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the care and feeding of mothers

2016 August 29
by Rachel Turiel

bearcreekWe’re backpacking through stunted trees and out into the green alpine where late season wildflowers flare in a last stand of fertility. The sky is forever blue, making the threat of thunderstorms seem as menacing as a fictional villain. A pika squeaks its raspy warning bark while a pair of peregrine falcons swoop overhead.

We stop to fill water bottles at a spring and everything feels so poignant and peaceful. Perhaps this is because Dan and I have left the children back in town.

We’ve been steadily trying to indoctrinate the children into the family culture, which can be loosely summed up in slogans like: Follow your heart! Celebrate the bounty of the earth! In practicality it looks something like: Let’s spend the weekend scouting for mushrooms in the woods, throw a roadkill deer in the Subaru and head home for leftover elk goulash accompanied by a salad-like assemblage of every toothy, edible green leaf in the garden.

And honestly, the kids are a little skeptical. Col is happy to snap legos together in the dark opium den of his room while the sun rises and sets on another day. Rose’s current greatest adventure is walking with a friend to the Rec Center pool with a backpack full of store-bought snacks, “without any parents checking on me.”


And for Dan and me, walking in the lush mountains during the brief blaze of summer feels actually, well, ecstatic. And at our age, this may be our best bet for an altered state. There’s something about moving my feet on the wildly gorgeous earth, where every living thing has everything it needs, where the complexities and artifices of human culture haven’t infiltrated, and choices shrink to the elemental: set up tarp here or here? that I remember my best self, which is to say, my simple and ordinary self. And at this stage of life, that is ecstasy.

I have no doubt that someday the kids will forge their own meaningful relationships with the wild world. Someday Rose will yank her car—full of raucous, singing girlfriends—to the shoulder and knife out the prized backstraps from a roadkill deer all without bloodying her fabulous outfit. And Col, with his keen skills of observation plus big heart for wild animals (not excluding “cute” skunks) will be called to his own nature path.


“It’s looking good for our future,” Dan says as we’re eating goulash by an evening fire.

We’ve had wonderful family hikes and camping trips, in which we hike one whole mile each way, stop for hundreds of snack-calories, and make tremendous amounts of noise. Recently, getting us all to the top of Olga Little Mountain required recounting the abridged, semi-accurate life story of Michael Jackson, while the kids bushwhacked uphill, listening, utterly distracted and rapt.

It’s easy enough to hustle sleepovers for the kids and zoom out on one-night backpacking trips, which is like speed-dating for couples already in love. Or like a discovery, like realizing that limbs that had been pruned to accommodate the intense needs of young children are growing back. Or maybe like being born again, as yourself. We come home refreshed and inspired. And this seems as much a gift to the children as it does to myself.


7 Responses leave one →
  1. Kyce permalink
    August 29, 2016

    I could make a long comment about the crucifixion of motherhood and the resurrection of backpacking, but that would seem religious. But I did have those very thoughts last summer when I slept in the wilderness for the first time in eight years.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      August 29, 2016

      That is the alternate title to this post: the resurrection of mothers.

  2. August 29, 2016

    the feel of silence
    the sound of silence
    a soliloquy for ‘us’ parents
    is more like a penance for our kids
    still, we must plant the seeds of stillness…
    unattached to resultant outc(om)es of
    our intended desires of their
    unmitigated Soul Journey
    hopefully Ever Higher
    the feel of silence

    you are, your Clan is…

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      August 30, 2016

      Yes, it’ll all come back around. Nifty poem layout.

  3. julia permalink
    August 29, 2016

    Oh My God! I LOVED your description of Future Rosie. I asked her today if when she grows up she’ll get pedicures all the time. She looked at me with this Aha! expression on her face and said without hesitation, “Maybe.”

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      August 30, 2016

      She’s still high from the pedicure (or is it from the fumes…?)

  4. Sparks permalink
    August 30, 2016

    Ha ha, yes to all of it. Thank you.

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