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Rain falls on the Earth, and we love that.

2014 July 16
by Rachel Turiel

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We’re at 10,500 feet, tents tucked in the tall spruce, the La Plata river bending clear and cold below us. Wildflowers splatter the slopes like a Jackson Pollack painting. Dan steps back to admire his “tarp-craft,” and admits, “Well, now I kind of hope it rains.”

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Rose spots a chipmunk, no doubt head of campsite clean-up, names it, “Chitty,” and becomes very curious about which foods in our cooler Chitty would most enjoy. “Are you hoping she’ll eat out of your hand?” I ask Rose. “No, I’m hoping she’ll sit on my lap,” my daughter replies with alarming sincerity. Col takes a Round Robin-style approach to camp life: he throws rocks in the river, target shoots with the BB gun, and forms an archive of mud cakes on a coveted piece of plywood Dan finds.

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While Dan and I say a million times a day: “the kids will appreciate this when they’re older” (this, being all our fringe, non-mainstream ways: Why go out to eat when we have a freezer full of roadkill? Pack your bags, camping again!), I often wonder what it’s like growing up in this family now, from their perspective. I mean, it’s possible that Rose dreams of thumb-happy weekends on an iPhone. And Col? He issued the bizarre request recently that we do some traveling outside Colorado, as if we’re people who actually leave the zipcode.

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Afternoon: lightning smacks the nearby ridges, hail pelts the ground, a new stream picks a route right through camp, waterfalls swell, the river turns muddy and high. We huddle under the tarps, layer on clothes, and give the kids our toothiest smiles, trying to relax any brainwaves registering alarm. The storm persists; morale sags. By hour four, the kids ask to go home.

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Dan tells them, “Rain falls on the earth, and we love that. Can’t we be part of that?” The kids are dubious, and yet the rain feels like a metaphor, something about enduring discomfort, allowing it in, trusting it will pass. A meditation teacher once told me, “we practice (meditation) to increase our capacity to endure discomfort.” I believe parenthood works towards this end, too.

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You will be happy to know that I always take my fashion sense to the woods. Also, IPA gluten-free beer pretty tasty, minus the embarrassment over buying gluten-free beer. But, plus the excitement of: beer!

Dan gets us through some low points by telling stories of his childhood summers camping in spongy, soaked Eastern Canada with his dad. If it wasn’t rain, it was (say it with me)…bugs! Dinner was what malingered in the cooler, titled “goulash:” a fretful compilation of blackened bananas, whole, bony fish, a few shriveled garbanzo beans. Col and Rose howl with laughter, forgetting for a blessed minute, the rain soaking their ponchos.

Six hours later, the storm lets up. The mountains are instantly greener. A blue patch of sky spreads like a rip in the clouds. “That’ll freshen up the flowers,” Dan says like a parody of his own indefatigable optimism. The sun delivers one last blast of hope before crawling over the western ridge. We eat a dutch oven meal of warm, meaty deliciousness, remove our ponchos, and I read to the kids around the fire. We go to bed.

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The next morning is cold and clear, sun sparkling off every green, living thing. We hike to an alpine lake, and in an ironic twist Rose begs me to hike farther with her. The ground gets marshy and Rose states the obvious: “Well, take off your shoes,” hers long since abandoned. We sploosh through the soupy wildflowers, the lake mud, waking up the soles of my feet.

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Now home, I think of everything the children saw on this trip: the baby grouse tucked into tall grass while her mother led us away in the opposite direction, deer sneaking around misty morning slopes, the robin who forged an aerial path through camp to her nest, insects wriggling in beak. I don’t know what level of future appreciation for these experiences will dawn on the kids someday, but I believe that right now they know how much their parents love wild places, rain and all.

OUTTAKES:

Alpine sunflower. Rose had a need to touch flowers as she walked. Not sure why, but seems auspicious.

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Our new camping tradition is this dutch oven “Daddy bread” that Dan makes our first morning. This one sponsored by chokecherry-applesauce.ruby6

Baby grouse that Rose may or may not have touched, making up for Chitty never really being all that sociable.ruby8

Related posts:

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this moment
in the desert


16 Responses leave one →
  1. mollie permalink
    July 16, 2014

    I suppose it’s not good to tame wild animals, but I was sort of hoping for a picture of Chitty on Rose’s lap.

  2. Kathy permalink
    July 16, 2014

    Your MOST FORTUNATE children will remember all they are experiencing; while some images will blur, you will hear one of them say, “Remember Chitty? And the rain did let up, just like Dad said it would. The hail, the sound it made… and the sploushing through the water?” Theses weekends will roll through your minds like favorite old movies. When you are old, they will help you remember. AND they will want to share it all with their children. You have shared with your own what most children will never experience.

