the game ‘Making Life Wonderful’ we often play the game ‘Who’s right?’ Do you know that game? It’s a game where everybody loses. What makes life more wonderful is contributing to the well being of other people.”

I waited for the teenage mutiny. The skepticism. The calling out of dubious parental agendas of connection and meaning replacing highly-regarded consumerism and its empty caloric punch: short term excitement. Strangely, everyone agreed.

 First, some parameters:

  • Requests are fulfilled without spending money.
  • If a request doesn’t feel doable, the person receiving the request will be honest and the two people will collaborate to find something that works better for both.
  • Don’t ask for something you know won’t fly, like “Can I snuggle with my phone all night rather than put it up at 9pm as agreed?”

And, some tips:

  • Consider an aspect of your relationship that isn’t working well and what could ameliorate this.
  • Be prepared to share what it would give you if this person said yes to your request, so they know how they’re contributing to you.
  • Look for a request that is both big enough to contribute to you and small enough enough that it will be easy for someone to say yes.

The first night of Hanukkah, we gathered in the living room, equal parts excited and nervous to deliver and receive these requests. So as not to overwhelm anyone we decided each of the four of us would issue one request per night. We also decided to preface our request with a specific appreciation of that person.

What followed was more beautiful than I could have imagined. Col, who still at 16 is our physical barometer for emotional connection, could be found koala-ed onto a parent as the process unfolded.

There were surprisingly practical requests. Dan to me: When you use the stove, can you please stay in the kitchen until you turn the burner off? I get distracted; pans get charred. 

And, there were vulnerable requests. Me to Col: When I’m doing something you don’t like, can you tell me clearly why it bothers you? My hope was to translate the eye rolls, heavy sighs and terse commands of: “Mom; just stop.” 

I was worried sibling requests would involve snark and sabotage. So, when Col asked Rose if before doing laundry she’d check if he had any items to add, a small balloon of family collaboration inflated in my chest.

There were sweet, connecting requests. Col to his dad: When you’re carving those wooden spoons in your shop, can you invite me to carve one with you? Interestingly, two days later, Dan’s request to Col was exactly the same, in reverse.

There were requests that benefitted both receiver and giver, like when Dan asked me: Can you continue to ask about my feelings so I can expand my capacity to express a range of emotions? 

Making a request is a simple, powerful way to bring power and collaboration to our relationships. It’s a bit like magic, really – the way a request will recruit all the cells of our willingness, while a demand acts as an affront to our autonomy. And yet, it’s vulnerable to ask for what we truly want, to make our needs known. So, we often tamp down this vulnerability to appear less full of desires, because we’ve been told we’re more likable that way.

This Hanukkah tells a different story. As the “yeses” to our requests stacked up, and our teenagers lingered in the living room with us, I saw that this practice connected us, informing us that we were important enough to effect each other’s well being.

I love receiving clear, doable requests. Contributing to others’ happiness actually boosts our happiness because we’re wired for interdependence; interdependence runs on mutual generosity. 

And, three weeks later, I’m seeing these requests show up in daily life. Last night when I was done teaching online and went to visit Rose in her room to find out how her day was, she said, “Well, I’ve already told Daddy all about it, so you can ask him.” Dan’s request to her: I want to hear more stories about what high school is like for you.

And Col and I got a chance to practice “annoyance translation” when I was celebrating that within the first five days of his winter break he had already gone skiing twice and had two sleepovers with two different friend groups and he said, “Stop. That’s so annoying.” I learned that in celebrating what he thought should be “normal events” for a teenage boy I was highlighting the loneliness he’d experienced the past two years.

And, in addition to more connection in the house, the smoke alarm has been awfully quiet lately.

The sunroom is working.

We wondered if we could make requests of Arlo, but settled for appreciations.

One of the miracles of Hanukkah this year was that although City Market didn’t have ANY Hanukkah candles, I had frugally saved pre-lit birthday candles and we made it to 8 nights.

Maybe you will make requests part of your gift giving; or, maybe you will will just casually seed some requests into daily life and see what blooms.

Hoping that we all have comfort and care in these dark days. And dogs. And books. This book was heartbreaking and illuminating. This book was heartbreaking and uplifting. And this book was all of the above.

All the love,


Spoiler Alert

2021 August 13
by Rachel Turiel


I’m in the garden, taking a self-guided tour with coffee, when Col wakes up. “Come out and see the garden!” I call to him like he’s just arrived in the country. He’s bleary, sun-shocked, some teenaged part of him still anchored to his bed. “Okay,” he concedes, “you can show me three things.”

I lead him to a pollen-fuzzed bee plunged deep into a zucchini blossom; cucumber tendrils spiraling by some vegetal sonar towards a trellis; and, the fence-scaling morning glories–flowers yet to open–singing a song called potential.

They bloomed!

“This looks familiar,” he points to a basil plant, trying perhaps to make conversation in the last 30 seconds of his window of tolerance. “Basil!” I exclaim, as if still navigating his toddler world by naming every noun in his vicinity.

“Thanks mom, garden’s looking pretty nice.” He aims himself towards the kitchen to grab his phone en route back to his room.


My friend tells me his whole life revolves around his 2 1/2 year old twins. “They’re all I’m interested in,” he says, sounding worried, like he may have lost something irretrievable. I am always cautious about revealing the unthinkable to people with young kids. But, I’ll tell you here (spoiler alert): those small ones you’re so enchanted with and beleaguered by? They grow very big very fast. They will want space and privacy. They will no longer track your every move like fine tuned sonar; nor will they so fully and transparently narrate their lives to you as if you’re their personal biographer. They will get jobs and earn their own money. They may want to spend their money on take out meals, despite your garden and freezer overflowing with ingredients, a small monument to single use plastics slowly rising in your recycling bin. Or, they may float, distractedly, through your garden (formerly the backdrop of every goddamned, summer childhood scene), their minds tendrilled out on girls, hip hop, video games, carbs, who even knows, while for a brief moment an explicit memory of a basil plant hijacks the system.


