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this is the education I want

2013 May 21
by Rachel Turiel


It’s the same song I sing to myself every time we go camping, “it’s a lot of freaking work, but soooo worth it,” as we schlep all our necessities from the car into our weekend home of pine needles and dirt. (Necessities, as in: bacon, beer and books. Everything else I can live without).

The clouds roll in, swirl around, drop a casual little spray of rain, and we say, appreciatively, nice clouds, while pulling on all our layers, never ones to disparage the bringer of moisture to the Southwest. We’re here with friends, and in the absence of the usual indoor trappings of childhood, the kids explore each others tents and snacks with the enthusiasm of Lewis and Clark approaching the Pacific Ocean.

We’ve been coming to this same spot in spring for 4 years now, and in that way that looking back at your children’s lives is like one of those time-lapse movies (like this amazing video), from these particular ponderosa pines, on this particular weekend, I can see it all perfectly. In the first frame everyone’s in diapers and mashing dirt into each others hair while getting ravaged by biting insects. In the next frame we set off for a hike, one kid in the backpack and the other rambling around our legs; two hours later we circle back, having covered .00012 miles. And now, there’s this: one child is chopping potatoes with a knife and the other is helping to set up the tent.


Which is to say, it’s almost easy these days, taking the kids to the woods for 2 nights. Dan and I didn’t even get into our usual fight while packing, which has been such a historic norm, I usually pencil it in: pack coffee, gather extra socks, pause for snippy argument with Dan. And as much as the mopingly nostalgic part of me misses Rose’s full moon belly and Col’s squeaky voice, (okay, squeakier voice), there are these new, bright selves coming into focus. These selves who are like the ESPN stars of imaginative sports. “Okay, lets say we’re all horses and we’re walking down the trail watching out for mountain lions.” They skip and whinny happily while I lie back in the grass, amazed at our continual good fortune.

(Which is another song I sing to myself: It’s okay that my babies are growing up because look how much easier it’s getting).

And really, the nostalgia seems to be sewn from a fabric called “maybe I didn’t love and squeeze and appreciate them enough because I was too tired from scrubbing the dirt out of their hair.” And I don’t want to spend much time there, when here, now, we’re all upright humans, hiking to the nettles patch.


The pack of horse-children.


The dazzling bling of box elder flowers.


Nettles patch in old sheep camp. On our return night Dan made nettle enchiladas, which we all devoured.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASame camp. May, 2010. 

We spend a lot of time sitting around the fire, which includes coaching Col through all his aberrant fantasies about fire (I say a little prayer for his future 15-year old self who will inevitably go camping unsupervised with his buddies).


Three pounds of pine needles to dump on the fire in a Hollywood-esque explosion of fire and smoke. 

And really, now that we’re not trying to enforce naptime in a sauna of a tent, or coach anyone through squatting and pooping in the woods, camping has become a bit of a leisure sport. I read the last half of one book and the first half of another. We take walks, chop wood, sing off-tune rounds of Yellow Submarine, and drink wine out of plastic cups. Dan and Col go off on a bow-shoot like two buds, and later I overhear Dan say to Col, “That’s a coyote bullet if I ever saw one. Probably from some sheepherder protecting his flock.” Col perks up, storing this information in the mental file: “This is the Education I Want.”


A serious likeness. 



Luckily there are still someone’s babies to snuggle with.

By the end, so much falls away: our civilized notions of cleanliness; the rationing of firewood and watermelon; the separateness of families. The kids are dusted in dirt like small powdered donuts, I wake up to robins singing and Rosie’s bright face, and I know we’ll be back next spring, one year older.

25 Responses leave one →
  1. May 21, 2013

    Fantastic! And, does that beer can have a straw?

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      May 21, 2013

      Dan *is* kind of messy sometimes, but no, must be some something in the background. :)

      • May 24, 2013

        Oh how funny! Sometimes when I am desperate and running out of time and can’t keep my eyelids open I get gas-station coffee (I know, I know). But I put a straw in it because then it feels like a vanilla soy latte. I was wondering if the same would happen with a can of Miller Lite with a straw in it ;) We are going camping this weekend, can’t WAIT!