  3. Ellie permalink
    July 16, 2014

    Our life is different, but I so love reading about yours, Rachel. And have no doubt (I might have said this one-hundred-fifty-three times before): your children are *lucky*; they will remember; they will be thankful; you might be old and nodding by the fire when that happens, but it will.

  4. Chris Crayton permalink
    July 17, 2014

    If Col wants to travel, come to NC! Warm water paddling, different mountains, overwhelming botanical diversity, humidity–endless new experiences! He and Will are kindred spirits for sure. It is crazy how their interests, even the timing of them, are so similar. I love reading your blog, even if it does make me sigh for Colorado.

  5. Chris Crayton permalink
    July 17, 2014

    If Col wants to travel, come to NC! Warm water paddling, different mountains, overwhelming botanical diversity, humidity–endless new experiences! Col and Will are kindred spirits for sure. It is crazy how their interests, even the timing of them, are so similar. I love reading your blog, even if it does make me sigh for Colorado.

  6. July 17, 2014

    All I can say is, “Will you adopt me?”. I can’t imagine a more wonderful childhood experience than this. You are teaching them wonder and how to take things in stride and do with what you have—all valuable lessons!

  7. Melissa permalink
    July 17, 2014

    Rachel, I haven’t commented in awhile but I am reading away all the time and loving, as always, your thoughtful, beautiful way with words. I wish I had another way to say that but there it is (again).

    Rose looks so much like your mom in that first outtake! Is that weird to say, considering I have never met your mom (or any of you) in person?

    xo
    from the bay area, where we could sure use some of that rain. the kids have become parrots of my neurotic worrying over the drought (oh! turn off the water! there’s a drought! or Avi, there’s been a drought since I was 5–which means there’s been a drought like forever)…

  8. July 18, 2014

    It’s awesome that you stuck it out through the rain storm. My husband and I were caught once in a ravine having climbed over 150 downed trees when it started to rain and lighting. We turned around and went home abandoning our overnight backpacking trip.

  9. Andrea permalink
    July 19, 2014

    Six hours of downpour?? Bwa! That’s nothing. Just jokin. Camping in the northwest is basically always like that.

    And Rach, I can think of no better education than this. The natural world. And those kidos of yours will absolutely appreciate it in the years to come. We are in for some big changes. Of which will not be lost on your littles. Because they will have seen so much of it with their own eyes. And touched it with their own hands.

    Keep up the good work.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      July 20, 2014

      Also, Andrea, I have to say, the rain in Colorado is a dry rain. If you can imagine that.

      • Andrea permalink
        July 20, 2014

        I know not what you say, but it sounds less moldy than what I get here.

        Xoxo

        • Susan S permalink
          July 21, 2014

          Andrea, I live north of Seattle. The first (and only!) time I’ve been camping up here, I stepped one step off the trail and sank up to my knee. Not a puddle, no, it was–what is it called? Mast? The fir needles and dead undergrowth that makes up the soft forest floor and grows all the wood ears and stuff. To. My. Knee. And the damp? Didn’t really get thoroughly dried out until a week after I got home! I know whereof you speak! :-)

  10. July 20, 2014

    I was just thinking the same thoughts as we are crossing Canada in our big red bus on our new life-on-the-road adventure: what will our girls keep from that? It’s so hard to know… I hope they remember that their parents loved the outdoors and discovering this beautiful world with them… And I’d love that bread recipe in the dutch oven. We don’t have an oven in our bus and I am just learning to use my dutch oven in the fire. It’s always a treat to read you, Rachel!

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      July 23, 2014

      Catherine,

      Bread recipe: Build fire. Set aside coals. Place dutch oven in coals. Cook 4 strips of bacon. Give bacon to kids. Leave bacon grease. Add one stick butter, let melt. Mix in separate bowl: 3 eggs, variety of gluten free flours: rice, coconut, arrowroot. Add milk or water until nice, thick batter. Mix batter into bacon grease/butter. Swirl in one quart of any fruit sauce. Cook for approx 30 minutes.

  11. July 20, 2014

    *Sigh* I love your life x

  12. Liz permalink
    July 22, 2014

    I make a point of checking into your blog so I may be reminded to live in the moment. I need this and you do it so honestly… Taking your shoes off at a marshy alpine lake? I love it and I hope I can do that with my daughter one day. I truly admire your parenting and lifestyle. Also, I’m intrigued by chokecherry applesauce and gluten-free IPA!

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