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untitled

2014 July 28
by Rachel Turiel

pika

It’s Saturday morning, late July, the sun shimmering like a pool of heat you could drown in. The kids are stationed at Lego headquarters, where small, hard-edged plastic shapes sprawl menacingly. Dan and I dream of the high country, where time-limited wildflowers have arrived like dear friends for the briefest of visits.

Luring the children away from home and onto a hike requires a shrewd craftiness which is surely a developmental stage, for parents.

“We’re going on a pika search!” Dan bullhorns towards the Lego pile. He pulls out our Colorado mammal book and gets the kids oohing over photos of the furry, dish-eared critter that lives in alpine rock piles. Something snaps precisely into their motivational receptor sites because the kids pack notebooks and pens, ready to record very important data on this high-altitude member of the rabbit family.

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American pika. Dan took this picture at next weekend’s camping destination. Someone’s going to have to break the news to Rose that she can’t invite the pika into her tent.

We bounce and rattle up the forest service road. A sleek pine marten bounds through the spruce. Drama builds in the back seat surrounding who will finish their muffin first, the bizarre and fervent goal to have the last crumb standing. We pass meadows colonized by spreading white islands of the noxious weed, ox-eye daisy (and in a nod to Lynyrd Skynyrd, Dan sings “I can see the ox-eye slowly creeping…”), and the kids launch cutting-edge challenges: “Try not to whistle for five minutes,” Rose propositions Col.

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Corn husk lily yarmulke. It *was* shabbat after all.

We park and hike up through the trees, into to the alpine, where the whole world is laid out on a platter of green. The meadows flare with color, and we scare up a buck from his day bed under a talus field.

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We bring the kids here to show them that you can fill your heart without accruing a single object, that the earth overflows with miracles that require only our attention, that entire ecosystems thrive with each species taking just enough. Maybe it’s far-fetched, but I’m hoping that these trips act as an answer to why I won’t buy the kids toys that provide a 2-hour hit of joy before becoming forgotten under the couch. (Which, truthfully, is most toys. And so, I say “no” a lot). I believe children have the greatest power to find simple joy in the art of living and playing and being, and I don’t want to dampen or confuse this ability with unnecessary stuff.

Someday, when I’m an old woman (if I am so lucky) with nothing left to lose, I will publicly share all my strong and unpopular opinions. Like, that acquiring more stuff will never, ever bring true, lasting happiness. And that our confusion over this is bringing great harm to ourselves and our earth. But until then, it’s the kids who get my dubious sermons.

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We scurry from columbine to penstemon to the impressively adapted alpine willow, no taller than a child’s pinky finger. We patrol the vast talus fields, listening for the telltale pika squeak, looking for the plant bundles they dry in the sun. We hear only one pika—not typically a shy animal—over several hours, and my heart clenches in alarm. It is said that as our world warms, the pika, designed to survive winter at 12,000 feet, can die if exposed to temperatures as mild as 78 degrees.

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We cheer ourselves up by searching for indian paintbrush hybrids. Rose is thrilled to discover what happens when the pink paintbrushes hang out with the cream colored ones. 

For the next few hours, we ramble around, nibble wild plants, and collect this wild world into our hearts. At this age, undoubtedly, the kids get more excited to watch a movie than go hiking, but I can see the subtle forces of nature chiseling their characters, reminding them of what endures, and seeping, quietly, inside, where it counts.

* I honestly couldn’t think of a title to this post. Offer your ideas and I’ll cook you a roadkill steak with sauteed garden weeds on the side.



26 Responses leave one →
  1. Barb permalink
    July 28, 2014

    Stations.

  2. Sara permalink
    July 28, 2014

    All I can do is write about it in a song….

  3. Jan permalink
    July 28, 2014

    “You can fill your heart…”

  4. Patricia permalink
    July 28, 2014

    A Day in a Life

  5. Nancy permalink
    July 28, 2014

    Unfurled.

  6. Anonymous permalink
    July 28, 2014

    less is more!