About every other week Dan and I leave the kids alone and head out for a short backpacking trip. This is a parenting trick akin to once getting them both to nap at the same time. There’s a lot of strategy and up front effort. But it delivers. It’s like getting something precious returned to you that’s been lost.
Getting curious about castilleja heydenii, or paintbrush.

These trips tend to bring out a strange mix of euphoria-despair in me. There’s the joy of reuniting with familiar places. Remember when we hiked to the top of that ridge and saw six bull elk bedded in the meadow below?  And, the stunningness of peering into a whole different universe. A pika chews up a purple columbine flower, little pink tongue darting in and out.

The boletes were fo real this year. 288% of normal rainfall in July. Also, we are not ultra-light backpackers. (And Dan’s camera has a big, permanent smudge on the lens).

And then, there are visible changes that I register like a stone in my gut. Climbing out of a tent at 12,300 feet in the shade-draped morning and not needing a jacket. Lakes turning into marshes; marshes drying up. Spruce slopes skeletonized by bark beetles. Flowers blooming 2-3 weeks early. Dan and I watch a singular, large mountain goat perched on an impossible rock ledge, its wooly white coat looking out of fashion on this hot alpine day.


We take our annual end of summer trip a month early because Col is scheduled to be on the Colorado river for 2 weeks mid August. (Spoiler alert: they want to be away from you. Double spoiler alert: you will love–and pay good money–for this).

We arrive at the remote, highcountry Conejos river cabins and the host is about to announce the wifi password. If this were a slapstick comedy I’d have flung myself across the room to take her out before she could utter the words. I’m slightly less obvious but we manage to steer everyone out of the room unawares. Oh well, we shrug to the kids, no wifi for a few days.

Alternative activities to checking ones notifications.

A rare moment: Dan sitting. Note dog face peeking out of screen door.

The next day we hike to Bear Lake and something strange happens in the absence of internet connectivity. Rose forages strawberries and blueberries like a wild bear. (Yes, wild blueberries in Colorado. Smaller and more tangy than their domestic kin). She’s delighted by the wildflowers, and like someone waking up from Instagram-fueled amnesia, remembers that she loves sucking the nectar out of columbine spurs and popping cucumber-fresh bluebell blossoms in her mouth.

Col spots a vein of chanterelles under the spruce. “Wow – you recognized those chanterelles even though it’s been awhile since you’ve gone mushroom hunting with us,” I say.

“I’d never forget chanterelles,” he says. And a small balloon of reassurance inflates in me.

Col starts remembering other things. He wants to hold my hand and tell me everything. “Remember when me and Mathew used to go looking for snakes in the soapwort? We never actually saw a snake in there,” he confesses.

“Remember that winter the bucks used to spar behind our house and Daddy was totally obsessed? That was cool.”

“Remember when I ate a live grasshopper at homeschool co-op?” (Shudder).

Oh how I do. We let our minds travel together through the scrapbook of stories. Those days when we all seemed to be shipmates sailing through life together. It’s happy and sad, wistful and confusing (where did we go if we’re all still here?), all at once.

5. We spend five days together, hiking, eating and trying to understand and orient to one another. We’re not the same as we once were, and yet, we still fit together. The current fit requires some finessing and adjusting in ways that are new, and sometimes uncomfortable. Some of us are enamored of the made world, looking for novelty and excitement you can put on your debit card; and some of us are drawn to forage mushrooms and apricots; our excitement tethered to repetition and traditions. Dan frequently reminds me that the kids are ultimately more like us than not. When I ask Col and Rose if they think they’ll grow gardens someday, they both say yes, offhandedly, as if it’s inevitable rather than desirable.

We make 5 star dinners in the communal kitchen of the funky Taos hostel while rain douses the land. (just like at home, it’s just that we’re all eating the same thing at the same time).

At the Rio Grande river, plunged into cool, soothing waters after a particularly sketchy hike, Rose announces, “Daddy leads us into rocks and poison ivy, but he always fixes everything.” How sweet to be known and accepted exactly as you are. The kids soothe the anxious beast of me by putting their phones up and playing silly board games and calling it “family time.” That will earn them at least two episodes of Breaking Bad on the hostel’s TV which will likely grease their willingness to take a walk up El Salto Road after dinner, where we marvel at the bountiful, monsoon-fed ditches and the sunflowers splashing yellow onto the high desert. This is how we fit together.

I don’t know what comes next. Maybe you do. No spoiler alerts, please.

this very simple formula of life

2021 April 29
by Rachel Turiel

Right now, what I really want to tell you is that six pine grosbeaks have been visiting our crab apple daily. They’re new to our yard and each time they show up—earnest beaks clipping at red berries—I’m filled with the maternal joy of so easily providing for someone’s needs.

In other social structures, ahem, that is, inside the house, well, things are a bit more complicated. I would like to create this app that decodes everybody’s needs. Because there is this very simple formula of life: we all are all the time moving towards satisfying needs. The pine grosbeaks are searching for sustenance. Our dog is looking for purpose, hence the protective woofing every time our upstairs neighbors suspiciously ascend their own stairs. All the tomatoes in our greenhouse lean towards the sun: photosynthesis is life, baby!

