Returning to My Roots
This article originally appeared July 10, 2013 in the Weiser Signal American.
Sometimes there are places and events from our childhood we wish we could experience again, sometimes because our perception has changed and sometimes because we wish to experience the thrill again. My childhood was filed with trips to the mountains – the Strawberry Mountains and Steens Mountains in Eastern Oregon and the White Clouds and Seven Devils in Idaho. My family spent a lot of time hiking trails, but in those days I wasn’t interested in the hiking, only the fishing that undoubtedly awaited the end of each hike. These hiking trips are experiences I wish to revisit.
My perception has changed – hiking trails for the pure sake of hiking appeals to me, now, and the fishing can be considered a wonderful bonus. But, I also want to experience these things again because I just want to feel that exuberant sense of freedom again. There is something incredibly liberating about being perched in the peaks of a monstrous mountain range, realizing that for all the struggles that present themselves in one’s life, they don’t amount to anything out here.
A couple weeks ago, I took the family up to one of the places I recall from my youth, Windy Saddle in the Hells Canyon Recreation Area. The campground just a half mile to the southwest, Seven Devils Campground, provided our destination where we ended up spending two glorious days. Finding myself at the bottom of the glacier covered ridge towering over Seven Devils Lake I was transformed back to childhood, remembering what it’s like to shirk responsibility, disregard clocks, and focus only on the moment. I wasn’t aware of political, social, or economic troubles here; my only concern was making sure my oldest son caught a fish. It was easy to see the world through his eyes while on this trip – remembering what it is like to have utter and complete freedom and not a single care to whit. It was, in a word, awesome.
We brought the new bow for the four year old and spent lots of time around camp “hunting trees.” I found that at such a young age, he grasps the hunting concept very well. Following a shot, he’d retrieve his arrow, look at it, then proclaim, “There’s blood all the way to here,” motioning his hand up the entire length of the arrow shaft, “I think it was a good hit!” We’d then spend a few minutes following a blood trail that existed in his mind as clear as if it were a double lung shot spraying blood on each side of the trail. After a while, he’d stand up and point, “There he is!” and then the work began. He would heft the animal up onto his back, and walk in a manner portraying the heavy burden on his back in the direction of camp, where upon arrival, he’d drop the heavy load on the picnic table and we’d each grab a bite of fresh elk.
This is what it is like to see the world fresh from a youngster’s eyes. This is what life should still be like, and I realized that with such clarity I wondered where and when I began to move off course.
We caught fish – I should say I hooked fish and watched our oldest kid reel them in. The pure, unbridled joy on his face made me completely unaware till after the fact that in two days I never reeled in a single fish. The youngest wanted to put everything in his mouth – things he’d never seen before, things he’d never touched before, and things he’d never tasted – perhaps, just perhaps, he’d find something that thrilled his taste buds. Almost everything on this trip was new to them, and seeing the way they embraced every new adventure, experience, sight, sound, smell…this is what it means to be alive. I want to thank my children for helping me remember this lesson.