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Just Martha

2014 September 2
by Rachel Turiel

I am so sorry to report that not one rat baby survived. They faded out in painfully protracted waves. First one died, then five more while we were at the kids’ shared school* open house, then two more, and then the very, absolute last baby was found lifeless inside its pink, translucent skin.

When the first baby rat died, it seemed such a singular anomaly that Col asked if he could dissect its body at the kitchen table. “No!” I said at first, then remembered that we’re a hunting, butchering, home-schooling family who encourages children to take their education into their own hands. So Col opened up the little ones belly, and the tiniest coil of intestines spooled out.

Even after two babies were gone, I imagined the furry, plump futures of the remaining seven; imagined handing them off to Rose’s friends, being able to visit Martha’s offspring with all the nostalgia of a great-grandma. Even after seven were gone, I nurtured a small seed of hope. That emotion, hope, is a trickster. It feels almost productive (I’m busy hoping), though it carries the burden of expectation, of wanting things to be different, things that are out of our control. The day after all the babies were gone, I was contemplating rat orphanages, rodent assisted reproductive technology, or something to bring rat babies back into our house.

Rose, however, has led the family with wisdom and heart. She’s finding the wobbly balance between engagement and acceptance. She observed and reported regularly on Martha and her babies (“They’re nursing!”  “She’s sleeping on top of them!”) and when only two were left, Rose said, bravely, “It’s probably OK because now Martha can focus on keeping only two alive.”

When the very last baby rat died, Rose carried it to the compost and announced, “It would have been better if either she had never had babies, or if they all survived.” Indeed. We all like the happy endings best. After that, Rose got on with things, like squealing over Martha every couple hours. “Marteees!” she calls out, flinging her cage open.

After my sadness passed, I felt tremendous empathy for Martha. Imagine! One day you’re a mom; five days later, you’re not. “Do you think she’s sad?” Rose asks. Mostly she just seems exceptionally tired. The conventional wisdom is that Martha was too young for motherhood, not yet full grown herself. Maybe she didn’t make enough milk. Maybe there was disease. Maybe it was that one day, the babies’ second day alive, that Martha spent partying in her tube as if she didn’t have a pile of nine wriggly, hungry, needy young stashed under newspaper bedding.

It’s funny how you can get attached to something you never actually wanted or expected, like nine bitty, unformed rat babies with stumpy little paws and unopened eyes. But, now we’re back where we started, just Martha. Rose picks her up, dances with her and says in her squeakiest voice, “Oh Martees, you were just too young to be a Mama.”

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This is Martha, “smiling,” according to Rose.martha2

* Shared school: partnership between homeschoolers and public school, whereby my kids can attend public school for homeschoolers 2 days/week, AKA how I can homeschool and work, AKA how I can homeschool and not become the kind of mother who eats her young, AKA a lovely program with friends and music and art and Spanish and excellent teachers for which I am extremely grateful.

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The appropriateness of appreciation

2014 August 29
by Rachel Turiel

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We arrive with our lowland shorts and t-shirts into a different world. This is our fifth trip here during mushroom season, and the land is like a historical record of how we’ve grown and changed. Contained in the tawny, decaying corn husk lily are a scrapbook of memories: napping bodies steaming in a sauna of a tent, coaching the kids through squatting and pooping in the woods, reminding the children not to insert sticks in the fire and then wave them, hot and burning, around each others’ faces. Okay, some of this we’re still working on.

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Fading corn husk lily. Follow that man with the basket!

The kids pile out of the truck, each in their own sensory memory immersion. Rose bends her back to the earth, hands aiming for wild strawberries. Col immediately finds the hook on a string he left here last August, its use as cryptic as ever, though “sister-taunter” is investigated as potential application. By nightfall, the children are in our laps, between the fire and the insulative power of a parent’s body, watching the Perseid meteor shower flash above our heads. (Although in the truest meaning of irony, the kids beg to go to bed, while we beg them to stay up for the rarified astronomical display). Coyotes howl in the middle of the night, lifting us from our dreams, a PSA from the wild world.

