Monday, July 25, 2011


For the past months, I've been looking forward to our upcoming family vacation.  We are having a reunion of sorts; we are meeting my niece and her family, my nephew and his wife, my sister (mom to those two)\my parents, and my brother's son and daughter  in Colorado.  It's "in the middle" -- about a thousand miles for each of us -- but still a journey of some considerable distance.

We have a family tradition of slow travel.  Dear hubby and I were both raised on the "road trip."  I flew on a plane perhaps twice in my childhood; our trips were taken by car.  I believe in the togetherness a car trip promotes.

In fact, our vacations tend to be slow ones.  I think it's good for kids to be bored on occasion and to learn to make their own fun.  On one long trip where we headed due west and only turned north when we hit central California, I admit I was dreading the long miles of desert.  The girls, then 7 and 5, taught me something on that trip;  they had many conversations about how the desert was changing as we traveled west.  By the time we spent a night camping in tiny Brenda, Arizona surrounded by the towering saguaro cactii, I was in love with the desert.

Like so many of our family trips, this one will also be a camping trip.  Many years ago we bought a pop-up trailer to ease the workload a bit, but it is definitely still camping!  From our first day out, our lunch stops will be at state parks with a picnic.  Our suppers will be around the picnic table in our campsite.  Both the big girls, camping veterans by now, are already anticipating grilled fajitas, s'mores, apple cobbler, and sloppy joes. 

I am looking forward to something else.  I'm looking forward to seeing our kids running around in the trees.  I can't wait to see what kind of games they invent given a media free gift of time outdoors.  I am curious about how "the littles" will enjoy this new freedom and anxious to see everyone playing with my great niece and nephew.  I will relish the opportunity to sit around and talk over the world's troubles with my family.  I look forward to waking with the sun and being happy to fall in bed once the stars are out.  I can't wait to look at those stars and to see the "littles" be amazed by how many stars you can see once you are in the real wilderness. 

Pepper on a cool morning in Big Bend, 2005.
When my kids are grown up, I want them to know the crackle of a campfire, the taste of a cold morning in a pine forest, the smell of coffee and canvas, and the warm cocoon of a flannel lined sleeping bag.   I want them to remember romping in the forest, the smell of dinner cooked on the grill, and the beauty of a protected wild place.  These are the sights, sounds, and smells of my childhood and the blueprint for our slow-cation.

My kids live in the modern world, as I did growing up.  They hang out on Facebook, play sports, watch TV and talk endlessly on the phone.  I do not think these things, in moderation, are inherently dangerous or evil.  Yet I do think that at times we all need to unplug.  We need to lose the laptop, the alarm clock, and the world of virtual friends.  We need to play like kids in open spaces and wash our face in a cool stream.  We need to learn about bugs and bears.  For me, the slow-cation is my opportunity to reclaim a part of American life and in so doing, reclaim myself.  Can't wait!

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