  2. May 21, 2013

    Gorgeous – I can almost smell your fires and feel the dust and grime under my fingernails from finding oh so many treasures. Thanks for a lovely post.

  3. lau permalink
    May 21, 2013

    “The kids are dusted in dirt like small powdered donuts” you write so beautifully!

  4. Kathy permalink
    May 21, 2013

    Oh, how I admire (envy) your serendipitous life, children in tow, or perhaps you instead. Though it is all planned, it is all glorious and unfolding renewal. This is the education we all desire!
    I think Robin’s pinecone collection from Signal Peak (NM on our way to Durango from TX)) so long ago was devoured by the chipmunks years later. A whole black trash bag of them. And you have photographs, “preserve your memories, they’re all that’s left you.”

  5. May 21, 2013

    oh I’ve been trying to find uses for the abundance of nettles we have, nettle enchiladas sounds like just the thing!

    It looks like you had a great weekend! I will admit that I haven’t brought the little one camping yet (7 months and 3) , but I think this summer it’s time. Amazing how much more comfortable you are after having the second child.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      May 21, 2013

      If we have a surplus beyond omelets/stir fries/enchiladas, we like to dry them and drink for a mineral rich tea.

  6. Danny permalink
    May 21, 2013

    This was a super fun blog post, so well written and concieved and like a precious jewel (or fossil?) brought back from our trip. Thanks for your writing, honey. Love you! Dan

  7. Andrea permalink
    May 21, 2013

    fucking awesome post!

  8. May 21, 2013

    love this! excited to inaugurate our camping season this weekend!

  9. Sarah Z permalink
    May 21, 2013

    Great post! Gets me even more excited for our first camping trip of the season (an my nine month old’s very first) camping trip this weekend.

  10. May 21, 2013

    This is why I camp for 2 weeks at a time with my four girls. That is all they allow in our State Park and if you are going to do all of that work to pack, set-up etc you may as well stay as long as possible. If we can we try to sneak in a second two weeks! My girls have been doing this since they were born and it is always their very best holiday.

  11. May 21, 2013

    PS, you are very brave to do all that for just two nights!!

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      May 21, 2013

      Holy shit. Two weeks? I think *you’re* brave. (Although I have a small fantasy involving my future teenaged children, a van, and a long break from society).

  12. May 21, 2013

    that is sooo a Mexican Logger in Dan’s hand! wise choice!

  13. May 21, 2013

    I don’t think I could ever go camping myself (hard to shake all that city girl prissiness I’ve collected over the years), but I do love your stories about it here. Vicarious living is the next best thing I heard :-)

  14. Amy Carney permalink
    May 22, 2013

    I loooove this post….it is the perfect description…..and seriously what else do we need besides beer, bacon and books? Well I know really lots of things , but let’s pretend we don’t. What a great story to share as we all get ready to ride another season of summer and revel in being 1 year older…thanks for sharing

  15. May 22, 2013

    It always takes so much time to comment:) but this post is worth it. Esp. the part about the kids growing up and helping set up camp and cook!!! YAY. It’s terrible, and wonderful at the same time, having our kids grow up. Lovely writing,

  16. Nicolena permalink
    May 22, 2013

    Ohh, I love the vivid honesty of this post. Well written. Thanks for sharing the experience.

  17. May 22, 2013

    lovely I cant think of a better way to spend time as a family x

  18. May 22, 2013

    yay. you look cute holding someone else’s babies. i am in that department too. and i love the title and the moment it arises in the post.

  19. May 22, 2013

    Oh how I hear you Rachel! This is exactly why we lived a whole year in camping on the road with our girls. I can’t get enough of that simple camping life… Yes, this *is* the education I want for my girls!

  20. Hilary permalink
    May 23, 2013

    Beautifully written Rachel! Seriously, you put into words what many of are thinking but haven’t yet put into our own words! Thank you!

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