  7. July 28, 2014

    No Toys Needed

    I rarely buy toys either, but we have way to many. (I’m good at not buying but not good at saying no to handme downs. Also, I realized that take family hikes is on our summer list and we haven’t much. I think I’ve been working too much. Need to change that.
    And if you offered me a grilled roadkill steak and sauteed garden weeds, I totally eat, though I don’t know if I’d say that to everyone.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      July 29, 2014

      Same here, plenty of toys find their way into our house, without us actually purchasing them.

  8. Amber Lena permalink
    July 28, 2014

    That first picture of Rose is magical.

    I was never good at blog entry titles either. For a time, I used Led Zeppelin song titles.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      July 28, 2014

      Yes!
      Stairway to heaven…or, Ramble on.

  9. Andrea permalink
    July 28, 2014

    Remembering who we are

  10. sarah permalink
    July 28, 2014

    Abundance

  11. July 28, 2014

    Rachel, I love everything about this post. (Again).

    For the title I suggest simply “Where it counts”.

    It does. And Dan is a genius.

  12. Ellie permalink
    July 28, 2014

    In your own words: “What endures”

    love love love this post

    can we move in with you? I’m serious.

    • Bree permalink
      July 29, 2014

      Oooh, I second this title — nice choice Ellie!

  13. Catherine permalink
    July 29, 2014

    A wise philosopher coined this phrase to define antidotes to being human in a technological/stuff filled world: “Commanding Presences” and the first one is being in and deeply rooted in our natural world. You are giving this fully to your children. Thank you!

  14. Becky permalink
    July 29, 2014

    I love this post AND the way you are raising your children. I always feel like I’m on the trip with you – thanks for sharing it and your photos Becky from NC

  15. Julia permalink
    July 29, 2014

    So right! Rachel, you are my teacher of “Simplicity” and reminder of “What Really Matters.”
    But… if Rosie REALLY needs to go shoe shopping REALLY bad some day, she can give Auntie Julia a call…
    :)

  16. Bree permalink
    July 29, 2014

    Gorgeous everything. I always feel like I travel with you somewhere beautiful. I read your posts so slowly it’s ridiculous because I just want to savor it all.

  17. Beth permalink
    July 29, 2014

    “Pika boo.”

  18. Melissa permalink
    July 29, 2014

    so funny about the corn husk kipa on shabbat. was my first thought before i saw the caption.

    and let it be untitled. maybe there’s a connection with simplicity. or posts could be labeled by season, by trip. i have never been good with titles so no real help here!

    please don’t wait until you are old to share your opinions. not that i have more courage, but it would be inspiring! even if we don’t all agree. it’s more interesting if we don’t.

    and the stuff thing. it’s only hard to argue against avi’s growing pokeman card collection (which he spends significant time sorting through, cataloguing, playing games with us) when we sure have a lot of books. i don’t mind that kind of clutter. the toys i could easily throw out the window!

    ps. have you read 4th of july creek? xo

  19. July 30, 2014

    I ADORE YOU.

  20. Brenda permalink
    July 31, 2014

    Don’t wait until you’re old (because really…how old is Old?) :), but….I say….”preach it sister!” if you have something to say (which of course you do, and very well I should say), just go ahead and say it! :)

  21. July 31, 2014

    I think if we knew each other we’d be friends. It’s true about movies versus hiking right now but here’s hoping that unconscious absorption really works.

  22. Liz permalink
    August 1, 2014

    Reading your posts always re-ignites my dwindling parental confidence. Of course kids don’t need excessive toys. I’ve told myself it’s dampening imagination though you put it more eloquently… And I haven’t found any parents around me that agree with that philosophy, so thanks for that strong and unpopular opinion bc I’m of the same opinion!

  23. Amy Morrison permalink
    August 8, 2014

    “the bizarre and fervent goal to have the last crumb standing” – this is my boys while eating everything! What is that all about? A mystery.
    Thanks for this post, your sweet reminders stay with me throughout my parenting days. I am grateful.
    Title – “Take just enough”

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