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2014 July 28
by Rachel Turiel

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It’s Saturday morning, late July, the sun shimmering like a pool of heat you could drown in. The kids are stationed at Lego headquarters, where small, hard-edged plastic shapes sprawl menacingly. Dan and I dream of the high country, where time-limited wildflowers have arrived like dear friends for the briefest of visits.

Luring the children away from home and onto a hike requires a shrewd craftiness which is surely a developmental stage, for parents.

“We’re going on a pika search!” Dan bullhorns towards the Lego pile. He pulls out our Colorado mammal book and gets the kids oohing over photos of the furry, dish-eared critter that lives in alpine rock piles. Something snaps precisely into their motivational receptor sites because the kids pack notebooks and pens, ready to record very important data on this high-altitude member of the rabbit family.

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American pika. Dan took this picture at next weekend’s camping destination. Someone’s going to have to break the news to Rose that she can’t invite the pika into her tent.

We bounce and rattle up the forest service road. A sleek pine marten bounds through the spruce. Drama builds in the back seat surrounding who will finish their muffin first, the bizarre and fervent goal to have the last crumb standing. We pass meadows colonized by spreading white islands of the noxious weed, ox-eye daisy (and in a nod to Lynyrd Skynyrd, Dan sings “I can see the ox-eye slowly creeping…”), and the kids launch cutting-edge challenges: “Try not to whistle for five minutes,” Rose propositions Col.

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Corn husk lily yarmulke. It *was* shabbat after all.

We park and hike up through the trees, into to the alpine, where the whole world is laid out on a platter of green. The meadows flare with color, and we scare up a buck from his day bed under a talus field.

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We bring the kids here to show them that you can fill your heart without accruing a single object, that the earth overflows with miracles that require only our attention, that entire ecosystems thrive with each species taking just enough. Maybe it’s far-fetched, but I’m hoping that these trips act as an answer to why I won’t buy the kids toys that provide a 2-hour hit of joy before becoming forgotten under the couch. (Which, truthfully, is most toys. And so, I say “no” a lot). I believe children have the greatest power to find simple joy in the art of living and playing and being, and I don’t want to dampen or confuse this ability with unnecessary stuff.

Someday, when I’m an old woman (if I am so lucky) with nothing left to lose, I will publicly share all my strong and unpopular opinions. Like, that acquiring more stuff will never, ever bring true, lasting happiness. And that our confusion over this is bringing great harm to ourselves and our earth. But until then, it’s the kids who get my dubious sermons.

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We scurry from columbine to penstemon to the impressively adapted alpine willow, no taller than a child’s pinky finger. We patrol the vast talus fields, listening for the telltale pika squeak, looking for the plant bundles they dry in the sun. We hear only one pika—not typically a shy animal—over several hours, and my heart clenches in alarm. It is said that as our world warms, the pika, designed to survive winter at 12,000 feet, can die if exposed to temperatures as mild as 78 degrees.

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We cheer ourselves up by searching for indian paintbrush hybrids. Rose is thrilled to discover what happens when the pink paintbrushes hang out with the cream colored ones. 

For the next few hours, we ramble around, nibble wild plants, and collect this wild world into our hearts. At this age, undoubtedly, the kids get more excited to watch a movie than go hiking, but I can see the subtle forces of nature chiseling their characters, reminding them of what endures, and seeping, quietly, inside, where it counts.

* I honestly couldn’t think of a title to this post. Offer your ideas and I’ll cook you a roadkill steak with sauteed garden weeds on the side.

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this time of year

2014 July 23
by Rachel Turiel

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This time of year, I become greedy for the monsoons,

for the cool hand of rain to quiet my thirst.

As if the clouds owe me something.

When really, they’re simply the curators of water droplets,

aggregating and unravelling.

Lifting and carrying oceans throughout the sky.

As if that wasn’t miracle enough.

 

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Rain falls on the Earth, and we love that.

2014 July 16
by Rachel Turiel

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We’re at 10,500 feet, tents tucked in the tall spruce, the La Plata river bending clear and cold below us. Wildflowers splatter the slopes like a Jackson Pollack painting. Dan steps back to admire his “tarp-craft,” and admits, “Well, now I kind of hope it rains.”

