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this, right now

2013 July 10
by Rachel Turiel

We met up with old friends for a mountain camping trip last weekend. Old, as in, back when I was still contemplating—under pressure of relatives—the merits of signing up for an e-mail account. Old, as in when our health care plan was a shelf of steeping herbal brews. Old, as in, before having kids was even on the roster of discussion topics. The last time we saw Jen and Mike, in their last incarnation before they moved from Durango, our oldest kids were two, and our youngest, still cross-eyed newborns. Which is to say, we were in the trenches.

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Jen Wolf, beloved. And Col with real snowball.grindstone9

Kids on top of the world.

One of the strange things about being a grown-up (besides the fact that the very word makes me giggle-flinch) is how six years can pass like a thick novel, complete with joyous pairings, heartbreaking separations, every day imbued with the holy minutia of daily life; and yet six years later you can pick back up with your friends on page 839 without having missed much (besides the sprouting of a few sexy grey hairs).

Part of this is because I think every parent’s story reads something like this: First, the days were an endless cycle of nursing, pooping and small people affixed to my chest. Now, time zips by faster than I can comprehend. Parenting is the hardest best thing I’ve ever done. The end. So, they’re in Michigan, we’re here, but the book is basically the same.

I am coming to terms with the fact that I settled here 18 years ago (I know, I look young for 53!) because of the mountain plants. Is this crazy? I don’t know. Was I supposed to be considering job markets or something?

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Elephant’s head: the Dr. Suessiest plant in the world. Guaranteed to make you smile.

I fell in love with the mountain plants before I even fell in love with Dan, and getting into the high country is like visiting an old lover I never actually had to break up with.
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Penstemon whippleanus. Smirky name, also the best color in the universe.

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Pedicularis racemosa. Dan’s favorite. Also, a favorite of the elk and deer. Chomp chomp.

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Everybody.

I love seeing Dan in his element. When the wind blows in the first drops of rain, lightning smacking a nearby ridge, I’m thinking gather up the kids, follow safety protocol for lightning. Wait, what is safety protocol for lightning? And Dan is cheering, here it comes!

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This meadow is where the elk came out to play at night.

I realized on this trip that people love Dan and Col for similar reasons. While many of us (hi, self!) are clamouring to be seen, to be recognized and appreciated, Dan and Col go about the business of living with a quiet passion. They don’t need to tell you about their work, but if you ask, they’ll share, in their thoughtful, slow-metered way. They were both lucky to be born with the kind of mind people meditate for years trying to develop. They don’t waste a lot of time wishing for something else; they’re usually too busy making their current antler/lego/elk/dirt dreams come true. Dan and Col are both fundamentally kind and generous and the kind of guy you want to have around if say, you need a flawless shelter constructed out of tarps at 11,200 feet.

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Col’s been wearing these silky red MC Hammer pants with his Elmer Fudd hat, looking a bit like a Mongolian goat herder, or as Mike Wolf said, his own brand of superhero. 

Our friend Mike is an education consultant in Michigan, and thinks a lot about what constitues a successful educational experience. I am adopting his philosophy on the hierarchy of educational needs: Emotional Intelligence, Practical Life Skills, and Academics, in that order. My heart flipped a few times when I heard this, because it feels so right for my family, so right for this world. Academics will fall in place when kids are ready. I began teaching myself botany at age 23 because I was so ready, I couldn’t not learn about the plants I was surrounded by. (Had I been taught botany earlier, at a desk in a classroom, I’m not sure what I would have retained).

I know of a homeschooled boy who wasn’t interested in reading until he was ten. In six months he went from Cat in the Hat to Animal Farm. Emotional Intelligence—the articulation and management of feelings, empathetic response, conflict resolution, active listening, effective communication—feels like one of the core foundations for a satisfying life. Because relationships are at the heart of our happiness, building emotional intelligence as early as possible is a great human and collective societal strength. (Wow – that sounded pretty textbooky. What I mean to say, is that in a world full of numbers and words, I know my kids will learn to read and do math. Right now, I am more interested in them learning to feel).

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Col, working on his practical life skills.

The kids busied themselves all weekend in their little kid-pack. And the multi-family baseball game (no actual teams, everyone rotating unorganizedly through positions) in the meadow was tops for all ages.grindstone11

Pitcher: Rose!

While we waited for Chris to make breakfast for ten people, I sent the kids on a scavenger hunt. They found 1) heart shaped rocks 2) sticks shaped like animals 3) spruce cones 4) osha leaves, and 5) a rainbow of flower petals.

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After returning home, unpacking, showering, and lullabying kids, Dan and I lay together in bed, debriefing. We noted how independent and easy-going our kids were on the trip (Rose spent the first night sleeping, parent-less, in a tent with 8-year Jada, who she had met, oh, 3 days before). We laughed at how, even after all these years, our dream vacation is still camping with friends in the mountains. We felt recalibrated from the slower, saner pace, and heart-lifted by the way the possessive pronouns lose their punch, as another parent feeds my kids and I hold whatever little hand needs holding as we walk down the trail.

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I love giving the kids a 3-day break from the noise of media and societal pressure, introducing them to a world in which every living thing has everything it needs. Also, these trips are an unschooling for me, rearranging those worn out neural pathways that get stuck traveling routes of “if only…”  naturally returning to, “this, right now.”

Related posts:

Firsts and Homestead Happenings
Homestead happenings: microcosm
homestead happenings: predictably predictable


32 Responses leave one →
  1. Baba permalink
    July 10, 2013

    Wow maybe you could take us camping. Your photos and descriptions are wonderful
    Baba

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      July 10, 2013

      Except Nana says no thank you.

