On childhood memories, wilderness, and my Dad
It’s summer, officially, finally. I keep saying my summer will be full of hiking and exploring and sipping margaritas on patios but so far it’s involved a lot of hiding out in our apartment with the A/C blasting because it’s too hot to do anything fun outside and we’re too poor to use gas on driving to the mountains all the time.
Even so, it brings me peace to go outside and just see the mountains standing in their resolute line. I know that, somewhere out there, is wilderness. Untamed, unspoiled wild. Warm, green meadows and hidden valleys full of wildflowers and cut by ice cold rivers. Pine trees, tall and fragrant, and magical aspens glittering and trembling in the fierce sun. Steep scree slopes and jagged heights and far off peaks, layer upon layer, for mile upon mile. Open sky, bluer than blue at the zenith. Bigness. Quietness that gets into your soul. Places that a great many people living in this city will never, ever lay their eyes on.
When I think of the times I was happiest, I think of long drives to the deep mountains playing silly games in the backseat with Amy to keep ourselves entertained, of skinned knees and hands sticky with sap and dirt in my hair.
I think of the crisp feeling of the air early in the morning before it gets warm, of hot cocoa and oatmeal made over a camping stove.
I think of the smell of warm pine in the air, the smell of sunscreen and bug spray.
I think of days spent exploring, climbing, camping, walking, standing on mountain tops.
I think of mica and quartz and glittering rocks and the dust on the ground positively shimmering because it’s so full of minerals and listening to my dad tell about how and when they were all formed.
I think of carrying a heavy pack, walking along the trail, singing hymns with my dad.
I think of the slickerey sound of a sleeping bag and the sound of rain pounding the walls of our tent.
I think of feeling exhausted and happy, and the brightness and effusiveness of the stars uncontaminated by city light.
I think of all these things and get literally hungry for the wilderness. Sometimes I begin to feel trapped by the city. I hate the asphalt and the shopping centers and the neat little walking paths and the trees planted just where the civic engineers wanted them to live and I must. get. out.
So, once or twice a week, we pack up food and diapers and water and the dog and get as close to that wilderness as we can. We don’t go far. Long car rides cost money and they can have an unpleasant effect on an active toddler. I’m happy to just explore the open spaces in the front range, to get outside and hear the dirt crunch under my feet and drink in the sky. It maintains my sanity, and hers, too.
She’s my daughter, that’s for certain. When she’s stormy and bored and angry, being outside quiets her, seems to bring her back to center. Now that she’s old enough to walk, I take her out of the backpack and let her explore. And suddenly the old familiar mountain parks we’ve visited dozens of times are all new because they’re all new to her, and my love of this beautiful state is constantly galvanized.
Many of my happiest memories are intrinsically connected with my dad. He loves the mountains, he longs for the wilderness, and so I learned to, too. I wonder about Isabella’s childhood memories. When she thinks back on her happiest times, what will they be?
It’s belated, but Happy Father’s Day, Daddy. The summer days spent with you, the geology lessons, the jokes and laughs and singing and time you gave me has grounded me for 26 years. I deeply hope to instill the same passion in Isabella that you have shared with me. Thank you.