And then there’s us people. We’ve lost some of the fluidity we came into this world with. (Remember that? Baby cries, we pick her up. Boom! Strategy clear. Needs met). When I wander out to the kitchen with a search image for chocolate burning in my eyes—for the fourth time this morning—I am looking for some stimulation, ease and predictability in the midst of acres of uncertainty. Hmmm, tall order for a square of cacao. Maybe that’s why I’m on my fourth trip – still searching for that stimulation and ease.

This I understand.

And, omg, this. 

I would aim my app at Rosie when she’s on the couch, three hops from the kitchen, though texting me in the next room to see if I’ll get her a snack. I think you’re wanting some nurture and care from your Mama. Is that it, my precious daughter? I would ask. And, when Col says “Mom, leave,” with urgency in his voice after I’ve popped in on his bedroom fortress of remote schooling, my app would tell me: this child wants to be trusted to manage his workload, and his whole gorgeous life, Mama!

See? It’s so beautiful. In this world there are no lazy, entitled or impertinent children, just billions of us humans who have not been taught how to make our needs known nor ask for what we truly want. Billions of us who’re trying to tamp down our vulnerability, to appear less full of desires, because we’ve been told it’s easier that way.

But, as Miki Kashtan says, “Because needs are the stuff of life, they cannot go away. Consequently, when we don’t allow ourselves to have a need, what we lose is freedom. We lose access to conscious choice about how to meet this still-present but unacknowledged need.” So when we tamp down a need with our cultural slogans (“don’t sweat the small stuff,” “first world problems,” etc…) we pay the costs, and usually take others down with us. And, when we demand that someone else change or we judge them for not changing, we’re sidestepping touching into the vulnerability and honesty of what we’re actually wanting. 

Not *exactly* 3 generations.


3 generations minus 1. Thank you Baba and Nana for driving 6 days roundtrip to see us!!

Much of the work I do, using principles of nonviolent communication, is helping people understand what needs they’re attempting to satisfy, and to determine if they actually like the strategies their nervous systems have developed. 

There’s so much more space in me when I understand that the reason my throat seizes when I see a new (artificial-ingredient, endocrine-disrupting) addition to the array of body care products on Rose’s dresser is because I am burning with a passion for all of us to know that our worth is unshakable so we can get on with the project of expressing our gifts. 

The more I make room for this desire in me, this need for our belonging and significance to be uncoupled from flawless skin (and the mourning of how Capitalism has co-opted our self worth), the more quickly I can recover what I know is true: this is a systemic issue manifest in my innocent daughter. And, being critical of her is the most ineffective strategy to meet my precious dream of a world where we know our worth is unshakable. 

I can see clearly that these purchases are her strategy to meet needs for self care, mattering to herself, belonging, acceptance and fun.

And I still want the artificial fragrance out of the house. So, I might say, “Hey love, you know my concern about artificial fragrance. Can I take you to Dancing Willow Herbs where you can pick out a body spray made with essential oils?”

Or, I may just let it be. Because giving a teenager the sense of being accepted is like infusing them with unshakable worth.

I find Rose doing remote school on the couch.

“Hey I want to acknowledge that sometimes it’s hard to have me as a mom.”

“Yeah. What made you realize that?” (Damn – thought maybe she’d argue with me on this one).

“Well, I was thinking about how I have opinions about what you put on your body and that’s probably hard for you when you just want acceptance from me.”

“Yeah. Thanks, Mama, that’s nice. Now, can I show you my slideshow on Andalusia?”

Andalusia is pretty dreamy, but I’d have a hard time leaving the cold frames right now.

Afterwards, I return to the crabapples. For five minutes I’m completely enraptured by the pine grosbeaks’ world—pluck, nibble, discard—hundreds of red berry bits strewn across the ground. Their strategy is almost the same as their need. No app needed to understand. Meanwhile, the humans in the house go about their complex ways, and until that need-decoding app gets invented, I’ll put all my brain power into making room for understanding what challenges me, breaks my heart and delights me, and all the complex ways we attend to this very simple formula of life.

the sweet in-between

2021 February 26
by Rachel Turiel

It’s that time of straddling two seasons, where part of me is like, bucketloads more snow would be fantastic, but if not, can I get started planting every inch of our garden? But it appears neither is happening, at least not for the foreseeable future.

And, it’s that sweet in-between season, the long pause, that finger-tapping anticipation of everything bursting forth. But, not yet. And, actually, because I’m not distracted by pursuing the grandma-esque dopamine rush of xc skiing, nor tending to a daycare of seedlings, each chirping for my attention, others things come into view.

Every day I cheer on the robins as they strip our crabapples top to bottom, like their own ear of corn. Though the greens in our cold frames outside aren’t yet eating-size, they’re actually growing rather than hanging on, pissed and bewildered. Each slight increase in temperature and day length is deliciously noticeable. Our dinnertime–in which we all sample from the full emotional palette just by being four interconnected humans convening for thirty goddamned minutes, now features sunsets in the background, rather than a drape of darkness.

This greenhouse calendula just gave me a dopamine rush.

Rose and I are both working on new websites. Hers is called Sip. Savor. Satisfied. Featuring delicious, homemade drinks like this spinach-banana smoothie.

Also, I just switched a few technological pieces concerning notifications, so I’m hoping this has made it to your inbox. Feel free to drop a note in the comment section to let me know.

Meanwhile, I’ve read some excellent books, When Stars are Scattered, a graphic novel memoir that will make you cry, first with grief then with relief; The Knockout Queen, which was perfect fiction: captivating, surprising, triumphant, heartbreaking and full of humanity. And now I’m just sad that I can’t read it for the first time ever again. And, The Beauty in Breaking, the gorgeous, honest memoir of a Black, female ER doc. Oh, and Beast in the Garden, a non-fiction book about mountain lions encroaching on human settlements (or, is it the other way around?), and written with such suspense and excellent storytelling that Col is now reading it as if it’s some Stephen King novel.