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Rose spots a chipmunk, no doubt head of campsite clean-up, names it, “Chitty,” and becomes very curious about which foods in our cooler Chitty would most enjoy. “Are you hoping she’ll eat out of your hand?” I ask Rose. “No, I’m hoping she’ll sit on my lap,” my daughter replies with alarming sincerity. Col takes a Round Robin-style approach to camp life: he throws rocks in the river, target shoots with the BB gun, and forms an archive of mud cakes on a coveted piece of plywood Dan finds.

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While Dan and I say a million times a day: “the kids will appreciate this when they’re older” (this, being all our fringe, non-mainstream ways: Why go out to eat when we have a freezer full of roadkill? Pack your bags, camping again!), I often wonder what it’s like growing up in this family now, from their perspective. I mean, it’s possible that Rose dreams of thumb-happy weekends on an iPhone. And Col? He issued the bizarre request recently that we do some traveling outside Colorado, as if we’re people who actually leave the zipcode.

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Afternoon: lightning smacks the nearby ridges, hail pelts the ground, a new stream picks a route right through camp, waterfalls swell, the river turns muddy and high. We huddle under the tarps, layer on clothes, and give the kids our toothiest smiles, trying to relax any brainwaves registering alarm. The storm persists; morale sags. By hour four, the kids ask to go home.

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Dan tells them, “Rain falls on the earth, and we love that. Can’t we be part of that?” The kids are dubious, and yet the rain feels like a metaphor, something about enduring discomfort, allowing it in, trusting it will pass. A meditation teacher once told me, “we practice (meditation) to increase our capacity to endure discomfort.” I believe parenthood works towards this end, too.

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You will be happy to know that I always take my fashion sense to the woods. Also, IPA gluten-free beer pretty tasty, minus the embarrassment over buying gluten-free beer. But, plus the excitement of: beer!

Dan gets us through some low points by telling stories of his childhood summers camping in spongy, soaked Eastern Canada with his dad. If it wasn’t rain, it was (say it with me)…bugs! Dinner was what malingered in the cooler, titled “goulash:” a fretful compilation of blackened bananas, whole, bony fish, a few shriveled garbanzo beans. Col and Rose howl with laughter, forgetting for a blessed minute, the rain soaking their ponchos.

Six hours later, the storm lets up. The mountains are instantly greener. A blue patch of sky spreads like a rip in the clouds. “That’ll freshen up the flowers,” Dan says like a parody of his own indefatigable optimism. The sun delivers one last blast of hope before crawling over the western ridge. We eat a dutch oven meal of warm, meaty deliciousness, remove our ponchos, and I read to the kids around the fire. We go to bed.

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The next morning is cold and clear, sun sparkling off every green, living thing. We hike to an alpine lake, and in an ironic twist Rose begs me to hike farther with her. The ground gets marshy and Rose states the obvious: “Well, take off your shoes,” hers long since abandoned. We sploosh through the soupy wildflowers, the lake mud, waking up the soles of my feet.

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Now home, I think of everything the children saw on this trip: the baby grouse tucked into tall grass while her mother led us away in the opposite direction, deer sneaking around misty morning slopes, the robin who forged an aerial path through camp to her nest, insects wriggling in beak. I don’t know what level of future appreciation for these experiences will dawn on the kids someday, but I believe that right now they know how much their parents love wild places, rain and all.

OUTTAKES:

Alpine sunflower. Rose had a need to touch flowers as she walked. Not sure why, but seems auspicious.

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Our new camping tradition is this dutch oven “Daddy bread” that Dan makes our first morning. This one sponsored by chokecherry-applesauce.ruby6

Baby grouse that Rose may or may not have touched, making up for Chitty never really being all that sociable.ruby8

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On beyond dandelion

2014 July 9
by Rachel Turiel

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Apropos of nothing in this post, Col has been fashioning spears for spear fishing. It’s been one of those things that as a parent I’m like, “Oh cute, my son’s talking and planning a lot for this spear fishing thing.” And then I actually tune in and realize he’s fashioned four different types of spears from Dan’s broken arrows and is damn serious about nailing a trout.