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Boletus edulis perfectionus AKA porcini

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In the morning we search for mushrooms. The pace, slow and meandering, suits the children, plus there’s just enough uncertainty in the hunt for meaty fungal treasure to make it irresistibly challenging. We weave through the trees, parallel to each other, trying to cover the most ground before the children inevitably end up velcroed back to my side. We feed each other wild strawberries, each red jewel a love offering.

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Mid-afternoon, I recline in a camp-chair, finishing the morning’s coffee, trying to do nothing more than allow my senses to fill with this place. Rose nails sticks into mud with a hammer; Col swings his hook-on-a-string through the meadow, liberating seeds from ripe grasses. We don’t bring much in the way of toys (see above: hammers and hooks on ropes). And it’s not that my kids are welcoming of the emptiness, or that they’re on hands and knees, studying subalpine insect life, dutifully recording data in homeschool journals. No, they wouldn’t mind an entertaining blast of Disney right about now. But, I know the quietness, the space, the pause in their modern, busy life is taking hold somewhere in their hearts.

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Pyrola rotundifolia. After nineteen years of roaming these woods, getting to know the wild plants, I meet this one for the very first time. Greetings little wintergreen!

At a recent Shabbat service, Rabbi Eli explained that on Shabbat, in addition to not working, we stop doing, stop trying to figure out, fix, get ahead, create, follow through. Instead, we rest, celebrating the miracles that exist right here, right now. This liberated my heart in an instant: sometimes the appropriate thing to do is to enjoy, allow, appreciate; to simply receive the coyote’s howl, letting it sift into our human lives, allowing the beauty of the present moment to eclipse our worries for the future.

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Chanterelles, which Rose, in her propensity to give nicknames, calls “shantis.”

On this trip I finish The Fault In Our Stars, blubbering in my tent while Col slumbers beside me. Without giving anything away, this novel, written from the perspective of a teenager with terminal cancer, is deeply moving. The character, Augustus Waters, says: “The real heroes aren’t the people doing things; the real heroes are the people NOTICING things, paying attention.”

How difficult this is! We want to make our mark on the world, to prove our capabilities and talents, to see ourselves reflected in the universe. But what if it’s the universe that needs noticing? What if this beautifully imperfect world can leave its mark on us? What if, just for a short time—say, the 24 hour period of Shabbat—it is enough, not to be known, but to be an astute, appreciative observer, to try and know the world?

A shadow flashes through the meadow – a hawk chasing a golden eagle – showing up as if to prove something about miracles. But it’s all awe-inspiring: our basket of edible fungus and their unicellular spores surfing the sky, the mountain plants fading out of summer-green, these children being imprinted on by the wild world.

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Go forth and appreciate this weekend. xo, Rachel

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maternity leave

2014 August 27
by Rachel Turiel

You guys, I’m a great-grandmother!

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Martha had NINE babies on Monday night. What a shocker! The kids were skyping with their grandparents when Rose decided to show Baba and Nana her rat…her rat who um, had a strange, pink thing attached to her…and a few more wriggling on the ground. And then more, more and more, blooping out of her, wriggling and hairless. As Rose said, “Martha must have copulated back at the pet store!” My friend, Joy, noted that perhaps Martha wanted to get some good times in while the risk of becoming snake-food still loomed over her.

It all makes sense now: Martha’s exceptionally fat belly; her lethargy and tendency to hunker down in a corner of her cage even with her door flung open; her extreme mellowness, her soulful eyes of a mother.

rose and marthaJust hours before the big birth. Rose channeling some cross between Patti Smith and Fancy Nancy.

Rose is taking a small maternity leave from regular life. Her day starts and ends at Martha’s cage and includes much hovering, observing and planning (“I’m not going to name the babies, except a few I keep for myself. The rest I’ll sell to Dewa, Annslee, Neko, Chloe and Aniya for $2 each. And if one dies, I’ll just bury it in the yard.”)

