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go with the flow

2013 July 24
by Rachel Turiel

Guess who got pretty good at all day relaxation?

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Rose, mud and great blue heron tracks.

While Rose’s highest goal for herself on the San Juan River trip was swim splash shriek snack, Col finagled himself into the rower’s seat within ten minutes of setting off. First, he sat on Dan’s lap, small hands feeling his dad’s powerful strokes through the water. I snapped a few “how cute” pictures, y’know, the little guy fancying himself as boat captain. But, as you know, Col is quietly persistent, and in little time, Col took the oarsman seat completely, rowing our boat while Dan reclined behind him.

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Tops for this eight year old boy.


Tops for this six year old girl.


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Mexican hat camp.


Ancestral puebloan petroglyphs – note the many big horn sheep, most common big mammal along the San Juan River.


Modern day descendants. Tops for the 42-41 year old man. 41. Sorry honey.

In July the desert heat is epic. The highs were close to 100F and the lows just below 70F. There was a brief moment, just before dawn, all four of us sardined into a tent, where I felt somewhat comfortable. This lasted approximately twenty minutes. When we’d crack open a new water jug and find it was merely lukewarm, instead of hot, I’d call to the kids to guzzle up before the water cooked in the sun. Every now and then I’d see the fleece jacket I brought winking at me like a satanic joke.

And then, like an exercise in Zen Mind Tricks, in case anyone was dwelling in “complaining mind” over the heat that made you sweat at 10pm, a thunderstorm rolled in sideways. Lightning cracked open the sky – the very sky above our heads, and we parents plastered on our Everything’s Just Fine smiles while my nervous system wrung its hands. Within minutes, we were drenched and shivering and dreaming of fleece jackets and campfires. (And sweating again by 10pm, fleece jacket grinning evilly from drybag).


Campsite under the big moon.

sanjuan8The amazing Liz, paddling her own boat tethered to 3 girls in an inner tube.


Captain Craig and Chris.sanjuan10

Partners in what-the-hell-are-we-doing?


Posse ‘o’ kids. Everyone knew someone, but no one knew everyone, and everyone got along.


Old salty dog Hinds and his Mama.

And, yes, we had a really super time, but, no we’re not transformed into river people (although I hear a certain eight year old boy is saving up for a kayak). I am boggled that people take 20 day river trips through The Grand Canyon, packing up and unpacking every single day (but I respect their passion and love hearing their stories). My kids were happy and awed and playing games by headlamp well into the darkness of desert night while I sat around with the adults, which seemed like a good gig in itself.

As everything is communal 0n the river—rotating groups of adults take turns cooking, we all begin and end our daily float together, if someone stops to gawk at big horn sheep, everyone stops, a hungry kid shows up on your boat, you feed them (Rose scored big on this one)—it helps to let go of your own individual preferences and, if you will, go with the flow. In going with the flow, you can clear out the extraneous flotsam of your own mind and get on with loving life.

And rowing a boat through a mellow river is its own brand of bliss (Col occasionally let me take the oars), just the right balance of striving and progress, continually arriving and yet always having farther to go.

Like this dear life.



21 Responses leave one →
  1. Melissa permalink
    July 24, 2013

    I love this–a good read for the ride home and then some. Shouldn’t we all just go with the flow a bit more? Xo

  2. Melissa permalink
    July 24, 2013

    With my boyfriend Mick Jagger singing in my ears. Not so terrible (:

  3. Molly permalink
    July 24, 2013

    Hope you print and frame that last picture.

  4. July 24, 2013

    I like the “partners in what the hell are we doing?” caption. I feel the same way all the time.

  5. Susan S permalink
    July 24, 2013

    Hey Rachel!

    Looks like you had a great time!

    Wanted to tell you about something I heard in NPR yesterday. Here’s the URL:

    And below is the pertinent part of the interview that I thought would particularly resonate with you and other home-schoolers and unschoolers. Here goes:

    “After we were done with the field trip, it was at a botanical garden. And we went to their playground, and about 30 minutes into the playing on the playground, we noticed that the kids had kind of set up their own economy. There was this little archway underneath one of the slides and walkways, and they had set it up. They were making tacos. One of the children were retrieving these big leaves that had fallen off the trees, that were on the ground. They were filling the leaves with mulch.