I was walking out the door when Dan called after me, “hey, thanks for the weeds.” A tangle of toothy greens draped in balsamic vinegrette occupied a corner of his lunch plate. I searched his face for sarcasm and found only sincerity. This is where we’re at. No apologies.

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It’s almost funny, how much time I spend coaxing reluctant food from soil, while the weeds grow (and grow and grow…). I’ve constructed hemp-cloth shades for the lettuce, tried to psyche the spinach out of its Julyish propensity to flower, and watched a new row of bok choi get mowed down by some nocturnal insect overnight. Meanwhile, the purslane weaves itself through the carrot patch like there’s no place it’d rather grow than the arid Southwest. The forest-green amaranth grows like a trick-plant: pick ten leaves and they’ve remade themselves the next day. The lamb’s quarters exhale a meadow of greenness into our salads.

dandy3Purslane: Eat me for your daily Omega 3 intake!

Eating weeds is about going with rather than against the flow, about working less and reaping more, about becoming more intimate with your garden, about preparing for a changing climate, and wringing the most nutrition from your food.

It may be true that every Brooklyn hipster and his gluten-free dog purchases a $5 bundled bouquet of dandelion greens at the weekly farmers market. Even notable doctor, Jonny Bowden, listed dandelion greens as a starred vegetable in his book, 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth. But, lets talk about the lesser known weeds, common mallow, alfalfa, amaranth, lamb’s quarters, purslane, red clover, and more. The ones which defy your curses, efforts and neglect, growing into gorgeous caricatures of their own trickster healthfulness.

I’m offering classes this summer, on fermentation, canning, writing, but first: edible weeds!

List of all my summer/fall 2014 homesteading and writing classes HERE. (Thanks to everyone who’s been sharing the info on these classes. Means a lot to me!)

Identify (and eat!) Edible Weeds

Sunday, July 20th, 10am – 11am; Location: TBA upon sign up. Cost = $15, or 2 spots for $20. Kids free with a parent.

Common garden weeds are packed with nutrients, adapted to native soil conditions and natural rainfall. Come to my home garden and learn to identify common, edible weeds, the best time to pick them, which parts are edible and how to prepare them. Come home with handouts, recipes, and nutritional info. Sample some delicious, easy to prepare treats. Limited to 10 people. Must sign up by Friday, July 18th. To sign up, e-mail me at sanjuandrive(at)frontier(dot)net.

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This is not to say we’re not all about some garden kale, too.

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freefalling

2014 July 2
by Rachel Turiel

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Latest foster kitty, Boris. He may or may not be named after Boris in The Goldfinch.

We’re freefalling into summer. The kids are a grubby blur. I catch them scarfing fistfuls of garden peas; daily vegetable consumption: Check. Dan calls from work with ideas for our next three camping destinations. I’m bowing at the holy fucking temple of turnip greens (sauteed with oil, garlic, salt; who knew?). The rate at which I pull weeds is directly related to how much lettuce is left in the garden: edible weeds currently tipping the scales. The kids have feralized within the neighborhood, traveling like hobos from trampoline to trampoline. Best way to find them is to open a window and listen. In the evenings, the chickens run to the worm-spangled compost, proving that things are happening in those brains regarding memory.

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Tonight’s perfectly respectable salad-to-be of amaranth and purslane. 

We seek water—creeks, rivers, lakes—to soothe the pinch of the Southwestern sun. The kids insert goose feather sails into driftwood boats and point them downstream towards the Pacific ocean. At home they mold endless mud cookies, drying them systematically on boards, to be hurled, concrete-dry, at a piece of plywood. Thwack. They have a hardened row waiting for their friend Jonny, his birthday gift. Inside, Col reads the comic book TinTin and it’s all still so new—this boy, reading—that I have to refrain from asking, So, when you say you’re reading, what exactly does that mean? 

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Homeschooling at the kitchen table has dropped off the map. However, I always feel a sense of accomplishment when my kids spend the day outside pulling entertainment from the twin engines of nature and imagination. “Look, they’re so…creative, er, I mean innovative, or, well, um…happy,” I tell Dan. But, I get confused sometimes, because what was it I’m supposed to be preparing my children for? Happiness? An income-producing job? Honestly, it might be something more like: need very little so you don’t have to rely on that income-producing job. 

