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what remains

2019 August 30
by Rachel Turiel

Day 1

We set off as usual for our annual end of summer family trip, though this time with a dog wedged between the kids in the backseat, giving Col and Rose something to alternately fight about and fuss over. 

We stop on Wolf Creek Pass to eat lunch and look for mushrooms. I distract the kids from the fact of actually hiking by asking them questions about the upcoming school year. The part of me that wants access to their inner lives is somehow fed by their enthusiasm to share, well, anything. I sleuth around for hidden messages behind discussions of Rose wanting a new backpack, one that’s more “7th grade-ish,” and Col’s certainty that “it’s all pretty boring, but the 8th grade teachers are really good.”

The kids have been wading through the depths of our culture’s messages via perky YouTubers who seem to personify gender roles while evangelizing on fave brands and make up tutorials. Add the structureless freedom of summer (i.e. time to peruse the cultural offerings) plus a mom on high alert for anyone succumbing to the media’s shrewd marketing and well, things have been a bit tense. I recognize that this is my problem not theirs.

We arrive at Joyful Journey Hot springs in the San Luis Valley where the sky is fluxing in and out of thunderstorms. The Sangre De Cristo range slices open the sky to the east. Rabbits dart around the sagebrush and nighthawks dive and whine. We bring sautéed bolete mushrooms to the dining hall and soak until the stars come out.

At Joyful Journey Hotsprings; also white people appropriating other cultures, i.e, tipis, as we tend to do so frequently and blindly.

Rose affixes herself to my side in the hot springs; maybe she feels my full presence and availability because she starts revealing the layers of her mind. We start with the top layers: I really need black leggings and get all the way down to: I’m nervous about who I’m going to hang out with at school this year.

Col announces “I think we should have a family game night once a week.” Dan and I raise discreet eyebrows. We’re slowly cohering after a summer of everyone going separate ways, of the kids wringing as much fun out of the fabric of summer as possible, where they’d return after a day of free-roaming with friends and I’d have to heel the eager puppy of myself—who doesn’t like the pack separating—from jumping on them, begging them to tell me everything.

Walking back to our tipi Col grabs my hand and says, “I figured out which organ you’d most want removed.”

“Really?”

“Your taste buds.”

“What!?!”

“The ones that detect bitter flavors.”

I want to tell the kids, who were ambivalent about this trip, but have now arrived with their full hearts: “this love nurtures us; we need this,” but I am hoping they will just feel it.

Day 2

We arrive at a sagebrushy knob above the Saguache river where pronghorn bucks suddenly appear like mysterious wise men on treeless hills.

We have almost completely set up camp before realizing Col is still in the car reading, being the connoisseur of leisure that he is. He emerges announcing the hardship of getting ones shoes on the exact right feet. “Someday I’ll invent shoes that go on either feet.”

“Wow. That could be a really impactful contribution to humanity,” I tell him. “Maybe after you invent the bitter tastebud-removal surgery.”

We hit a small snag when Rose tells us there’s nothing she’s really looking forward to, now that the hot springs have passed a whole 2.43 hours ago. “Can we just go home now?” she asks. I swallow a thousand mini-lectures about staying open to the mysteries of life and instead try to understand what’s true for her in this moment. It’s hard, because I seem to have this weird parental translation tool that translates English into the language: “anxiety.” I hear I’m just not excited for anything right now and translate it to: I need constant fun, excitement and entertainment. Please pass the cocaine. And new shoes might help, too.

“It’s fun to feel excited, huh Rosie? To have something on the horizon to look forward to.” I can’t provide her with insta-fun, but I can offer a nonjudgmental landscape in which she can explore her own mind. If she has to defend herself against me, she’ll just hold on tighter to her position. Then we all suffer. Ultimately, I want to be someone with whom she can share her uncensored inner and outer life, whether it’s currently “I’m not excited for anything,” or eventually “I’m too drunk to drive.”

Later, we all ramble down to Saguache creek. Dan and Col fish upstream and Rose plunges into the creek, shrieking and laughing and begging to take Rocket off leash. The dog, whom we’re still getting to know, was found on the side of the highway at 15 months old, un-neutered, skinny and alive by his own wiles. Taking him off leash is a crapshoot, i.e. he’s great until he disappears. Rocket and I roam around, his mind exploding over snakes, chipmunks, pronghorn poop, and a hundred things I can’t see.

