With the year speeding towards a close I have been doing a lot of thinking about the turbulent journey of self discovery I have been on. Depression, anger, joy, amazement, sadness, anticipation and inspiration are just a few of the words that describe this adventure. With the leaves not yet off the trees winter came to the valley and with that I began to think about the list I made back in January of the things I wanted to get done this summer. The realization that I had not gotten any of the items on the list checked off sent a pang of frustration through me. As with other ideas and lists of the past I had failed. To drive the knife of regret and displeasure in a little deeper I went back and read my list.
I quickly realized that even at the most motivated time in my life this list would have been hard to complete. Forget the fact that I spent most of the spring and summer trying to pull myself out of a depression while learning how to raise a child and cope with not having a job. From the time I wrote this list until recently I have tried many things to keep myself on an even keel. There was therapy, and taking time for myself, there are the happy pills, immersing myself in my sketch book, then my writing, and then with the first snowflakes the reoccurring dream of adventure. I knew I needed to put everything together, but I was unsure how. I started by shunning the computer and unplugging from my virtual world. I picked up my sketch journal to use as my main creative outlet. Then I packed Noah and Leunig into the car and drove to the foothills. Just above the city it is certainly far from the wilderness I see in my adventurous dreams. But to Noah, this is wilderness and it is an adventure filled with new exciting things to see. We took in canyon views, munched on mid-morning snacks in the sun while staring down at the city below. I feverishly sketched in an attempt to capture the moment. It was then I realized that I could no longer deny the mountains nor my art and that they needed to be woven into the fabric of my daily life. Still I longed for more adventure.
With Erin off from work and a recent snow storm in the mountains we drove up Mill Creek Canyon to the end of the maintained road and bumbled out of the car. Noah in his new snow suit and unsure how to move looked around with a quizzical look, a look that stayed firmly planted on his face as we made our way up the snow covered road, pulling him behind us in a sled. We took turns riding with Noah down the gentle sloping canyon road. As we pawed feverishly at the ground to try to gain a little speed, Noah sat between our legs with a large smile on his face and clapping his mittened hands.
A few days after our sledding adventure Noah and I again made the journey to the end of the road in Mill Creek. Noah watched with intensity as I put on my ski boots and climbing skins[i] . With Noah strapped to my back nestled snuggly into the cockpit of the kid carrier and the dog happily trotting along beside us, we began our climb up the road. Snow covered just a few days prior, the road had now turned to ice with the warm days and was rutted with a patch work of boot prints, ski tracks and paw prints. Leaves that had been thrown to the ground by the wind now looked like sprinkles atop the smorgasbord of frozen tracks. We climbed for just over a mile stopping only to pull Noah’s hat clear of his eyes each time he banged on my shoulder and grunted. After removing my climbing skins we began our decent. Noah, hanging his head out of the side of the pack for a better view, squealed with delight as the wind rushed past his face. Back at the car Noah snacked on warm milk and cereal bars and I had some tea as I packed everything up.
As we were driving home it hit me. Getting out into the backcountry and pushing myself is great but going a mile up a snow covered road and then skiing down with Noah is just as much of an adventure because we are doing it together and to him this is an adventure. There will come a day when we do go into the backcountry, when Erin and I stop making excuses and take ourselves out of our comfort zone and go camping or rock climbing again. It is not about lists or about how many different activities you can pack into your child’s day; what it is about is adventure and family. The last paragraph of my list post sums it up perfectly.
This list, however simple, really has nothing to do with the words that make it up and has everything to do with introducing Noah to the beauty that is outside our door so that he knows that the world is not just computers, text messages, video games and fancy stuffed animals that know his name. It is about adventure, learning and exploring the world around you. It is about using your imagination to create something so amazing in a place so beautiful that when the sun begins to sink into the Western desert you do not want to go inside but you do; dirty, tired and hungry and full of wonderful stories to tell mom during dinner as a family.
[i] Climbing Skins give you great grip on snow during your backcountry tours, so you’re not constantly slipping back on your ascent. Climbing Skins attach to your skis with hoots at the tips and tails and an adhesive that sticks to the base of your skis in all temperatures. Synthetic fabric provides traction on your uphill battles and a smooth glide across level ground. Skins have evolved substantially since the days of seal pelts and animal fur. Most skins these days are composed of thousands of little synthetic nylon “hairs” all lying down in one direction (angled towards the back of your ski to propel you forward).