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Sulphur euphoria sets in at The Geyser. Between Dolores and Rico; highly recommended, though I can still smell sulfur on my skin 2 showers later.

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The rare June roadkill, backstraps in cooler, nabbed outside Telluride last weekend.

I’ve always liked this quote by Howard Thurman:

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Because we’re pretty good at that, I mean, really, when are the children not coming alive? You should see them at the river. On the neighborhood trampolines popping like popcorn. Huddled pointedly over their sticky orbs in the backyard mud pit. Their very brain architecture renders them built to come alive. I envy them their buoyancy, and siphon off what they generously spill.

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Recently, at Junction Creek, Col scrambled up a boulder, discovered fish below and spent the next two hours attempting to bomb trout with rocks. Hey – leave those fish alone, I almost shouted, before discovering that this nine year old was uncannily close to nabbing dinner. He’s already fashioning a spear for our next trip. I’ll bring the cooler full of ice.

As usual, parenthood is a slew of questions I can’t answer. But, here’s a knockout recipe for cabbage/carrot ferment.

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This is the original recipe. Isn’t it beautiful? Red cabbage with turmeric and ginger. But honestly it tasted like medicine. So I cut it with carrots and now, it’s dreamy.

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Cabbage/Carrot Ferment (the easiest ferment recipe yet. No pounding necessary).

Ingredients:

~ makes one quart ~

2 cups chopped cabbage

2 cups grated carrots

1-2 TBSP chopped ginger

1-2 TBSP chopped turmeric

1/2 cup water

1/2 TBSP salt (if this is too much salt, try 1 tsp)

Directions

Mix first four ingredients in a bowl. Mix water and salt in a separate container. Pack veggies into a quart jar. Pour salt water on top. Press veggies down below liquid with a fork. Add more water if necessary to bring liquid above veggies. Cap. Set on counter for 3-7 days. Check daily and re-press vegs below liquid if needed. Taste for preferred sourness.

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Boris and Lila, available for adoption in one week…you might have to adopt Rose with them.

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just a dream some of us had

2014 June 24
by Rachel Turiel

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Dan ushers the kids into the truck like an eager cruise director, hot for tips. The four of us bounce up the forest service road, kids snacking in the backseat.

Rose: Did you just eat only the taco and not the lettuce?

Col: No.

Rose: Let me see, open your mouth.

We rattle up through the dusty pine-oak belt, through the aspens reflecting sunlight like a thousand fractured mirrors, and into the cool, spruce-fir zone, which only Southwesterners could appreciate as green and lush. And we do.

Up here, the background music is grosbeaks, western tanagers, thrushes, and Rose tied to a truck wheel, whinnying.

Col: Lets say you’re my horse and I have to tie you up.

Rose: Neighhhhhhhhhh.

Col: And I named you Lero.

Rose: But sometimes you call me Weirdo.

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Lero/Weirdo hitched to a skateboard, pulling her owner up and down the road. 

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And up. And down. 

We’re here, just us, for three days, and I begin to see all the subtle forces shaping these kids. There’s the way Dan turns everything into a song, discharging tension at crux moments, like teethbrushing. There’s my DIY sensibilities around food, elevating a mug of hot chocolate (scooped from a tin) to a rare and exotic treat around the campfire. (And Dan’s response to Rose’s request for a second cup: “That was just a dream some of us had.” Thanks, Joni Mitchell). And, there’s the time we spend here, in the woods, under the stars, in the weather, within the wild forces of nature.

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Watching cow elk and their newly-born calves, romping and nursing and skating around snow patches. 

Col and Rose are finding their place here, in the wild. And I’ve written and deleted this sentence a hundred times over the years of writing this blog, but the truth is that this world is changing. Their kids may never see what we see today. This worries and saddens me immensely. And of all the things—mere trinkets them all—that I do to lessen this burden, sometimes it seems the best I can do is to bring the kids here; to bear witness, to invite them to fall in love with this wild, rich, generous world.