I have to admit, the whole thing has been entirely enchanting. The chorus of baby rats (whose eyes aren’t even open yet!) all nursing is a sound that sends a hush over the house. Col observed, on the babies’ first night, “It seems like all of a sudden 100% of Martha’s brain is focused on her babies.” Even Dan wondered if we needed to start feeding Martha some super foods for extreme nursing.

Martha alternates between devotedly hovering over her babies, ferrying strays back into the wiggling pile, and going on wild benders in her tube, ignoring her new babes for hours. But as Rose astutely told my mom, who wondered what needed to be done for these rat newborns, “Martha’s in charge.”

Holy moly! Rat babies!

xo,

Rachel

 

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yoga and writing retreat

2014 August 22
by Rachel Turiel

A couple things I want to mention about our upcoming Yoga and Writing Retreat.

1) There is no level of proficiency or experience required to attend. If your heart wants to write (even if your mind conjures one thousand reasons why you’re not a writer), trust your heart. Practice is a well worn path; perfection is an illusion. Also, I will be the most novice yoga student in the room.

2) Local chef and wild foods forager, Maja Liotta, will be catering the retreat (lunch included in the cost of retreat). I’m betting Montezuma County peaches and San Juan mushrooms will be on the menu.

3) The retreat is offered at a discount until September 1st. See flyer.

4) We have a couple, small scholarships available.

5) Questions? E-mail me at sanjuandrive(at)frontier(dot)net or Joy Kilpatrick at breathworkswithjoy(at)gmail(dot)comyoga:writing flyer 

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peaches, mushrooms, and connection to place

2014 August 20
by Rachel Turiel

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If you did an MRI on my brain right now, you’d see that 50% is devoted to shuttling ripe peaches into the proper channels (freezer, canning jars, drying racks), another 25% is consumed with pep-talking myself through harvest-overwhelm (step forward with knife and breathe), and the last dusty regions are torn between actively ignoring the proliferating fruit flies and vaguely wondering, who’s parenting the kids?

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We harvested a few (hundred pounds of) peaches. Also, a small batch of mushrooms and one (surprise) roadkill deer. And of course every plant in the garden is waving its vegetal hand, begging, “Pick me! Pick me!” If you peered into our house right now, you’d see Dan and me, hunched over the table, ginsuing through boxes of ripe, succulent peaches, each juicy fruit spawning legions of new bawdy metaphors for Dan to try out on me.

We’ve become our own itinerant labor. Dan and I meet up in the mornings and evenings to plan and assess. The things we concern ourselves with have, roughly the same five, interchangable answers: 8 pints; more canning lids; #%$!@ fruitflies; simmer and mash; I thought you were watching the kids.

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Oh that? Just a roadkill deer leg, never to be turned down.

The kids are craftily seizing the opportunity of occupied parents to squeeze peaches into cups and sell the pulpy juice in front of the house, or to trot out every last little plastic thingy to strew across the house. No matter, we’ll clean up sometime in November. Rose came out of her room this morning wearing snowboots, rubber gloves and a pair of glasses my mom sent her, which she claims have “no reception.”

It occured to me, as the rat and then the cat woke me up at godawful early thirty this morning, that everything I’m doing right now boils down to Connection to Place. I don’t know if I can articulate it, but accepting the gifts of the chokecherries, the acorns, the meaty porcini mushrooms popping, red-capped, under the spruce trees, grounds me here. If we lived in Alaska, it’d be blueberries and salmon; in California, citrus and blackberries. By inexplicable fate, we happen to live in the Southwest, and there is a whole vital, edible platter of offerings right here, each with its own time-limited ripeness. Taking part in these seasonal offerings feels like a way to greet friends everywhere, to love this world, to love this place, to belong. After nineteen years here, the shine on this local life hasn’t worn away, rather it simply gets richer, deeper, better.

OUTTAKES

This morning:

Me: I’m going to go out and harvest some salad greens.

Dan: You mean you’re going to go weed the garden?

bounty2Purslane, amaranth, lamb’s quarters, dandelions and dill.

