I have always had an appreciation for the outdoors. My Dad used to take my brother and me camping and hiking when we were kids. He grew up on a farm in southeastern Ohio and spent a lot of time outdoors. Even though I grew up in the city, he wanted me to experience some of the things he was able to experience as a child. I didn’t always love it. I distinctly remember when I was about 12 years old going on a backpacking trip with my Dad and brother. I was so tired, my feet hurt so badly, and I cried and complained so much that my Dad had to leave me at a roadside pick up point, go get the car, and come back and rescue me! Boy, he was patient; I doubt that he felt that 12 was the “best age.” But as all good parents do, he stuck with me and continued to take me on field experiences! Fortunately, as I got older I got a little tougher, went on to do some tremendous hikes, went wilderness camping and have had some of the most amazing experiences of my life.
I had an opportunity for one of those experiences recently with my 20 year-old daughter. She has embraced my love of the outdoors and going on hikes is one of her very favorite things to do–so when we can both hike together, it’s special. We gain energy and our spirits are lifted in nature. It is something that grounds us both. The roots we climb up as we transcend a steep hill also serve as metaphors for how we are connected. We are connected to the earth and to each other. The time that my daughter and I have as we are surrounded by nature serves as a relationship-sustaining opportunity for the two of us. We take in our surroundings with our whole beings–eyes wide open to the shapes, colors and textures. We listen to the sounds of nature that we so rarely hear in our busy lives. We breathe in the rich, musty smell of the earth. We enjoy the silence, but also the time together to talk. As we have time for unhurried conversation, we acknowledge the twisted nature of our relationship and our years together just as the twisted roots wind up the hill. At the same time, these roots ground us, support us, hold us together as mother and daughter. Our lives are both complicated and enmeshed with each other, yet in many ways simple–our roots are deep, life-sustaining arteries of love.
As my daughter went through the various stages of growing up, I always said to people, this age is the BEST age. Then as she got older I said, THIS age is the best age. Each stage of a child’s life offers so much and teaches us so much as a parent and as a human being. What I realize is that it is NOW that is the best age, the best time, whatever “now” that is. It is through being present with ourselves and our children that we are rewarded most. Sometimes that “now” is messy and difficult and you just want to run away from it. But it is through embracing that messy and difficult now that you can truly appreciate the next now that is uplifting, inspiring and special–just as my daughter and I did on our hike and when we reached the top of the ridge to enjoy exhilarating, expansive views–together.