It’s impossible to know what will sift out from our time in the woods, what tangible experiences are taking root in the children’s souls. A secret thrill electrifies my heart when Col points out a golden eagle, turning circles over a high ridge. And when, after a strenuous hike, Rose announces at our destination of 11,000 feet, “What a beautiful view, I’m so glad we came,” a box marked “perseverence” (or maybe, “hells yes!”) gets checked in my mind.

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Junco nest.

I can’t quantify this knowledge, these experiences, the enthusiasm with which Rose greets a red columbine, eager to suck the nectar from an elegant, red spur. There will be no “local bird identification” section on the SAT; no colleges looking for students who can scrap together a salad from the forest.

But this education, this spending time in nature feels as foundational as reading, writing, arithmetic. It’s a force, an entity, a benefactor shaping our lives, offering us a roadmap to what’s valuable, while exposing the worthlessness of much we hold onto. So here we are, getting to know the wild world, because we can’t love and protect what we don’t know.

We took the kids on a hike, which like many things, we’d have never set off on if we knew exactly how rigorous it would be (Lucky we didn’t know). One thousand feet up in one mile, no trail. We distracted the kids from their own burning calves with the search for the elusive fairy slipper orchid.

Found:

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Calypso bulbosa

Rose eagerly sampled all the edible wildflowers:

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Red columbine nectar: sweet as sugar. But, as Col says, “different than cake.”

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Glacier lillies, sweet and juicy, especially the torpedo-like buds, named “bananas” by Rose.

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Dan feeding Rose a “banana.”

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Blueberry flowers, a sweet-tang pop of flavor.

Home now, and this is good, too. We love our civilized world. I couldn’t breathe without books. Dan is watching (with copious whoops and hollas) the World Cup on the smudged screen of his laptop. Col is magnetized to his legos, and Rose has recently discovered emoticons and wants to send smiley texts to everyone she knows.

On our last night camping, Col whispered from the nest of his sleeping bag, “I’m really glad we’re here, and I’m also looking forward to going home tomorrow.” I felt the same way exactly. I sincerely hope there’s a way that nature and civilization can walk hand and hand into the future.

xo

Rachel

 

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DIY Kitchen: apple-rhubarb crisp (grain-free)

2014 June 16
by Rachel Turiel


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The truth is that while this apple-rhubarb crisp was such a winner that even Rose (who has very refined and precise food tastes) announced, “You made it exactly how I like it!” (a proclamation as rare and precious as a thousand endangered butterflies taking flight for the very first time), well, the truth is…do you actually need a recipe for grain-free rhubarb crisp?

Because, if you’re like me, and you eat mostly grain-free (except occasional sushi, last week’s gluten free beer I’m still epic-ing over, and lusty stolen bites of the kids’ mac and cheese), you already know how to transmutate any recipe into its grain-free cousin. And if, more likely, you’re not like me, and have no problem with grains, then you’re going to look at this recipe and think, is this for the pet rabbit?

But, I was so happy with how this came out—sweet and tart, rich and nutty, the vanilla extract uniting every flavor like the peacemaker of the kitchen—I figured I’d share, and like everything else here, invite you to take what’s useful and leave the rest.

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“Apple-rhubarb crisp in the pan” – or, my usual apologetically ambivalent food phototography.

Apple-rhubarb crisp

Makes one large panful (how’s that for accuracy?)

Ingredients:

3-5 cups chopped rhubarb

5-8 cups chopped apples (or 4 cups applesauce if you still have some in the freezer from last fall; or strawberries…pears…berries)

3 cups nuts/seeds (I use equal parts sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds, because they’re already the right size without any crushing needed, and OK, real truth: affordable).

1 1/2 cups shredded coconut

1 stick softened butter

1/2 cup honey (Optional; I used honey first time, skipped it 2nd, didn’t miss it, so long as you have apples or some other sweet fruit to balance rhubarb’s tartness)

1 -2 TBSP vanilla

Cinnamon and salt to taste

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“The crisp topping,” safe for rabbits.

Directions:

Cut apples and rhubarb. Heat them in a pot on low heat with a splash of water and honey if you want for 20 mins. In bowl, mix butter, nuts/seeds, shredded coconut, vanilla, cinnamon, salt. When apple/rhubarb mix has softened, spread in bottom of large casserole dish. Put “crisp” mix on top. Bake at 350F for 25-35 minutes or until brown on top.