There are just TWO spots left in my chokecherry cooking class on Sunday. We’ll be making chokecherry jelly, chokecherry-apple leather, and talking about how to turn this astringently-sweet fruit into a pantry of delicious goods. (Also, three spots left in upcoming canning class). For more info, go here.

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Rose and Iris selling “hand-crushed peach juice.”

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Iris, not quite the glam-girl Rose is, trying to figure out the pink, sequined hair clip that Rose suggested would be appropriate for an afternoon of sales. “I don’t think I’m going to wear this, Rose,” she says, turning the thing over in her hands. Bless you, Iris.
Peach-eating rat named, Martha. I was not prepared for how much I’d like this little critter.
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Recipes currently in use:
BBQ Peach Sauce
Peach Leather: (cook down peaches until thickish, lay out on parchment paper in the sun (or oven, or dehydrator).
Salsa, two ways
Fermented pickles
xo
Rachel

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homelife, classes and other notables

2014 August 12
by Rachel Turiel

Rose: “I wish people never bought things they didn’t need.”

Me: “Really? (Thinking here of Rose’s rotating mental catalogue of things she covets but doesn’t actually need) Why?”

Rose: “Because then they wouldn’t have to have yard sales.

Quiet pause; head scratching.

Rose: “Because I feel left out of all the things I want to buy at yard sales but can’t buy because I’m saving money for a rat.”

Which is to say, we’re making huge strides here. And sure, it’s subtle, but at our house we get really excited about people articulating feelings and needs. Because, hey, we can empathize with that. It’s hard to think of all those polyester old lady blouses getting snapped up by other shoppers.

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I, meanwhile, have become a grandmotherly-like parody of my own baby-nostalgic self. Just now, in the library bathroom, I heard a Mama talking to her tiny, non-verbal son in that one-sided conversational way, “Are you ready to go? Should we go have lunch now?” And I had to completely refrain from bombarding the mother at the handwashing sink with how “I used to do that with MY babies! And now, we have ACTUAL CONVERSATIONS!” (Although my friend Sue wonders, reasonably, if all that continuous pre-verbal chatting accounts for having children who can now monologue cheerfully for thirty excruciating minutes at the dinner table).

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Dan is actually selling some of these brain-tanned hides. Website coming soon(ish).

Dan is looking ahead to the soon-approaching bow-hunting season, which means he’s trying to tan all of last year’s hides. He carries pots of warm brains through the house, small rotten drips leaping onto our floors. The kids hardly look up from whatever they’re doing, though the smell is the olfactory equivalent of getting slapped across the face. Ultimately, I think we’re all comforted by having ways to mark the seasonal transition: Dan and his hide-tanning, me appraising chokecherries for that ripe purple glow.

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And Col? He’s more like his father, daily. He’s inherited his father’s propensity to find useful stuff tossed to the side of the road. Yesterday, walking home from the river, he ferreted from the bushes a left leather glove 3 sizes too big, which he wore home with pride. “Daddy will love this,” he mused.

The rat has landed:classes6

Mama and baby are doing just fine.

I’m teaching some more classes, because I keep getting inspired and want to share. My ability to plan ahead is lacking, because what happens is I’m walking with the kids along the river, and the wild berries are popping and I think how fun it would be to get others excited about these iconic Southwest berries. And, so I am.

Animas River Plant Walk

Monday, August 18th 4:30 – 6pm. Location: Meet at trail on east side of footbridge behind high school. Cost: $15. Kids free with parent.

The riparian berries are abundant this time of year! Learn all about chokecherries, hawthorne berries, buffalo berries, sumac berries, juniper berries and rose hips. We’ll also see some late-season riparian plants and talk about their medicinal uses, historical uses, seed dispersal and more.

Chokecherry Cooking Class

Sunday, August 24th 4-6pm. Location TBA. Cost: $25

In this class we’ll be talking about the natural history of the chokecherry tree, one of the most important plants historically in the Southwest. We’ll make and take home: chokecherry jelly and chokecherry-apple fruit leather. You’ll learn how to separate the flesh from the seeds, how to use and preserve chokecherries with minimal sugar and come home with a variety of recipes. All supplies included. Space is limited.