    There were some kids who were advertising. There were some kids who were rounding up other materials to make other foods to sell. And it was quite a little economy they had going. And they were working out their problems, and they were all helping each other and working together. And other kindergarten teachers – and we just went, this is it, this is exactly what they need, random materials and time. It was a beautiful thing.”

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      July 25, 2013

      Oh yes, this makes my heart sigh in happiness. Thanks for sharing.

      And thanks for asking about Col’s camps. He’s at Frosty Pines all this week, running the general store in their kid-constructed “Frontier Village,” when he’s not shooting his handmade bow. Basically, bliss.
      And lego robotics was awesome. He got to fully geek out with his engineering, visual-spatial self.

  6. Liz permalink
    July 24, 2013

    Feeling blessed to have shared this journey with you, your family, and the other river rats this past weekend Rachel. Thank you for your thoughtful and humorous recount of our journey which was a reminder of how magical life can be when we let go and let lifr take us for a ride! Ox

  7. July 24, 2013

    Whoo-wee, I couldn’t do the heat. But I think we camped in the exact same spot as “Campsite under the big moon.” And yeah, all that loading and unloading! I am totally going backpacker-style if there’s a next time. Cheers.

  8. Rachel permalink
    July 24, 2013

    Ah! Your family is awesome! And I second loving the “partners in what the hell are we doing” caption- don’t all parents feel like that? I sure do.

  9. Andrea permalink
    July 25, 2013

    So many things… I don’t know where to begin. What I will say is that the picture of you and col is amazing. Beautiful. I hope I have the chance someday to throw my arms around you two and squeeze you to death. It’s like that. And then col would slink away and say ‘mom, who is that crazy ass women who hugs me like I am her own boy child’

    Bwahaha. Internet friendships are awesomely weird. So happy to hear about this trip And thank you for the reminder in going with the flow. So hard. SO HARD!

  10. Amy Carney permalink
    July 25, 2013

    Your family is darling! And as usual your blog makes me laugh… most recent trip with my kiddos was cut short due to a gang of bears who like to rob you in the night! Yikes!!

  11. Susan S permalink
    July 25, 2013

    That’s so cool! My brother and his best friend–both 44 years of age–still regularly get together, put a favorite movie on the DVD player and build stuff with the enormous box of Legos they’ve accumulated over the years. My brother is a nurse and his best friend is a cop. I think they both benefit from the “play-time.” It allows them to de-stress and keep their creative minds in full working order. It makes sense that they both started out theater majors!

  12. July 26, 2013

    What a dreamy post this is.

    Oh, the nostalgia your photos stir for a child of the Four Corners. Can you believe that a group of us actually floated from somewhere outside of Bluff to Mexican Hat on leaky innertubes in a single day?! It was epic. We finally made it to the car at nightfall, hungry and shivering, with only 2 inflated tubes remaining (there were 5 of us!) and a strange raft made of scavanged wood and a bungee cord. I digress…

    I’m finally coming up for air since the arrival of baby boy 2. And here you are, still writing that funny, beautiful, soulful stuff of yours. Thank you.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      July 26, 2013

      Ohmygod. One day? On inner tubes? That is epically epic. That is the exact stretch we did, Bluff to Mexican Hat. Good for you. A memory you’ll never forget…but would you let your kids do it? xo

      • July 26, 2013

        i know. we had no idea at the time how stupid it was. but i still revel in the gritty memory of our teenage survival adventure…

        • Rachel Turiel permalink
          July 26, 2013

          That pretty much sums up my teenage experience: the great fortune to survive my own stupidity.

  13. July 26, 2013

    I thought of your family last wkd, knowing we were both on the water at the same time. I really enjoyed looking at your pictures–such different terrain!

  14. July 30, 2013

    boy oh boy am i looking for this right now: “the right balance of striving and progress, continually arriving and yet always having farther to go.”

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