  2. scotti permalink
    July 10, 2013

    I whole heartedly embrace your educational paradigm. Beautiful.

  3. July 10, 2013

    Love this… love you! Thanks for sharing with all of us.

  4. July 10, 2013

    ummm…whether or not you can see it, you too are an exquisite and unique mountain flower, and no clamboring is necessary. YOU shines through, all over.

    i love this whole post. this, right now seems to be THAT and all there is. especially needed your words about educational paradigms today. big kisses to your whole beautiful fam.

  5. Melissa permalink
    July 10, 2013

    yes to emotional intelligence! it’s why we chose tehiyah for our kids.

    love these camping photos, too. and the sentiment. xo

  6. July 10, 2013

    I loved this. And you are so not 53…..

  7. Rachel Kohnen permalink
    July 10, 2013

    I went right back there with our snotty-nosed two year olds eating food off each others plate at our monthly potluck. Good times.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      July 10, 2013

      I know. I kept wondering when naptime was. Also, Jada still has her crinkled up nose smile. Thankfully. And of course six years later Col is still basically Col: easy going, active, focused, curious.

  8. July 10, 2013

    Your words, writing and journey always take me to such a wonderful place and accompany my tea like nothing else can.

    • Susanna permalink
      July 10, 2013

      You just took the words right out of my heart. I wholeheartedly concur. I am sixtythree now an have raised six earthlings and reading this makes me wish I could do it all over again! Life is good.

  9. Jennifer permalink
    July 10, 2013

    Wow, what an awesome spot and sounds so fun! Next time pick me, pick me!

  10. Alanya permalink
    July 10, 2013

    This beautiful post got forwarded to me by Michele.
    Loved every word!!
    X’s and O’s to you from your long-ago past and current fellow-homeschooler.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      July 10, 2013

      Holy awesomeness! Alanya, you’re the second old high school friend to contact me this week. E-mailing you right now. Squeal!

  11. Andrea permalink
    July 10, 2013

    I can not think of a better reason to settle on a place than, say, mountain flowers.

  12. July 10, 2013

    Really enjoyed reading about your thoughts on education. I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently because I live in New York City and, although I am of the same mind as you, the ethos here is the very different. We are spending our summer totally unscheduled, learning whatever the kids show an interest in. But it is really a fight against the norm and it is a pleasure to hear your story.

  13. Susan S permalink
    July 10, 2013

    Thank you so much for this message, Rachel. After a day of office politics that left me feeling deflated and dehumanized (and it’s only my 3rd week on the job!), I very much appreciate the reminder that life is experienced in more than quotas, meetings and corporate lingo. If I must work in this atmosphere (and that’s not changeable for now), I must balance it with things like hikes and wildflowers and good friends. Balance.

    Beautiful words, Rachel. Thanks again!

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      July 10, 2013

      Aw Susan, sorry to hear of the office politics. When you’re not able to get to that hike remember there are always wildflowers in your good, sweet heart.

  14. July 10, 2013

    Wholy AwesOMe!

  15. Ryan permalink
    July 10, 2013

    >sighsigh<.

  16. July 11, 2013

    Yes! That order sounds just right to me too!
    This looks like such a wonderful trip on so many levels!
    Need to get up to those mountain meadows more…

  17. July 11, 2013

    I love your life and you approach to it. I also love that you settled there because of the mountain plants. I cant think of better reasons than that! Keep being awesome! x

  18. July 11, 2013

    Ack! Every picture and word gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. I think a meadow of mountain wildflowers could possibly be a cure-all for most ills. I think I need to take a dose of it!

  19. Chris permalink
    July 11, 2013

    Loved the rainbow of flower petals picture – I noticed our upper midwest summer wildflowers are bursting out all over this week, too, especially the purple-hued and the brilliant orange milkweeds. Kids on top of the world also beautiful – thanks for sharing these!

    I love the landscape we live in – we straddle two biomes and a couple big, broad river valleys, but am yearning to see more sky – and the mountains, of course – with our sons while they are still young. Really enjoy hearing about your family’s time living so fully where you live :-)

  20. July 11, 2013

    bahaha 53. you made me snort. i love page 839. and your (my) educational needs hierarchy. and rainbow petal scavenger hunts. daniel quinn has a great essay on education and it especially addresses the practical life skills component of education, if i remember correctly. it’s been a while since i read it.
    it’s at this link: http://ishmael.org/Education/Writings/unschooling.shtml
    but i agree, learning to feel is first.

  21. Emmanuelle permalink
    July 11, 2013

    There you go again – when I reach the end of your post I am happily smiling through my tears.

    Your writing holds the same kind of magic as the natural world: there you are. Home base.

  22. July 11, 2013

    Beautiful! How I love your writing and all your amazing reflexions… Yes, nature has helped me deschool too. It is such an awesome teacher of how simple and totally complete life can be.

  23. July 14, 2013

    Elephant’s head! They always make me smile. I second your and your friend’s educational approach. Loved this writing: it’s exactly how I feel about our “old” friends.

  24. July 15, 2013

    Loved a lot of this–especially that you moved to Colorado for the plants… This was a perfect piece to read before our annual canoe trip.
    Inspired again,
    Tricia

  25. July 18, 2013

    This post has been sitting half-read in my reader….

    First, thank you thank you thank you for the flower photos!

    Second, thank you for sharing your friend’s hierarchy of educational needs. Yes.

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