The Rocky Mountains are calling, daring me to come and explore and surrender to the power of nature. I’m soul-hungry; longing to rediscover myself in single moments, at the edge of an alpine lake or enveloped under a lime green forest of quaking Aspens. Mother Nature’s grandeur has always given me the courage to go after my dreams by offering clarity when I need it most.
Life has overwhelmed me lately and our fast-approaching family adventure is exactly what I need: I sense the mountains will shake me up, freshen my perspective and give me the direction I yearn for. If nothing else, I know they’ll make me feel small yet mighty, exposing the insignificance of my worries or revealing simple, previously overlooked solutions.
We planned this trip almost nine months ago and with our departure drawing closer I feel as if I’m a child eagerly anticipating the magic of Christmas morning. As I hold our mail, tie up lose ends at work, schedule my blog and get packed for our trip I reflect on why I’m so excited.
“It is in the small moments of discovery that big dreams are born.” L.R Knost
Since becoming a parent, our adventures have mellowed but in many ways our experience is growing richer. It’s thrilling to share our world with our little man and as caretakers of this fragile planet it feels like our duty to ignite a passion for wild places in the next generation. Yet, perhaps my overriding motivation to hit the open road is simply how it makes me feel: happy and free. It has the same effect on my son.
Ever since he was born, nature has calmed him. As a baby, the simple act of walking outside onto our deck and staring up at the towering Douglas Fir trees was enough to dry his tears and bring a smile to face. Now, as a curious three-year-old, wild places expand my son’s world, quieten his mind and feed his confidence. I’m proud of his growing independence as he forges ahead on the trail, searching for dinosaurs, adventure and wild huckleberries; safe in the knowledge he can run back for “big huggies” at any time.
“Time in nature is not leisure time; it’s an essential investment in our children’s health” Richard Louv
Time spent outside feels like an investment in our family’s emotional connection as we silence life’s white noise, strip away the clutter of domesticity and the responsibility of chores; allowing ourselves to focus on each other unconditionally. The frustrations and limitations of even our loose schedules melt away, giving us the freedom to relax, breathe deeply and take life as slowly as we choose.
The natural world is our favourite playground; captivating and engaging our little man in the most authentic and healthy way possible. She’s a safe place for him to test his limits, learn to rock hop, chase the ocean’s waves, find his balance and stretch his inner strength. Infinitely more forgiving than manmade playgrounds, she nourishes his growing mind rather than entertaining or overstimulating it; meltdowns are rare in places like this.
“Children cannot bounce off the walls if we take away the walls.” Erin K. Kenny
Nature nourishes me too; out here I forget how society tells me I should parent. I don’t have to make excuses or offer explanations for my three-year-old’s normal, but perhaps inconvenient behaviour. Out here I am enough, because I have to be. When we commit to a trail, to climbing a mountain or setting up camp, we have to see it through. We dig deeper and find unbelievable reward in the challenge. Out here there are no safety nets and no short cuts. We’re a tight trio, bringing our individual strengths; helping each other reach our destination and finding our family’s sweet rhythm in the journey.
“All good things are wild and free” Henry David Thoreau
When we make nature part of our daily lives, rather than something to be scheduled, it infuses our souls, opens our senses and simply, makes us happier. It becomes a healthy addiction. Diving into nature with children forces us to adjust our expectations, travelling at a slower pace, literally smelling the wildflowers and being open to taking unintended paths. It elevates my energy and gives me a deeper patience I bring back to our daily lives.
“This tumbling wild landscape reminds me of all the parts inside me that are tumbling and wild.” Hilary Oliver
Our children are born with their instincts fully intact, they’re born wild and free. They crave feeling sand between their toes, water rushing through their tiny hands and the wind whispering in their ears. Manmade toys can’t compare to the imagination and creativity stones, shells, sticks and mud awaken in our children. Spending time in nature doesn’t feel like an option; it’s as necessary to healthy human development as the food we eat and the air we breathe.
“Passion is lifted from the earth itself by the muddy hands of the young; it travels along grass-stained sleeves to the heart.” Richard Louv
Richard Louv, legend and author of Last Child in the Woods, describes the growing divide between children and nature as a “nature-deficit disorder”. Linked directly to conditions such as obesity, attention disorders, and depression it’s time for lasting change. And parents are the only ones who can do it; it’s time to recognize what our children really need.
That’s not to say it’s easy in our modern world. Young children complicate life, somehow seeming to stretch straightforward five minute tasks into half hour mind-bending negotiations: it’s often a lot easier to throw our hands in the air, stay home and give up. But the more we push ourselves and get outside the easier it gets with the rewards far outweighing the effort. So, whether it’s going for a hike come sunshine or rain, playing at the park, swimming in the ocean or exploring our own backyards getting our families outside always leads to good things.