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Chokecherries in action.
To sign up for classes, call my secretary, or e-mail me at sanjuandrive(at)frontier.net

August blessings to you all!

p.s. Just got the news of Robin Williams’ death. So so sad. Feels like I spent half my childhood watching Mork and Mindy. Dan and I have both lost to suicide (creative, bright, shining, loved) friends who suffered from bipolar disorder. May we all be a beacon of kindness and support to those in need. Wise, clear-hearted Anne Lamott’s take on Robin Williams’ death. Helps, some.

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DIY Kitchen: nutella

2014 August 7
by Rachel Turiel

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Teaser. Back to nutella recipe a little later. Stay tuned.

A switch has been flipped in the garden, everything responding to the late-summer force which urges plants to grow higher, fuller, faster. Eating from our yard has become less whimsical novelty, more all mouths on deck, everything is ripening now! (Full organic disclosure: Col spotted and removed an earwig from my sauteed broccoli tonight).

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These summer evenings, we’re out till dark-thirty, closing down the river, the neighborhood park, Col and Rose still swinging high into the pinking sky as the teenagers and deer creep in, claiming the next shift.

Front yard swingers:

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Back yard:

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The rains have come and gone and come again in biblical proportions, lashing down mightily at the earth. Then the sun returns like a warm and encouraging miracle. Dan and I reconvene at the days end, comparing notes: “I was downtown, it was crazy, Smelter Mountain was obscured.”  “I was home, watching hail pile up in the cabbage leaves.” And then we pause, letting a silent prayer of gratitude wash over us, which maybe contains the smallest amount of, “more, please?”

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Very naughty chickens.

The evening grosbeaks have returned to our feeders with their babies, all hapless and fuzzy and incessantly hungry.  The parents occasionally pretend to forget about their offspring, until they show up flapping and mouth-gaping and unavoidable. Dan and I watch, amused, feeling a certain kinship. The kids need to be fed, AGAIN? (My new exercise regime is simply feeding children).

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Outside, Col pursues cabbage butterflies with a lacrosse stick. He’s created a mausoleum of delicate bodies, small black dots jeweled into papery white wings. I am deeply ambivalent about this. “Thanks!” I tell Col, while a cascade of conflicting emotions nibble at me. The cabbage butterflies lay eggs on plants in the mustard family (broccoli, kale, cabbage, turnips primarily), and the eggs hatch into voracious caterpillars. Which is to say, this life contains many opportunities to ponder complexities.

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Rose has sprouted trunk-like legs, learned to do backbends, and is a fount of strong, changeable emotion. (Sometimes she needs help turning the emotional dial, like last weekend when it got set on howlingly bereft because Col wouldn’t tell her what he was howlingly bereft about five minutes earlier. Again, the complexities.) On a neighborhood walk, she jumps in puddles, cartwheels down sidewalks, pledges undying love to decrepit one-eyed cats who thread between her legs. Watching her unbridled enthusiasm is like beholding a classical artwork, the kind that lodges in your heart and tells you something about the indomitable human spirit.

But, nutella:

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What Dan and I do after the kids are asleep, the blog-postable stuff, anyway.

I kind of can’t believe I’m posting a recipe for nutella when breakfast is a veggie omelet sponsored entirely by our own yard (earwigs included), and our diet has never been more local. But I’ve adopted this homemade nutella as my go-to snack, packing a 1/2 pint jar of it to the library to keep my energy up while deadlines tap me on the shoulder.

I find this nutella to be delicious, but I have to admit, I’m no longer reliable. Col shared a piece of pumpkin bread with me last weekend and the sugar roared out at me while the pumpkin was a small, pathetic whimper in the background. Which is to say, I’ve lost my American taste buds for sugar. (Rose would like to mention that there are many other American things I’ve lost my taste for, such as fashion). And, I haven’t eaten actual nutella in years. But, I know there’s more of us out there than ever, who’re trying to decrease sugar and increase nutrients. This is for you.