If this apple-rhubarb crisp doesn’t appeal to you, Rose is happy to sell you a mud pie:
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the willingness to be awed

2014 June 11
by Rachel Turiel


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How I know I’ve been in a really good mood lately:

Instead of my usual Disney-cynicism, I’ve been fully participating with Col and Rose in the ranking of songs off the Frozen soundtrack, feeling, er, quite passionate about my own favorites. I cruise through Facebook, clicking “like” on everything, because, wow, look how much people adore their dogs, kids, food, and inspirational quotes! Daily, there are tiny celebrations to be had: a field of wild iris; the voluptuous curves of a garden radish; waking to birdsong; the public library, where you can borrow books for free. (Loved this and this; and this freaking literary masterpiece, with which I’m currently enraptured – though at 771 pages, it’s going to kill me with library fines).

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The days are warm, the nights are cool. There are less places we have to be at a certain time. On weekends, I let the work week unravel so completely that on Monday morning it takes me a minute to remember who the hell I am and what I’m doing. At dinner time, the sky is an encore of its own daylight, and the very fact of the four of us gathered together for another meal feels like a luckiness I can hardly fathom.

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Col, encouraging our chicken to rest after she cut her leg on some roofing.

I do most of my work via laptop at the library sitting near the new coffee cart (convenient, right?), which is staffed by teenagers with special needs. Their supervisor is so kind and encouraging, and the whole operation so triumphant and inspirational, I siphon off their feel-good success the entire time.

Last week, after playing at the river with my friend Melanie and our posse of kids, we spontaneously embraced in a moment of Can you believe we have another Colorado summer ahead of us, together? 

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The overly-analytical part of me searches for an explanation of this unbidden happiness. Is it that I’m meditating regularly (during which Rose bullhorns from outside my door, “Mama, when you’re done meditating can I have a snack, a movie, or a tickle session…Mom? CAN I?) Or is it that I feel like the Jews, who once declared, A Great Miracle Happened Here (with that whole oil lasting 8 nights thing), because I seem to have tamed my auto immune disorder with diet? (Seriously. I’m feeling so solid. I had a beer recently, which took me 2 hours to drink, one sip for every day I had abstained. Lets send a prayer that the doctors realize food is the medicine). Maybe it’s that actual sustenance is springing forth from the garden. Or, just summer itself, which is a trick-wrapped gift: you can never fully unwrap it. I don’t know. Likely, it’s that old physics equation that goes like this: want what you have.

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“Bounce us off, Daddy!”

What I do notice is that this happiness feels rooted in something deep, accessible, and ordinary. Like, my ability to do work I love feels more important than constantly evaluating how I measure up in the world. The here-ness of the children—their summer-warm hair, muddy limbs—trumps any imagined future worries. The ash tree sprouting greenness outside my bedroom window is a revelation requiring nothing other than my own willingness to be awed.

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Driving home from the mountains last Sunday, all four of us singing along with Billy Joel’s Piano Man, loudly and tunelessly (Rose asking: Is he a grandpa? What does it mean, making love to his tonic and gin? Because it wouldn’t be our life if Rose wasn’t asking some question), I felt so overcome with unexpected joy and gratitude for the weird lot of us. How we spent the past hour huddled around a fire grilling deer, and then devouring it with fingers (remembered homemade marshmallows, forgot plates and forks). How Rose pulled out impractical, purple “camp shoes,” one size too big, to kick back in around the fire after our hike. Me with the smallest headache from Rose accidentally slamming my nose with her forehead. The lupine singing a song called purple. And the clouds issuing enough of a snow squall to remind us who’s boss.

The message I’ve been getting is, Love This World, in all its imperfect and generous beauty.

xo,

Rachel

p.s. I have a guest post up at Simple Homeschool about what I would have told myself—just starting out—about homeschooling, knowing what I know now. Hint: there will be doubts. Also, tremendous “yes’s” sung in your heart.