And, classes! Now that I’m teaching online, and you may not actually live next door, I would love to meet you in one of my two upcoming nonviolent communication classes. One is for parents of teens and tweens, and one is a practice group which will turn your world inside out and sprinkle your life with power and liberation. Check ’em out.


Dan’s latest very cool project. Yes, that is a deer tail. Stay tuned.

Col’s oil painting of the great Ali. 

Oh, and before I got some technological help I wrote this post about our grinch-free holidays, which you may not have seen.

Sending so much love and care, because goodness knows, we all need it,


being heard is its own balm

2021 January 4
by Rachel Turiel

It got snowy and cold quickly here, which has promoted a certain wholesomeness in all of us, the snow burying some measure of monotony-induced cynicism. Three of us are skiing and sledding, the other is tracking deer in the blue-black dawn. 

When the kids rise in the morning to find Dan not home, one of them will say, “Where’s Daddy – looking for deer again?” 

When I confirm, Col will say fondly, “Oh, Dad.” 

How sweet it is to be known. To have others know that for you finding the deer in the depths of December is to inhabit mystery, intimacy and awe. (Even if Rose says of the gorgeous buck which dropped dead in a neighbor’s yard and was later loaded into our Subaru by Dan and two police officers—long story—though turned out too decrepit to eat, please Dad, do you have to drive me to work with a deer carcass in the backseat?)

Sunrise on Sangre de Cristos

We made it though the holidays with everyone’s sense of integrity intact. The older Col and Rose get the easier it is to say, “I’m sorry but I just can’t in good conscience buy you that techno-whizzdoodle which is designed to dazzle you briefly before becoming obsolete in three eyewinks.” Or, “That mini waffle iron is cute but heating up food on lab-produced nonstick surfaces gives me the heebies. Can we talk about other options, darling?”

The flip side is that along with holding to my consumer limits I can also deliver truckloads of empathy about how hard it is to have me as a Mama. I can picture 20 other more palatable versions of myself. Each, like the talking baby dolls of the 80s when wound up, parrot some version of, “Yes, honey, you can have that thing without any conversations of downstream effects on your body, the Earth or oppressed people!” 

I found a bereft Rose on the couch one December day and asked, “Do you want to tell me about your disappointment?” 

“Other people just get what they ask for,” she sighed. “They don’t have to negotiate every item on their list.”

(And really, the phrase ‘on my list’ triggers me no end. Why has the birth of a radical humanitarian turned into list-making of consumer goods we believe we’re entitled to? See above: Not the funnest mom.)

“It must be hard to have a mom who is so oriented towards simplicity, practicality and meaning,” I offered. (And I meant it; I exhaust myself sometimes.)

“Yes! I’m a teen girl and I like fun gifts.”

“I totally get it. You wish it was easier with me, that I could just say yes to what you want, could happily buy what’s on your list, that I was just more relaxed about stuff and products.”

“Yessss. And other kids just get ski passes every year without having to count it as a gift!”

“Ah. Yes. You’re wishing we could get behind the whole holiday giving thing, that I could appreciate how much fun it is to receive gifts and how reporting gifts receieved gives you a sense of belonging, acceptance and mattering amongst your friends.”

We went on like this for a short while, her inching closer to me, both of us implicitly understanding that being heard is its own balm, different than having the world instantly orient to our desires. 

Because ultimately, when only 1% of consumer goods are still around in 6 months, it is not more stuff that we really want. It’s the relational needs—being seen and heard, knowing we matter, contributing to others, connection—that fill us up. And, really, these are the needs on which I can easily deliver: no guilt, ambivalence or compromise involved. Also, these are the needs that make a lasting imprint, long after the waffle iron has short-circuited and been tossed in the trash.

Eventually Rose sighed and said, “I know I have everything I need, and I actually just want to get better at feeling grateful for what I have.”

The world screeched to a halt as we both sat with these words for a moment.

“Ah. Feeling grateful would be a way out of the cycle of wanting and disappointment, and measuring yourself and your stuff against others? A way to have some peace?”

“Yeah.” She slid into me and I received her child self, simultaneously fragile and powerful. Like all of us.

She never mentioned the mini waffle maker again except to say, “I realized I didn’t actually need anything on my list – I just made one because that’s what you’re supposed to do. And I’m actually really excited to have a ski pass.”

Where have we *not* hacky-sacked?

Sand dunes

Dual family germ pod

We took a little trip over Christmas, which included skiing and hot springs, sand dune-sledding and 8 person hacky-sack circles. Christmas Day we took a hike with friends in a stunning valley populated by pronghorn and hemmed by unending ripples of the Sangre de Cristo mountains. Later we soaked in hot springs under dark skies, clusters of stars arranging themselves into familiar constellations. Everyone seemed to know they had what they needed, and that it was enough. 

Holiday outtakes:

The kids decided that for the 8 nights of Hanukkah 2020 instead of presents (True Hanukkah miracle?) each family member would take turns making dinner and choosing a family activity. First night was a Mediterranean feast in honor of my Greek, Sephardic ancestry and newspaper snowflakes.

2nd night of Hanukkah Col chose: frozen waffles, Wu-Tang and art. Dan asked “where’s the vegetables?” “No vegetables,” Col replied cheerily. (We all made a pact to honor each others’ Hanukkah leadership). As we listened to Wu-Tang Clan, digesting our waffles and doing art, Col kept saying “The interesting thing about Wu-Tang is…”

Night 3 was potato latkes and a magic show by Dan which morphed into watching a pre-selected video of a church pastor performing a magic show for elementary aged children interspersed with bible verses! Later, Dan said to me “I guess I should have vetted that for skeptical teens.’

