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this life is precious

2014 May 20
by Rachel Turiel

date w col2

Col and I are walking down the hard-packed trail, bits of spring pushing up through dry oak leaves. I am answering his two-part question. First: when were you embarrassed as a child? Second: when were you not embarrassed as a child?

Scrapbooks of embarrassing moments fling open in my mind (Hello elementary school! Hello entire life!) when Col sees the snake—greenish brown like the very colors of a Colorado spring—crossing the trail.

He grabs my arm and says, in italics, “this is very, very special.”

We pledge not to move, to outlast the snake while it effortlessly impersonates a statue – a statue flicking its red forked tongue. “That gardener snake is smelling us,” Col shares from his collection of 9-year old wisdom. “It’s a garter snake,” I correct him, regretting it a nanosecond later, wondering how I became stodgy spokesperson of the “accuracy at all costs” club.

The snake slithers off the trail, showing us, with its forever-belly, the exact contours of the land before it dives under a pink boulder.

date w col

I almost didn’t come here with Col today. Rose has horse camp every Friday, and I could easily deposit Col with a friend and begin bailing out the sinking raft of work deadlines. Also, asking Col and I to both define “hike,” is like trying to find common ground between Elton John and Mitt Romney. Col trolls along at the pace of say, an entomologist seeking out a rare species of ant, then spontaneously plops down to build a rock replica of Washington D.C. I like to get my middle-aged heart-rate revved up. But, unlike much of Congress, we’re wild about each other.

date w col3

I’m not sure what from our Friday hikes will sift through the sensory onslaught called “life,” and lodge in the scaffolding of Col’s memories. And really, it doesn’t matter. The mother in me likes to code “significant family moments” like a neurotic medical biller, comforting myself with the proof that We Did Cool and Meaningful Stuff! As a Family! 

Dan and I spend long, fraught evenings dissecting our children’s educational paths (How do we encourage engagement with learning? Times tables! Ack!) and budding character (How do we help kids take responsibility for their actions?), while our kids simply board the family bus, eyes shiny and trusting. Someday they’ll be shocked to learn that adulthood isn’t synonymous with certitude.

date w col4

And today, much as it might feel good to plow deeper into the fields of my to-do list, much as Col would not dock me “motherhood points” for dropping him with a friend, I am really here for myself.

I’m here to assure Col that my childhood contained embarrassing moments too, and to listen to his uncensored thoughts while still granted access. I’m here to notice what snags his attention today: a heart-shaped rock, a purple leaf, the pair of ravens playing in the wind currents.

Col is too young to understand the currency of memories, how they keep you company as you age. Nor does he know about the clenching muscle of the heart that wants to grasp the ungraspable, to preserve the ephemeral, to slow down the fast march of childhood. No, he—and most children—simply live it, as carefree as the ravens that swoop low to check us out.

We take this same hike every Friday. We notice which plants have grown since we were last here. We go to the same creek and shore up our Washington D.C. rock sculptures. We haven’t seen the snake again, but we walk past the large pink boulder with its secret hole, and we remember how we stood there in the spring sun, together, with no particular agenda other than to watch life unfold in the present moment.

17 Responses leave one →
  1. May 20, 2014

    Oh so lovely, Rachel. Love: “Nor does he know about the clenching muscle of the heart that wants to grasp the ungraspable, to preserve the ephemeral, to slow down the fast march of childhood. No, he—and most children—simply live it, as carefree as the ravens that swoop low to check us out.”

  2. Ellie permalink
    May 20, 2014

    Beautiful, as always. Thank you for making my Tuesday morning.

  3. Kathy permalink
    May 20, 2014

    Rare moments to seize and relish, then over time forget. The photographs will jog your memories one day. These experiences should not be overshadowed by times tables. The tables will always there. I have no doubt Col will take them and all those other mathematical things right into his mind and skin as quickly as he grasps everything else. There is a good time for them, and you and he will know when. In fact, I can see him discovering them on his own. Keep preparing the garden and planting the seeds.

  4. Susan S permalink
    May 20, 2014

    There is nothing better you could do for your kid, yourself, your family or your future than to be fully present in the moment right now. :-)

  5. Andrea permalink
    May 20, 2014

    “no particular agenda”


  6. Morgan permalink
    May 20, 2014

    Beautifully written.

  7. shadymama permalink
    May 21, 2014

    booof. right to the heart-gut. such a lucky boy, that kid. such a lucky mama.

  8. Cassie C permalink
    May 21, 2014

    Best. Post. Ever.
    Rachel, I have a Col, but his w/an ‘e’ at the end, 7 years old and this post just hit home for me. What a great Friday ritual for the two of you. Your words, and the photos- wow! For me it’s hard, but so important, to carve out alone time outside with each of my two sons. Your words inspired me to make it a priority in the coming summer months. Thank you.

  9. judith ann henry permalink
    May 21, 2014

    Oh what a time for you each and both……each step over and over, season by season a
    grace filled memory for the soul….beyond your souls and into the over Spirit as life
    and song….i am most glad you can repeat the “path” over and over….we earn our land/scapes…
    they are our mentors and salvation. Love this “walking” with you !!!!!
    Blessings from all of the directions

  10. May 22, 2014

    Gorgeous, Rachel. And just the wake-up call I needed today. You rock, mamacita. xo

  11. nan permalink
    May 22, 2014

    You will never regret , letting that raft of deadlines sink .

  12. May 23, 2014

    This is my third reading, and it still leaves me all misty-eyed :o)

    I do believe you and Col are giving a precious gift to each other during these Friday walks… You are enjoying life together, being yourselves fully, receiving at the same time many things from the outside world that become your own shared treasure.

    I have two friends that love each other and we truly enjoy having talks or picnics for ‘the three of us’, but our ‘one-on-one’ activities are nevertheless irreplaceable because they allow us to express so many deep and subtle events or feelings: the space, the rhythm, the reception are more intimate.

    Also, I think that Col, like a natural (and loving) Zen master, is sharing with you his ability to be one with all of life, just like the snake is showing you both, “with its forever-belly, the exact contours of the land before it dives under a pink boulder.”


  13. May 23, 2014

    Ahhhh, beauty.

  14. May 25, 2014

    Hi Rachel, I’m new to your blog, but am aware we share many of the same blog friends and thought I’d stop by. And I’m really glad I did. You expressed some of the same worries I have with my own children – education and engagement – responsibility for actions (oh man, I’m failing miserably at that right now, but there is always tomorrow to start again right??); and making time to connect with them. Individually. You reminded me how important it is.

  15. Molly permalink
    May 27, 2014

    Aren’t they good company? We have a very good time alone together on a road trip or a walk. It is such a pleasure to please only ourselves, tempting as it is to include our friends or get our usual things done. This is a great post for a prelude to summer. Thank you.

  16. May 31, 2014

    This is beautiful. I hike a lot with my own kids, and it can be very difficult (as in the rest of life) to remain present. I have work and home deadlines, too, and worry so much about my kids’ education – especially my oldest, with his quirky ways. Our trips, though they take a lot of time and gas money, bring out wonderful conversations and observations. It’s worth it to me to keep going out with them, despite all our other responsibilities.

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