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what I saw

2014 June 9
by Rachel Turiel

on my 42nd birthday:

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bday10

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bday3Willow blossoms

bday5Erysimum capitatum – western wallflower (never pass up an opportunity to smell this flower)

bday2Trollius albiflorus -globeflower (the floral equivalent of buttermilk, visually speaking)

bdayLewisia pygmea – bitterroot (a charming spring gift)

bday7A secret note tucked in my backpack.

bday8This family!

bday611,500 feet and up!

What I felt on my 42nd birthday: gratitude; immense, crazy, wild gratitude.

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our first time

2014 June 2
by Rachel Turiel

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We took the kids on their first backpacking trip last weekend. And it was just like that — our decades-old notion of backpacking colliding with little people who would squeeze entertainment from a tube if they could. In a ponderosa-oak forest. For 24 hours. Dan and I used to come to this spot every spring, just a quickie backpack, to greet the new season, to renew our vows to the San Juan Mountain backcountry. To eat wild candytuft, onions, chimaya; to smell ponderosa bark and oregon grape flowers.

This trip brought to light all the disparities between adults and children. Rose was shocked that there weren’t multiple clothes changes available, or at least a few shoe options. I am relieved to dial down the choices inherent to modern life in America. Dan and I like the quiet contemplation of being in nature, a place where your wholeness is reflected back to you. (In fact, being free to simply think uninterrupted thoughts is my new favorite psychedelic experience). The kids like to run and shriek.

I am happy to lean up against the sweet-scented bark of a ponderosa and engage all my senses. The kids need to move their bodies as if recharging batteries. I am soothed by plugging into the network of plant ecosystems. The kids like the tangibility of something in their hands. I am comforted to be reminded of my smallness within the wild forces of the universe. The kids want to throw rock after rock to see their influence on the world.

It makes you wonder about the evolutionary pairing of these two age groups.

The swallows appear at twilight, dipping and soaring, cliff-diving in the watery-purple sky. I watch silently, reverently, filled with gratitude for being here, for being part of a larger whole and…

“You brought this toothpaste?” An aggrieved voice asks.

(In the morning, it will be my own voice asking nervously, “we brought this?” wondering in what universe we decided to leave the coffee at home and bring green tea).

For the kids there were treasure hunts and the reading of the dubiously-literary mystery series Cam Jansen (which the kids inexplicably love). For the adults there were fifteen minute solo pilgrimages to fetch water from a rancher’s ditch meandering through US Forest land (which we loved). Which is to say, somehow, we all got what we need. And next trip, Rose can carry as many pairs of shoes as she can stuff in her pack.

Snapshots from our first family backpacking trip:

:: Col agrees to carry his pack and Rose’s pack for the last 1/2 mile. I bite my tongue because their sibling karma is none of my business. 

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:: The oddity of this: Col (who I’d been telling myself just isn’t interested in writing), brought a 5-chapter story he spontaneously wrote the night before (a chapter being 5 sentences) for me to edit. We spent a deliriously exciting hour under the tarp evaluating sentences, plot and word choice. (By the way, I edit professionally and I am available for hire as an editor for most any writing project you have. Good rates and excellent references).

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We all slept under this tarp.

:: Wild onions:

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:: Dinner, in which there is one choice. Notable: bok choi holds up very well in a backpack.

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:: While picking nettles along a creek, all of us debating just how long a sting lasts from a live nettles plant, I look up, see a bear, a very large bear, and because I can’t quite connect my brain with my mouth, start babbling: over there, across the creek, everyone, look, that’s a…a very large bear!

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This chocolate-colored black bear was not at all alarmed by our presence. It did decide, in a very relaxed, no-need-to-hurry, way that it would turn away from the creek and head back into the trees. It ambled, in the skin-flappingest, blubber-waddlingest way, across the meadow, stopping every now and then to glance at us. We watched, breathless and silent, until the last sight of brown fur disappeared into the oaks.

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One seriously handsome bear.

:: Nettles, back home, ready for a sizzling pan of oil.

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Our kind friends, who are maybe wondering if their kids are ready for backpacking, all asked how it went when we returned. Truth? Motherfreaking hard, but will we try again this summer? Oh, yes.

xo,

Rachel

 

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