Also, in all the time saved from shopping for presents, I have read so many good books:

The death of Vivek Oji 

Writers and Lovers

The Vanishing Half

The Pull of the Stars

All the love to all of you,

Election Cake

2020 November 3
by Rachel Turiel

I am self-soothing by making sauerkraut; by planting more kale than we have cold-frame space for; by looking at all meals as vehicles for pickled jalapeños and melted cheese; by baking cake for breakfast.

Election Cake! It’s healthy! It’s delicious! It’s a snack, a meal, a balm! Recipe follows.

My friend Rebecca’s kraut hands; also, turns out processing food with friends restores something human in me.

Today is Election Day in America and for the first time possibly ever, people that I know, respect and genuinely like are voting for the person I’m not. At times this feels like a great opportunity to understand people who are different than me. Other times it feels like a stumbling through a house of mirrors with tacks in my mouth, disorienting and painful.

Col came home from school yesterday reporting that it was not a good day. He sparred with a friend over politics. “We got into an argument,” he said. “So no one won.” This seems to sum up our country right now, or at least my Facebook feed. When everyone is talking, no one is there to listen.

I’ve noticed we have a lot of ways to explain why people think differently than us. We’ve become so polarized that our most generous guesses tend to be, “they’ve been brainwashed by their lie-spewing media.” Our less generous guesses are the verbal daggers cleaving apart friendships. 

A few weeks ago, my mom and I pondered what might lead someone to vote for Donald Trump in their words, with the most dignity and generosity we could muster. Honestly, it was a challenging exercise, the point of which is to remind myself that people whose decisions are bewildering to me have their own stories that are full of dignity and good will and hope and love. If my votes come from a vision for a better world, so must theirs. 

Charles Eisenstein says, “Part of the tactics of war is to characterize and dehumanize the other side. It’s almost an act of betrayal to really seek to understand them.” Wouldn’t it be revolutionary if the folks who condemn the Black Lives Matter movement were curious about what matters to the human hearts behind the protests? Maybe this is why something in me flares up when white, middle class people say “Can’t they ask for equality in a different way?” Wait, I want to say, have you listened to what matters to them?

And yet, when I see a clever meme excoriating certain politicians, a small, hard part of myself cheers. This is the place that wants to believe people can be slotted into evil or virtuous columns and if I just align myself with the right side, I will be safe and seen and belong. This narrative keeps me separate and polarized.

(Recently, I wrote off some behavior of Col’s I found annoying as “surly teenage boyhood.” A day later I got curious with him and he helped me see how what he did was out of care for someone else. It all made perfect sense when I opened myself to his experience. Righteousness fuels me like empty calories, whereas understanding nourishes connection).

I have a good friend who leans conservative. We have long, sometimes tense ideological conversations punctuated with light, personal sharing about kids and work. He and I are really fond of each other. Sometimes we check in with each other in heated moments. “Hey – are you triggered? Did that just make you mad?” I have come to realize we want the same things, namely, an equitable society and healthy planet, a world where we can share our gifts and receive the gifts of others. We just have wildly different strategies to get there. But we’ve influenced each other, listened to each other, and every time I talk to him my heart grows a little.

This weekend Rose and some girlfriends had a little verbal skirmish about politics, finding themselves on different sides of ideologies. Everyone said their piece and then they ate Halloween candy and went ice-skating. “It was a little annoying,” Rose reported, “but I love my friends.” 

In the spirit of expanding our hearts and minds, I am offering 4, free 30-minute sessions in which together we look at what may be motivating someone whose behavior seems bewildering with the most generosity we can muster. This could include anti-vaxxers, pro-maskers, your ex who feeds the kids donuts for dinner, the gun-toting “patriot” at the BLM march, your father-in-law who has cancelled your vote forever. First 4 people to email me at sanjuandrive(at)frontier(dot)net are signed up.

See y’all on the other side.

Love and cake,


In other orbits,

:: Col’s been cooking his own meals. In the microwave. Slay me.

:: Col and I got to help Dan pack out a buck deer past bedtime! Col carried a shoulder and both rib racks. Rose was invited too, but declined, “You know that’s not really my thing.”

:: The teenagers carved pumpkins!

“I just love that you two are still willing to carve pumpkins!”

“Mom, you’ve already said that twice.”

Col working on his Black Lives Matter pumpkin

:: Not squirrels, but elk ankle hocks. “For projects,” Dan says.

:: Family photo #1: Is this thing on?  Kids are not amused.

#2:One kid is still not amused.

:: Arlo turned one years old on Sunday. One of his presents from Rose was letting him lick her as much as he wanted for one day.

Every night we all pile on top of Arlo, the kids snuggling him like he’s both the family medicine man and the goofiest baby brother. It’s so funny because Col and Rose are about one centimeter away from each other, gushing love at the dog, and I just have to think some of it is spilling out onto each other.

ELECTION CAKE RECIPE -sweet, nutty, dense, fruity, spicy.