Back at camp, for dinner we eat four beautiful brown trout, pan-fried boletes and butternut risotto on fire-grilled tortillas. Everyone is tired and grateful for good food. I am wishing life could be this simple more often. Maybe it’s how our modern complexities fall away so we can be more available for each other. The stars come out. I read to the kids by headlamp, while Dan does busy, productive things, including taking endless photos of the one pronghorn buck that seems to be circling our camp. 

Day 3

The kids sleep like teenagers, past dawn, through Rocket barking at distant cows, and into the explosion of sun over the horizon.

Dan and Col go fishing again. Rose and I walk the dog through the hilly folds of sagebrush; between the profuse yellow flowers are a rainbow of other stunning colors. I ask Rose which friendships she’d like to grow this coming school year. She thinks about it carefully and names six girls. She likes this line of questioning. “What else do you wanna know, Mama?” she asks. Anything and everything you want to tell me.

The kids are leading the way forward into a shifting family constellation. This is the way of things. 

They’re saying trust me and l’m saying I do, but this world is crazy. They’re saying but this is our world, we need to understand how we fit into it. I’m saying remember the world we gave you, that’s the good world. And the kids are saying, but we need to see all the options, so we can choose. I find myself wanting to draw a line in the sand: this is the good world and this is the bad one. But I might find myself on the opposite side from my children. 

Dan and Col return, Col carrying one brown trout. When asked how he caught it Col replies, “It bit and I reeled it in.” Apparently he runs on something other than excitement.

Later we fry up that one trout and everyone devours it. 

Day 4

We drive to Blue Mesa reservoir, after a stop in Gunnison to resupply on food and beer. The reservoir stretches forever, glossy and blue, and our campsite is at the farthest end, in a quiet pocket of juniper and sage. The kids are flummoxed by heat and mosquitos, which dominate until the afternoon wind kicks up.

Col is back in the car reading; Rose is begging to go to a hotel, or better yet home. I am trying to tell myself that we haven’t failed. We haven’t failed to instill a love a nature in our kids, nor to provide a fun trip. 

“We’re just planting seeds,” Dan reminds me as the emotional storm brews.

I recognize that what I want most with Col and Rose is connection and trust, two things that once came effortlessly with their dependence on us. I remind myself that the connection is always there, but if I expect it to look like all of us making chokecherry jam together on a September afternoon I won’t find it. If I can can metabolize my grief over everything changing then I will see more clearly what remains; because the connection that remains is enough. Different, but enough. I’ve heard several parents say “I will always love my kids, but they have to earn my trust.” Yes, and we have to earn theirs as well. 

The cold water is a balm for the heat, bugs and the emotional pain of wishing things were different. I swim to the opposite shore and back again. Seagulls flap overhead, land on the water and eye me curiously.

Day 5

Our family is headed out to walk the dog when our friends arrive at the reservoir with 1 van, 6 fishing poles, 4 bikes, 2 boys, 1 stand up paddle board and a deck of cards. I am happy they’re here and apprehensive about Col and Rose shifting their focus to their friends. 

As our friends set up camp, the four of us head out on that walk. The kids position themselves on either side of me, each grabbing a hand to hold. Here it is, I tell myself. This is connection. Don’t miss it, don’t evaluate it; savor it. Rose tells me “I just felt a bit of excitement about school starting.” Col asks, “do you think Rocket would taste good, I mean if you had to eat him?”

The deck of cards magnetizes the four kids into a fierce game of poker in the van. Col and Rose return to our campsite several times to gather items for the pot. Rose pulls candy out of some unknown place and Col lays down packets of hot chocolate that he lifted from the hot springs dining hall. 

That evening we all gather at our campsite for grapefruit cocktails, food and many hilarious rounds of telephone pictionary, in which the teen boys teen-ify everything to 11. Dan lights piles of dried cow poop on fire to smoke out the mosquitos and strategically places them around the circle of camp chairs, announcing, “the dung has begun.”

Day 6

The kids are ready to go home. We’d like to stay another night. We try something radical, in which we each take turns speaking about what is motivating our particular preferences. i.e. I want to stay because camping brings simplicity, connection, and the beauty of the wild. Rose wants to go home because it brings comfort and the possibility of seeing friends and organizing herself before school starts in two days. We listen to each other with the hope that care for each other’s positions may generate some internal willingness to stretch closer to one another. Then, we each propose a solution that meets the most needs.

It takes almost an hour and we agree to this: go home tonight, though stop for one more mushroom foray, and then reunite tomorrow afternoon to take a walk, go out to eat and write our celebrations of the past year and our goals for this year. 

We pack up and drive home, through brutally hot Montrose, where we say yes to sugary drinks in throwaway plastic cups; through Ouray, where we stop to play soccer in the park; and over Red Mountain Pass, where we make dinner out of what remains in our cooler, while Dan goes off on a quick mushroom search.

In our final stretch, the shadows becoming long, and a certain warmth settling in the car from perhaps the gratitude of togetherness and trust, Col says, “you guys are really lucky to have us as kids.”

Me: “What makes you say that?”

Col: “Well, because we’ve learned a lot of good things from you. I’m a good listener to my friends, we’re kind to you, we know how to be social, we’re independent, and I’m pretty nice to Rose.”

Yes. There are whole sections of their childhood that have come and gone. There are cultural influences that will shake their souls, that they will roll the dog of themselves around in before they can decide if they like the smell. Our configuration of family will change and evolve. Some things will be lost and some will remain. And, there is a 14 year old boy who considers listening to his friends and being kind to be of high value. I breathe that in and we cruise towards home. 

p.s. we’ve had a “family game night” weekly since coming home as per Col’s request.



21 Responses leave one →
  1. Carly permalink
    August 30, 2019

    I’m still
    Laughing at col considering how Rocket would taste! Ha!

  2. Mollie permalink
    August 30, 2019

    “We listen to each other with the hope that care for each other’s positions may generate some internal willingness to stretch closer to one another.”

    Whoa.

    This can be done?

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      August 30, 2019

      So far prognosis is good. :)

  3. Pam permalink
    August 30, 2019

    “Col announces “I think we should have a family game night once a week.” Dan and I raise discreet eyebrows. We’re slowly cohering after a summer of everyone going separate ways, of the kids wringing as much fun out of the fabric of summer as possible, where they’d return after a day of free-roaming with friends and I’d have to heel the eager puppy of myself—who doesn’t like the pack separating—from jumping on them, begging them to tell me everything.”
    Beautiful!

    “I hear I’m just not excited for anything right now and translate it to: I need constant fun, excitement and entertainment. Please pass the cocaine. And the new shoes.” LOL!

    I have tears of joy and tears of grief. Joy for all that you’ve written here, that this is true; that this is possible. Grief because I visited a friend today whose young children are focused on screens and have very few limits. They are too young to read but have unlimited internet access on ipads. I became literally sick to my stomach with fear for what unlimited internet access is doing to children these days. I want more parents to be like you and Dan.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      August 30, 2019

      I love your heart, Pam.

  4. Amy Morrison permalink
    August 30, 2019

    Your words always come at the right time, thank you for continuing to share.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      August 30, 2019

      Thanks for being here, Amy, despite the long absence.

  5. ellen matthews permalink
    August 30, 2019

    How wonderful to read one of your posts again. Beautiful photos and family! Hilarious and endlessly sweet!!

  6. Dave Brown permalink
    August 30, 2019

    Bawling and smiling again. Life, love, and kids growing up. Despite all the second-guessing, it doesn’t get better than this. I think you are as ready as you can be for the teen years. I want to be there with you all the way.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      August 30, 2019

      Thank you. I appreciate that. Truly.

  7. Baba permalink
    August 30, 2019

    Beautiful writing and photos! Felt like I was there with you all

  8. Linda permalink
    August 31, 2019

    Joyful Journey is one of my favorite places on the planet. I go at least once a year. It’s special.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      September 2, 2019

      We really enjoyed it too and hope to go back.

  9. Dale in Denver permalink
    August 31, 2019

    Very timely post for me. I mourn the amazing childhood that has passed. But I am so proud of the man my child has become. I’m leaving him at FLC to start his next chapter without me. It’s the natural order of things, but boy is it going to be hard to give that last hug goodbye today.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      September 2, 2019

      Wow, Dale. That is a Big Milestone on this Big Journey. I know some very cool kids entering the freshman class at FLC this year…hopefully they will all find each other.

  10. elizabeth permalink
    August 31, 2019

    Oh man, this is good stuff. My 4 year old daughter often reminds me of Rose and it makes me aaaaaanxious. Mental note: I should observe more, respond less!!

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      September 2, 2019

      Elizabeth, e-mail me if you want any support/coaching.

  11. September 2, 2019

    Namah!!!

    sooooo wish ilg could git you and your Clan into ilg’s yoga classes; it’s just a Tribal Gathering of Sacred Sweat each week!

    kudo’s to your writings…head bowed…

    and?

    THANK YOU for acknowledging the often unacknowledged Native American use and mis-use and abuse of Turtle Islands’ indigenous People.

    you are without a Buddha’s Doubt the Highest Blogger EVER!!!

    head bowed,
    spirit vowed,

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