Skip to content

Spoiler Alert

2021 August 13
by Rachel Turiel


I’m in the garden, taking a self-guided tour with coffee, when Col wakes up. “Come out and see the garden!” I call to him like he’s just arrived in the country. He’s bleary, sun-shocked, some teenaged part of him still anchored to his bed. “Okay,” he concedes, “you can show me three things.”

I lead him to a pollen-fuzzed bee plunged deep into a zucchini blossom; cucumber tendrils spiraling by some vegetal sonar towards a trellis; and, the fence-scaling morning glories–flowers yet to open–singing a song called potential.

They bloomed!

“This looks familiar,” he points to a basil plant, trying perhaps to make conversation in the last 30 seconds of his window of tolerance. “Basil!” I exclaim, as if still navigating his toddler world by naming every noun in his vicinity.

“Thanks mom, garden’s looking pretty nice.” He aims himself towards the kitchen to grab his phone en route back to his room.


My friend tells me his whole life revolves around his 2 1/2 year old twins. “They’re all I’m interested in,” he says, sounding worried, like he may have lost something irretrievable. I am always cautious about revealing the unthinkable to people with young kids. But, I’ll tell you here (spoiler alert): those small ones you’re so enchanted with and beleaguered by? They grow very big very fast. They will want space and privacy. They will no longer track your every move like fine tuned sonar; nor will they so fully and transparently narrate their lives to you as if you’re their personal biographer. They will get jobs and earn their own money. They may want to spend their money on take out meals, despite your garden and freezer overflowing with ingredients, a small monument to single use plastics slowly rising in your recycling bin. Or, they may float, distractedly, through your garden (formerly the backdrop of every goddamned, summer childhood scene), their minds tendrilled out on girls, hip hop, video games, carbs, who even knows, while for a brief moment an explicit memory of a basil plant hijacks the system.


About every other week Dan and I leave the kids alone and head out for a short backpacking trip. This is a parenting trick akin to once getting them both to nap at the same time. There’s a lot of strategy and up front effort. But it delivers. It’s like getting something precious returned to you that’s been lost.
Getting curious about castilleja heydenii, or paintbrush.

These trips tend to bring out a strange mix of euphoria-despair in me. There’s the joy of reuniting with familiar places. Remember when we hiked to the top of that ridge and saw six bull elk bedded in the meadow below?  And, the stunningness of peering into a whole different universe. A pika chews up a purple columbine flower, little pink tongue darting in and out.

The boletes were fo real this year. 288% of normal rainfall in July. Also, we are not ultra-light backpackers. (And Dan’s camera has a big, permanent smudge on the lens).

And then, there are visible changes that I register like a stone in my gut. Climbing out of a tent at 12,300 feet in the shade-draped morning and not needing a jacket. Lakes turning into marshes; marshes drying up. Spruce slopes skeletonized by bark beetles. Flowers blooming 2-3 weeks early. Dan and I watch a singular, large mountain goat perched on an impossible rock ledge, its wooly white coat looking out of fashion on this hot alpine day.


We take our annual end of summer trip a month early because Col is scheduled to be on the Colorado river for 2 weeks mid August. (Spoiler alert: they want to be away from you. Double spoiler alert: you will love–and pay good money–for this).

We arrive at the remote, highcountry Conejos river cabins and the host is about to announce the wifi password. If this were a slapstick comedy I’d have flung myself across the room to take her out before she could utter the words. I’m slightly less obvious but we manage to steer everyone out of the room unawares. Oh well, we shrug to the kids, no wifi for a few days.

Alternative activities to checking ones notifications.

A rare moment: Dan sitting. Note dog face peeking out of screen door.

The next day we hike to Bear Lake and something strange happens in the absence of internet connectivity. Rose forages strawberries and blueberries like a wild bear. (Yes, wild blueberries in Colorado. Smaller and more tangy than their domestic kin). She’s delighted by the wildflowers, and like someone waking up from Instagram-fueled amnesia, remembers that she loves sucking the nectar out of columbine spurs and popping cucumber-fresh bluebell blossoms in her mouth.

Col spots a vein of chanterelles under the spruce. “Wow – you recognized those chanterelles even though it’s been awhile since you’ve gone mushroom hunting with us,” I say.

“I’d never forget chanterelles,” he says. And a small balloon of reassurance inflates in me.

Col starts remembering other things. He wants to hold my hand and tell me everything. “Remember when me and Mathew used to go looking for snakes in the soapwort? We never actually saw a snake in there,” he confesses.

“Remember that winter the bucks used to spar behind our house and Daddy was totally obsessed? That was cool.”

“Remember when I ate a live grasshopper at homeschool co-op?” (Shudder).