1 cup grated apple

1 cup grated carrot

1/2 cup applesauce or 1/4 cup yogurt

1/2 cup shredded coconut

1/4 cup raisins

1/3 cup sunflower seeds

1/3 – 1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup melted butter or oil

2 TBSP molasses

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups flour (if gluten free, almond flour is fab)

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

to taste: salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves

Preheat oven to 350F. Mix everything except flour together thoroughly, then fold in flour lightly. Bake at 350F for 35 – 45 mins depending on how unreliable your oven is, like ours!

the magical formula of physics in which the more you give the more is available

2020 October 20
by Rachel Turiel

Last night, after a full weekend of butchering Dan’s bull elk, the kids joined us for the finale of packaging up the elk grind. It wasn’t quite like the old days when Rose skipped around the solarium draped in cheap purses and wielding a sharpie, delightedly scrawling her name across a bazillion packages; no longer was Col poised on a chair, belly to the butchering table, saucer-eyed and aiming a sharp knife at raw muscle meat , all the adults slightly awed and terrified. 

No, this year I tried to pull the teenagers out of their rooms via text message. “Would you be willing to help for an hour to finish up packaging?” I typed out, feeling extremely attached the outcome I wanted.

“I’m working,” Col replied, referring to his eBay research involving Pokemon cards and a very dubious wealth-building scheme.

“I would, but I’m folding laundry,” Rosie texted back. 

I was staring down a dizzying mound of ground elk, pork fat and spices, which needed to be thoroughly mixed, hand-shaped into 1-pound patties, wrapped in plastic wrap then butcher paper, taped up, labeled and sunk into the freezer. It was 9pm, the hour at which we’re all usually tucked into bed, the house quiet and free from any aspirations of effort. I had been at this butchering table all day. My body ached, a certain panic settling into my joints.

In the paradigm that permeates our parenting culture, I had two choices. I could give up on my need for support, which would likely involve telling myself that my kids are selfish and unwilling to help others. This discouraging story would embed itself in my consciousness, becoming the explanation for why the bathroom floor still hasn’t been swept after 3 reminders, or why the house is peppered with dirty socks, flung from sweaty, selfish feet. 

The other option would be to fight for my need for support by motivating them with guilt or bribes, which still involves telling myself the same story: I need help and these selfish, self-absorbed kids will only make room for my needs if it benefits them.  

I’m interested in something different.

I showed up in person at their bedroom doors, blood-smeared apron, hair disheveled, and said “Hey, I know you’re busy with others things, and I wish Daddy and I had planned better so we would have finished up during daylight. But I’m super exhausted and would so love your help. It would make this final stretch so much more bearable to have all four of us in there. Would you be open to giving us an hour of help?”

And then I paused with a silent prayer about their willingness to stretch and my willingness to hear no gracefully.

Soon all four of us were in the solarium, each of us focused on a task, all contributing to the whole. “It’s a family affair,” Dan sang as he dumped another grinder-load of meat in front of me for spicing. I shaped patties of meat, while Col ripped squares of plastic wrap, into which Rose swaddled the meat. Over and over. I could feel my burden lift, carried now by four sets of hands. A small balloon of celebration rose in me for what’s possible.

Col and Rose weren’t excited about helping, but they were willing. And contributing to others’ happiness actually boosts our happiness because we’re wired for interdependence; interdependence runs on mutual generosity. It’s the game where everyone wins.

And yes, I could have insisted they help. (And, there are daily and weekly contributions that we each have agreed to). But when we help out of obligation we miss out on the beneficial feelings generated by true willingness to give to others. This willingness creates the scaffolding that supports cooperation, creative problem-solving, fearless honesty, and the trust that everyone’s needs matter. This is the fuel I want our family to run on, rather than the hope of reward or fear of punishment. And willingness to show up is sometimes enough to get a bull elk in the freezer.

The next day, I got this text from Rose who was biking home from her job at a coffee shop, “I’m five minutes from being home. Wondering if you could prepare a snack for me so I could get right on my schoolwork? Something like chips, vegetables, fruit roll and something sweet?”

I was in the middle of writing this, but yes, like a magical formula of physics in which the more you give the more is available, Rose’s willingness to care for my needs creates more willingness in me to care for hers.

The willingness snack plate.

How to Make a Request using principles of nonviolent communication

  • Requests are clear and specific. Rather than, “Can you give the dog some exercise?” You might ask, “Can you throw the ball for the dog for a few minutes before you go to school?”
  • Requests express what you want, not what you don’t want. Instead of “Please stop flinging your sweaty socks all over the house,” you might ask, “I’d love for all dirty socks to go in the hamper. Can you do that?”
  • Requests are doable. A successful request won’t compromise anyone’s values, and usually doesn’t contain the words “never” or “always.” 
  • Unlike a demand, a request maintains everyone’s dignity and allows for honest assessment of capacity by allowing for the option to say no, or for negotiations. “I’m willing to help package the meat but I’d like to be able to  listen to music/join you in ten minutes/choose the butchering tasks I do.”
  • Requests are more enjoyable to meet when we know how it will contribute to others’ happiness. “If you could silence your phone while we’re chatting for the next half hour I would so appreciate a chance to have your full attention.”
  • Sometimes finding willingness, rather than a big YES, is enough. And, willingness is a muscle that grows in proportion to its use. “I know you’re enjoying reading right now, but do you have any willingness to throw the ball for the dog for five minutes this morning?”
  • If someone is hesitant to say yes, get curious about the obstacle. There may be an easy solution.“Yes, totally fine if you follow up on some texts before silencing your phone for half an hour.”
  • If it’s not a request, don’t phrase it as one. We all appreciate honesty.
  • If an alternative solution can’t be found, and it is a true request, accept the ‘no.’ When people are free to say no without consequence, trust will build, which leads to willingness and the joy of knowing a ‘yes’ is a true yes, which is the best kind of yes.

p.s. New Class Announcements here . For non-locals!

p.p.s. These movies were so, so good: Ladybird and Ali

celebration is an extreme sport

2020 September 15
by Rachel Turiel


We are cruising towards the San Luis Valley after dipping in the Rio Grande, our wet bathing suits standing in for air conditioning in our elderly Subaru. Col is plugged into music while reading Gone Girl; Rose is ceaselessly texting with friends she’s been efforting to keep up with since we left home 2.18 hours ago. Though we have granted unlimited access to music and texting, the phones are like extra personalities in the car; I try not to catastrophize. 

Dan is methodically shelling acorns in the passenger seat, and I am talking talking talking to him, trying to cover everything while he is captive here beside me. This has less to do with kid interruptions and more with the rarity of finding Dan stationary for a couple hours. 

The acorn hulls start to split on their own as they dry and mature

Col unplugs long enough to ask, wariness coating his voice, “So, what exactly will we be doing on this trip?”

“Oh, swimming, hot springs, hanging out, relaxing, eating well, hiking, you know, just being together before you two go back to school.”

I am hoping this registers somewhere in the realm of not as good as hanging with friends but as long as I can keep the Gangsta Rap rolling, better than staying home and doing chores. 

“You guys aren’t like typical Colorado parents,” Col notes. “You know, you’re not like mountain bikers, climbers, skiers, rafters, like a lot of my friends’ parents.”

“True. But I once broke 400 points in Scrabble,” I tell him. 

Dan throws a few acorn hulls out the window into the sagebrush. “And, I know when the acorns are ripe.”


We leave Joyful Journey Hot Springs, which is an unbelievable bouquet of relaxation (see above: not so much extreme sports). The night before I take a picture of Rose in one of the hot springs with a pinked up sunset lighting the Sangre De Cristo mountains behind her. This is expressly for her Instagram account and she asks for my editorial assistance coming up with a caption.

Rose and I are tinkering with the exact wording, when I realize that social media is a little like how dogs find a really good stick and parade it in front of each other. Did you see this? Isn’t this a good stick? I found a good stick so I belong, right? RIGHT? I want to implant this insight directly into Rose’s brain so it appears to have originated from her. We all want belonging, but it doesn’t live on social media. But, no hearts have changed from a mom-lecture. I wrestle my agenda to the ground, and help her spell Sangre de Cristo.

We drive to Salida, both kids plugged into music, giving Dan free-reign on R-rated innuendo from the passenger seat.


This year the kids were ambivalent about going on our annual end of summer trip. They’d miss their friends, they don’t love our style of camping, they’re afraid of endless hours of boredom, filled only with acorns and Scrabble. We decided to ask them what would make our end of summer trip fun for them.

“Not camping,” one said, 

“Stopping in towns for cold drinks,” the other said.

“And thrift stores.”

Part of me was in full blown panic: we’ve ruined their love of camping! And another part was like, Seriously? That’s all it’ll take? Deal! Col and Rose did go backpacking and car-camping with us this summer, and though I love the stripping away of complexities and dubious American culture when we’re in the woods together, more important is the being together. Always.

We stop for our first cold drinks before we even leave Durango.

(And, still we bring two coolers containing eight jars).

DAY 2 cont..

Rose makes a project of outfitting us at the Salida thrift stores. (Not altruistically; have you seen our style?) She finds Col several bathing suits and Dan a snazzy shirt that he puts on immediately and hardly removes for the rest of the trip. Col selects a black, felt fedora which quickly becomes an appendage.

We swim in the Arkansas, slurp ice cream and head to Monarch Pass, acorn shells flying out the window. Dan and I sing along to the Rolling Stones’ Angie (he replacing Annn-geee with Rach-ieeeee) and the kids are stone-faced in the back, likely trying to tamp down the visceral possibility of their old, non-sporty parents in mutual passion. 

New(ish) bathing suits from Salida thrift stores!

We arrive at the Monarch Mountain Lodge, a cavernous ski hotel, outwardly decrepit and suspiciously empty. Eerie comparisons to The Shining’s Overlook echo in the empty stairwells. The kids descend upon our hotel room with the enthusiasm of people who’ve spent hours shivering under tarps in the wilderness rain. We get permission to set up our cookstove in a vacant banquet hall, and Dan and I crack beers and cook elk fajitas, our dog Arlo woofing protectively at every sound, while the kids watch Simpsons reruns in our room.

The memory of having kids underfoot is so distant, when I turn my head towards the past I can barely make out those days. Now, Arlo and I make regular trips up and down our home hallway to see if anyone needs us. “Just checking in!” I wave, when their bedroom doors open to me, like a friendly guidance counselor, available but not pushy. Used to be there was no separation between us; any thought that bloomed in their heads was headed my way. Their small bodies needed regular plugging into the large recharging station of my own.

Now, I hear the clock ticking. Everything’s recalibrated. Every connection is a celebration, as if any day now these kids will don their parent-repelling armor and shut us out completely. At the end of the day, like our own governing board for the project of raising teenagers, Dan and I review the small celebrations: she held my hand in public; he asked me to wrestle with him on the couch; she shared her feelings without blame; he asked for a salad.

Empty banquet hall at The Overlook, Monarch Lodge.

Dan ceremoniously sets a table by the enormous heat-leaking windows, and brings the kids in. They are sweetly awed by the cooler-sponsored buffet line. Col, who often admires Arlo’s life of sleeping, eating and playing, leans into me in our corner booth, all doped-up from TV, and says, “How did you guys make this dinner so good?”

“I may not have a kayak, but I can cook, right?” Dan replies.

After dinner we take a walk on the trails, each parent walking with a kid and then switching partners for the walk back. Col grabs my hand, like an involuntary reflex from a different era. I inquire if I can ask him things. Things regarding upcoming school, soccer, girls. Sure, he says. I try to engineer a curiosity that’s attentive though not over-bearing, like hey, if you wanna tell me about the girl you’ve been texting, cool; if not, we can talk about Tupac and Biggie. He tells me things I didn’t know, which I meet with casualness, rather than taking notes for a future board meeting with Dan.


