February in darkness and in light

The parents were sluggish, beaten down by our current political climate, and tired of an unusually relentless winter in the Pacific Northwest. The children were bickering, in need of fresh air, and hoping to stay home for yet another day of board games, a family movie night, and an opportunity to destroy each other’s Lego creations fireside. We needed to get out of town. ASAP. I booked a campsite in the Cascade Mountains and immediately regretted my decision. The Muslim Ban. The NEWS. How would we possibly extricate ourselves from the atrocities occurring this weekend? What if we missed something? Something outrageous or terrifying or so rattling that it made us wonder what country we are living in?! Deep breaths. Pack some food. Grab the sleeping bags. Tell the children they are absolutely going camping in the rain in February and it is going to BE AWESOME.

I’m so tired. So depressed. So overwhelmed.

We arrived in deep, deep snow at 1400 feet elevation. Shit. Set up camp, smile, laugh, remind everyone that this.is.awesome.dammit.

And then a few hours in — of course — life began to happen and unfold just as it does every time we make our way towards some uncharted, unplanned adventure. There were games and books and stories and a piecemeal dinner, albeit with several forgotten or misplaced elements. There were conversations and questions and a mind-blowing realization that our kids are absolutely listening to the conversations around them regarding race and privilege and responsibility and “Mom, what are we going to DO to help this world?!?!!?” Part of me wasn’t ready for this right now, and yet, in many ways, we are so late to the party. It is no longer sufficient to enjoy these adventures without actively finding our place in the protection of these lands and in issues of inclusion and equity within them.

How many times have I woken up recently asking, “Where do I start?!?! How much of this insanity do we share with these children?!?!” And, yet, somehow this trip and the subsequent ones in recent weeks have¬†urgently re-inspired our path forward: service, equity, inclusion.

On this recent trip, we talked about ideas of service in the context of the burly park ranger who gifted us some firewood for helping him out by moving campsites as was needed. This lead to a segue about the National Park Service employees who were silenced and found inspiring ways to get their voices heard in the media. We talked about service to the land and to each other as our human responsibility. We talked about how being outside amongst the trees and snow and wind is a basic human right, and how this right should be available to every child and every family.

One kid reminded us that these lands belong to ALL of us — white people, brown people, black people, people we agree with, people we don’t agree with, old people, young people. These lands hold the opportunity to practice perspective-taking and how we might own and care for something together. We can learn from this. We know these lands — lands that mean so much to our family’s experience of place and identity — as a springboard to a deeper understanding of service to the world and to each other. We talked about equity and access to these special places. The kids remind each other that we have a responsibility to assure that everyone feels welcome, safe, and has the ability to physically get to these places.

One kid falls off a log into the frigid stream flowing into Detroit Lake. Another sprints through an endless magical field of deep, white snow toward the water. “Dad, can we please stay another night?!?!?!” We pinkie promise to be of service and to better understand how more people might come to be here on their own journeys. We’ve been on this path for a long, long time, and yet somehow this feels different. We’re fired up and ready to go.