Oh how I do. We let our minds travel together through the scrapbook of stories. Those days when we all seemed to be shipmates sailing through life together. It’s happy and sad, wistful and confusing (where did we go if we’re all still here?), all at once.

5. We spend five days together, hiking, eating and trying to understand and orient to one another. We’re not the same as we once were, and yet, we still fit together. The current fit requires some finessing and adjusting in ways that are new, and sometimes uncomfortable. Some of us are enamored of the made world, looking for novelty and excitement you can put on your debit card; and some of us are drawn to forage mushrooms and apricots; our excitement tethered to repetition and traditions. Dan frequently reminds me that the kids are ultimately more like us than not. When I ask Col and Rose if they think they’ll grow gardens someday, they both say yes, offhandedly, as if it’s inevitable rather than desirable.

We make 5 star dinners in the communal kitchen of the funky Taos hostel while rain douses the land. (just like at home, it’s just that we’re all eating the same thing at the same time).

At the Rio Grande river, plunged into cool, soothing waters after a particularly sketchy hike, Rose announces, “Daddy leads us into rocks and poison ivy, but he always fixes everything.” How sweet to be known and accepted exactly as you are. The kids soothe the anxious beast of me by putting their phones up and playing silly board games and calling it “family time.” That will earn them at least two episodes of Breaking Bad on the hostel’s TV which will likely grease their willingness to take a walk up El Salto Road after dinner, where we marvel at the bountiful, monsoon-fed ditches and the sunflowers splashing yellow onto the high desert. This is how we fit together.

I don’t know what comes next. Maybe you do. No spoiler alerts, please.

11 Responses leave one →
  1. Caraway Timmins permalink
    August 13, 2021

    Hi Rachel, I just LOVE LOVE LOVE this blog post!! And I really love your writing. And your gardening, and your parenting… And your friending!
    Also, this is perfect because I had wanted to hear about your Conejo river trip and forgot to ask more about it while we were together. It sounded fantastic, and great photos!
    Thanks so much for sharing,
    Love, Caraway

  2. Linda Barnes permalink
    August 13, 2021

    Gosh, as usual, your writing is enthralling, full of great spoilers, and timeless in wisdom.
    Thank you Rachel.

  3. Ellen Matthews permalink
    August 13, 2021

    What happens next? It only gets better.

    Oh please post more often. It’s such a treat!

  4. Catherine Hopkins permalink
    August 14, 2021

    Thank you, Rachel – Such a poignant memory inducing post – it dredged up our jaunts with our long gone teens…. Spoiler alert: we just spent two weeks on Maine coast with our now adult women, and a teenaged grandson: it was heart-rendingly beautiful to swim, hike, paddle, cook together, eat and eat and after dinner play all those games from past gone times. One can look back and feel bereft of those little ones, those sulky but fun loving teens – but it is an unbelievable blessing to spend down time with one’s adult children: it just transforms – it’s still family!

    • August 14, 2021

      This is a wonderful comment Catherine… my kids are just a wee bit older than Rachel’s so this post gave me a bit of a heart ache. I appreciate your spoiler alert! (I stumbled on Rachel’s blog years ago and have read every post since. I love her writing.)

  5. Rachel Turiel permalink
    August 15, 2021

    I felt the exact same way about Catherine’s comment. So sweet to hear your spoiler alert. Hi Tricia!

  6. Linda permalink
    August 15, 2021

    thank you for the post, Rachel. It’s such a treat to read your beautifully written essays and catch up on what’s been happening. Thank you for sharing your talents and your family. It is much appreciated.

  7. Caitlin permalink
    August 19, 2021

    Deep in world of a 2.5-year-old and a 1-year-old who follow me into the bathroom, clamber up on my bare legs, demand to nurse, incessantly, fat hands drumming on my exhausted chest. Grateful, every day, for the moment they’re both asleep. And brought to tears at the searing thought that someday this will end. Thank you for your writing.

  8. Molly permalink
    August 20, 2021

    I love your updates!

  9. elizabeth permalink
    August 22, 2021

    oh my goodness oh my goodness oh my goodness

    mine are 10, 6 and 0

    It’s so beautifully written, but makes me feel like there is a clock ticking very loudly somewhere close by and yet invisible….

    Love from Belgium and like Ellen, I wish you’d post more often. Your blog is bookmarked right under the place where you see the web adress (hard to explain in non technical words (i am lacking the technical words), but it has a place of honor, let me put it like that) and I click ‘rachel’ every few days to see if you’ve written. If you write somewhere else, perhaps you can link that? xoxo

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      August 23, 2021

      Elizabeth, will you be my agent? Personal cheerleader? Thank you for your encouragement.

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

%d bloggers like this: