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just a dream some of us had

2014 June 24
by Rachel Turiel


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.


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


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.


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.


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.



Calypso bulbosa

Rose eagerly sampled all the edible wildflowers:


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


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


Dan feeding Rose a “banana.”


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.




28 Responses leave one →
  1. Mary permalink
    June 24, 2014

    “So here we are, getting to know the wild world, because we can’t love and protect what we don’t know.”

    Yes – what a lovely sentence in the midst of a lovely post. Thank you for sharing your intimate lives with us!

  2. Tom permalink
    June 24, 2014

    You look for Morel mushroom while your out. Looks like a prime spot to me. Love your posts.

  3. Becky permalink
    June 24, 2014

    How I love being taken on such a trip by you. I so wish I had done this with my children and am happy they are doing it with their own children. Your children are lucky

  4. June 24, 2014

    oh the melancholy for my heart on Tuesday morning! (which is not unwelcome at all.) It’s true, there is this layer to our lives now, this urgency for our children and ourselves to see everything we can see. Yesterday, up in our glorious aspen bowl, amidst the shooting star and harebells along the creek, everything felt right and perfect–and I could almost forget that all along the road on the way up the trees were dying, that when we travel through the rockies to Idaho this summer, what we see and love will already by a reduced landscape. I remind myself that we are in transition, that there will be loss, and new life will come to reinhabit the biome. I will focus on the love and the delight, and on filling my children and my own heart with that. Thanks for writing the unwritable sentence.

  5. Ellie permalink
    June 24, 2014

    Oh, Rachel, AMEN. I love this: “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.”
    We just came back from four days of camping with our kids, in nothing like the pristine wilderness you guys have up there, but I relate to every word you say. You are raising wonderful human beings who will know exactly what matters in life. Have no doubt. Really.

  6. Kathy permalink
    June 24, 2014

    “… 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.”
    I cried when I read this. And even moreso listening to Joni Mitchell. How did I miss this song that year? I had moved to West Texas and that was the end of my life for awhile.
    Colorado my home, I miss you! And Rachel, thank you for sharing your place, our place, that wilderness so far away…

  7. Andrea permalink
    June 24, 2014

    I am touched by you again. Reminds me of the exact feeling I had that first time I gained the guts to publicly comment here. Inspired and undeniable. This transition you speak of weighs so heavily on my shoulders. It’s my greatest burden, slapped in my face every time I look at my child. Because I live environmental catastrophe every day. More than most of you.

    The pines here are sick and dying. Places my grandfather took me you could go not one minute without seeing wildlife. Many birds, deer, beaver. All right at your feet. I take my son now and see garbage. No wildlife. My grief is deep. And yet, I also love my modern life. The modern life (ironically) helping to heal my son. This computer which connects me to you. So that I can feel that love also.

    So yes, curious and cautious as to what lies ahead.
    Thanks again.

  8. Hillary Ross permalink
    June 24, 2014

    beautiful post. you said it all so well. thanks for that.

  9. Martha permalink
    June 24, 2014

    Thank you so much. I’m on a strange adventure in Las Vegas at the moment and awoke from a terrible nightmare, searching inside myself and this world for something good. What you are giving your children is what the world needs. It’s what we all need. <3

  10. June 24, 2014

    All of the comments above are so deep and true, just like your vibrant post, Rachel. I just want to say Yes, I know how you feel – this is the best we can do, and because we are doing it with open eyes and an open heart, it does bring good and beautiful together.

    Which is our most important mission around here, whatever else unfolds around us. And I am sure that it *does* influence the course of events. Love is our most intimate power, it is also the most potent.

  11. Susan S permalink
    June 24, 2014

    There’s a story about an American who went to India on a pilgrimage, literally to seek the guru on the mountaintop. He slogged along, feeling superior when he passed all the other people moving slowly, feeling victorious as he climbed and climbed. Soon, he was tired and sore and had to stop. Old, bent women carrying heavy jugs of water passed him by. He asked his guide, “How is it that they can keep going when I can’t?” The guide told him that he should stop trying to conquer the mountain. Instead, like the others on the pilgrimage, he should “walk with the mountain.”

    Your children are learning to walk with the mountain, no matter what changes happen. SATs? Just another trinket.

    By the way, have you read any Farley Mowat? You’d LOVE him.

  12. Chelsie permalink
    June 24, 2014

    ” 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.”
    Actually, you’re just slightly misinformed there, I’m happy to say! Check out my alma mater Prescott College, in Prescott, AZ!
    While I know college days are a ways off it might hearten you to learn that the 1st course each new student attends whether they’re a transfer or a newb is a 3 week backpacking trip into the back country of Northern AZ! I took classes in natural history and ecology where we did have to know the local flora & fauna! Also Ecopsychology, Ornithology-local winter bird study, Tropical Biology in Costa Rica and there are classes in Kino Bay Mexico and all over the US and abroad on many different topics…Avalanche forecasting, white water raft guiding, Agroecology, US/Mexico border studies and many more. A student can even design their own courses with the help of a local mentor. You may find yourself wanting to go there! ;-)

    • Susan S permalink
      June 24, 2014

      Chelsie, thank you SO MUCH for this very cool information! I have been looking for something like this! :-)

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      June 24, 2014

      Very cool. Maybe *this* is the future; valuing intimacy with the land.

      • Chelsie permalink
        June 24, 2014

        Yes!! It’s an amazing place full of passionate folks-staff, students and faculty alike :) (Since the 60’s no less haha)
        Anyone is free to contact me directly if they wish to get the insider’s dish prescottchels@aim DOT com Or just come for one of the preview weekends. It’s really all about the experience of the place.

  13. Ami permalink
    June 24, 2014

    It just brought tears to my eyes to read such gracious words about such tender and meaningful things. Thank you!

  14. June 24, 2014

    head bowed in gratitude; another awes(om)e blog…post Wholing through a hip-deep parenting nirvana…kudos…and BTW, that is SO Cascade Divide Road, my go-to nordic ski workout hillclimb!

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      June 25, 2014

      Guess again, dear one…but not publicly for goodness sakes.

      • Rachel Turiel permalink
        June 25, 2014

        Or, for elk calves sakes.

  15. June 24, 2014

    Yes. I feel very much the same.
    (My cousin went to Prescott College and loved it!)

  16. Baba permalink
    June 25, 2014

    Sorry to be a little late but loved all the comments. Just want to suggest listening to Carl Sagan talking about our planet and our place in the universe. If you are feeling overwhelmed with the negative news regarding climate change this may motivate you to take whatever action you are capable of and to inform your neighbors and friends on what you are doing. Search for “pale blue dot” and listen/view the 4 minute video.

  17. June 25, 2014

    Yes. This. Exactly. I wish I could put into words as eloquently as you do why we take our kids out into the wilderness. If you ever make it to Washington State, I’ll show you all the best spots to find bliss with kids (along with bug bites!) It’s one thing on this parenting/homeschooling journey I think I might be doing right.

    • Andrea permalink
      June 25, 2014

      You homeschool is Washington State??!! Me too!

      • June 25, 2014

        Yes, we are in the Greater Seattle Area. We’ve been doing an alternative school program for the last 5 years.

        • Andrea permalink
          June 25, 2014

          We live in the Gorge! Starting our first year now! Yikes, alternative ed is scary but I am so ready to jump in!

  18. June 27, 2014

    It’s very trouble-free to find out any topic on web as compared to books,
    as I found this paragraph at this website.

  19. July 2, 2014

    You always write what I should be thinking, right when I catch myself not thinking it, thanks. (Did that make sense?) Beautiful, lovely, perfect, exactly…what you wrote.

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