Ingredients

full disclosure: I ususally make triple this recipe and never measure, but I recommend starting small and playing around with ingredients. Maybe add cinnamon? Or sub out the coconut milk for almond milk?

1 cup hazelnuts

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (could sub in 1/2 melted chocolate bar)

2 TBSP coconut oil

1/4 cup coconut milk (or even better, coconut cream on top of refrigerated can OR skip the coconut milk and add shredded coconut)

3 – 6 TBSP honey

1/2 TBSP vanilla

Directions

Blend in food processor. Store in fridge. Lasts 1-2 weeks in fridge, but it shouldn’t.

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seven things

2014 August 6
by Rachel Turiel

1) To meet overwhelming demand (i.e. the few friends who missed the first class), I’m offering one more Edible Weeds Class. Monday, August 11th, 4-5pm. We’ll learn which common weed in your garden has Omega-3 amounts to rival flax seeds; which plant has more nutrients than spinach, though will never ask as much from you as a gardener. We’ll talk history, culture, philosophy, and we’ll sample some of my favorite weed-sponsored creations. Come hungry. $15/person, or 2 for $20. Kids welcome and free. If you’re interested, e-mail me at sanjuandrive(at)frontier(dot)net.quickie Me, teaching last edible weed class with very official hand outs.

2) Kids and I just finished and loved, The Wind in the Willows. I marveled at the beautiful language, and the kids marveled at the frequent, scandalous use of the word “ass.” We all laughed  at Toad’s antics, and appreciated how Toad was like all of us at our worst: impulsive, restless, narcissistic, and yet aware of his shortcomings and always trying to improve. Col is currently memorizing Toad’s hilarious songs as his new party trick. The last book I loved was J.K. Rowling’s mystery, Cuckoo’s Calling, (written under pseudonym Robert Galbraith). It’s everything you want in a book: fast paced, sharp dialogue, surprising, and including a cantankerous, hard-living detective.

3) Rose’s first client. Business is rolling. Rat’s a coming.quick

4) If you would like to take the canning class (August 26th 6:30 – 8) in which we’ll be making local, organic salsa, more info here. Register HERE.

5) We found the pikas! And after camping with 4 kids last weekend, I am now channeling my inner 3-year old (in the moment, eternally-awed, joyous, loving and silly), who had the best time of anyone on the trip and will remember the least. quickie2

Four kids in a field of wildflowers. I am reminded of Dorothy, Tin Woodsman, Scarecrow and Lion in the poppies, especially after Col dropped to the ground for a spontaneous rest.bolam5

6) Come back tomorrow for my nutella recipe. Guaranteed to change your life a little bit.

7) xo

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2014 August 1
by Rachel Turiel

dog walking

Rest assured, Rose is a much better dog-walker than speller.

Translation:

I will walk your dog for one hour for four dollars. Does your dog poop on walks? If so, do you have plastic newspaper bags? If you do not I will provide them. This business will be provided for one month.

* Rose is saving up money for the ongoing expenses associated with owning a rat. She’s still in the romantic and dreamy phase, much like many of us when we were pregnant, researching consumer reports pre-approved car seats, selecting The First Outfit to bring to the hospital, imagining endless cuddles and none of the endless pooping. She told me this morning, “When I go to pick up the baby rat, I’ll bring the cage and squeaky toys and all the right food. I’ll have everything ready.” And she will.

Have a wonderful, first weekend of August. August! Can you believe it? I know. Someone said to me yesterday, “Well, I guess that’s it, summer’s about over.” Oh no, there’s much still to savor. I’m expecting lots of sibling fights, nauseatingly hot days, garden failures, all day dishwashing, and all the things that make the days pass particularly slowly. Off to look for pikas this weekend. Much love to you all, always.

xo

Rachel

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untitled

2014 July 28
by Rachel Turiel

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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.

pika6

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.

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