Morning in the banquet room, we fry a cornucopia of an omelet while the kids snooze. Later, we take another walk, pack up and head towards lovely Gunnison (cold drinks, thrift store, and our favorite town park for lunch and soccer). When we hit cell reception, Rose gets deluged by texts, so much checking in, keeping up, what are you doing? eating? wearing?

“It’s hard to see what my friends are doing without me, but I’m always going to be missing something,” Rose announces bravely, trying to convince herself.

“Do you have to ask your friends what they’re doing?” I ask. “Cause, it seems like knowing makes you feel worse.” 

“Well, I have to ask because then I know what I’m missing and can prepare myself rather than worrying about what it could be.”

Col shoots her a bewildered look from behind his headphones.

Sometimes it seems like all we can hope for is progressively less suffering.

It gets hot quick and we plunge into Blue Mesa Reservoir, no gear, no sports, just us, human-powered in the deliciously clear cold Gunnison River water. 

Why are swimming dogs so cute?

My new(ish) bathing suit, found by Rose at the Gunnison thrift.

We check into our cabin on the Little Cimmaron River, where we’ll be the next two nights. Rose announces that there is no wifi nor cell reception. “It’s probably a blessing in disguise,” she proclaims with shaky faith. 

Dan and I spot muskrats in a nearby pond and bring the kids back after dinner to view the scruffy little aquatic mammals. We creep around the pond, certain the muskrats will come out at dusk, but the water is still. We crouch at the shore, wanting the kids to be compelled by the possibility of wildness, and wishing, as always, we could have a few more moments with them.


At our one room cabin on the Little Cimmaron River, acorns are drying on every surface. Arlo is woofing protectively (and embarrassingly) at our neighbors. Col is all amped up, wanting to snuggle-wrestle everyone. “At least he’s not being Quiet, Surly Teenager,” I say to Dan. 

“I’m going to become Quiet, Surly Teenager very soon,” he deadpans.

We plan a hike into Black Canyon of the Gunnison, wait for the kids to riot, and when they don’t, we paste on our ‘hiking is a perfectly normal family activity’ smiles.

It’s quiet on the trail, and we descend into the canyon, steep, dark walls enveloping us. We spot trout in the river; butterflies flash orange and yellow like summer’s last flowers. 

“I’m just really happy we’re doing this,” Rose says grabbing my hand. 

We reach the Gunnison river, shimmery clear and cold. Swallows dip and race over the water. We throw sticks in the river for Arlo, sit in the sun and Dan asks, “Can I get mushy with you kids?”

“No,” is the general response. But Dan pushes on. “As your dad and a person who loves you very much I want you to feel belonging, significance and happiness. And as the challenges come, I recognize you won’t always be happy. I know it’s not my job to fix your sadness and I just want you to know I honor your process to meet those challenges in your way.”

Is he actually listening? Who knows.

Back at our cabin, Rose discovers a tiny sliver of cell reception between two cars in the parking lot, and immediately gorges from the banquet of what everyone else is doing (reminding me of when she’d wake from a nap at two years old, disheveled and disoriented, and immediately ask, “What Col doing?”)

I’m annoyed that she tracked down the cell reception like a junkie needing a fix; worried about the emotional costs of trying to make meaning about our own worth and belonging through following others’ lives; and sad, because I want her to find enough in the present moment to hold her. And I remember what Dan told the kids. There will be challenges, and we can’t fix them. We will be here to hold your painful feelings with you, but not for you. 

We eat elk burgers outside on the picnic table while hulking semis, rerouted off Hwy 70 because of forest fires, lumber by. After dinner Dan pulls out our annual end-of-summer questionnaires, and we sit around scrawling in our answers: What surprised you about this year? What are you celebrating about this past year? “How many weeks did I run that summer camp?” Col asks.

Later, after spending 20 minutes at her wifi spot, Rose is ready to visit the muskrat pond. “I guess I didn’t really need to catch up,” Rose concedes, though has a FaceTime call scheduled for tomorrow. The swallows launch circus dives through the cottonwoods, but the pond is still. We crouch in the thistly grass, waiting for the charming dog-paddling rodent to surface.

There is a campfire roaring in the community fire pit when we walk back from the pond, muskrat-sightingless, and we grab seats. A young man strums the guitar and sings passionately about murder, mayhem and LSD. An older couple who look like they just got dropped in from America’s heartland nod along appreciatively, and the owner of the cabins sips a wine cooler and tells stories about her worst guests ever. Col and Rose take it all in, each kid leaning against a parent, and I could stay here forever, semis rolling by into the night.


It’s our last day. We pack up the acorns, the last dregs of our food, wet bathing suits and books, and I keep wanting to invent reasons to stay a little longer. One last trip to the muskrat pond! The kids, who can smell home, grudgingly agree, though they no longer believe in the possibility of muskrats. We walk past last night’s fire pit, under the mammoth cottonwoods, and over the drought-anemic Little Cimmaron River. I update the kids on the plot twists of the book I’m reading, and like it’s old-days storytime, each kid grabs one of my hands unselfconsciously.

Yellow warblers in willows are spotlit like exquisite statuettes in the sun. Cows laze in the grass beyond the pond. I miss the kids already, because I know they will keep leaving us in different ways. Two muskrats, so small they must be babies, cross the pond, and we point and shout and laugh and celebrate. 

Acorn waffles with applesauce. Hells to the yeah.

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