Sunday, August 31, 2014

hiking with little kids

(Gee whiz, I'm tired.  I started this a couple days ago....)  

I have a vacation post, summer snaps, garden post and a big ol' letter to Hazel brewing in my blogging bucket.  But first....
:: My happy place: outside, roaming the wilds of the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem, placing feet to earth, cool, a camera in my hand, with my three favorite people.  We had the best hike today.  
 We hadn't hiked much this summer, it was so hot (high 80's), we gravitated towards water instead.  But then, monsoon rains!  Hail!  More rain!  Everything cooled off.  Flies vanished.  Mosquitoes too.  (Also today, sadly, my tomatoes are dying from some fungal blight.)  But dang if this isn't the perfect hiking weather.  
We made tracks, played games, explored newly fallen pinecones and half-rotting bolete mushrooms.  Hazel half rides, half hikes, but Juniper will run up a steep trail, leap over logs and dash up gravely scree, if she has cause.  This hike, we were all trying to push the capacity of our lungs and so we made a game of it.  
I (or my husband) would sprint up the trail until my lungs collapsed, then dive behind a tree and await my prey.
Juniper would run up the trail behind me (Hazel in her wake), squealing, anticipating the surprise attack of a wild, roaring bear.  Together, they would knock me to the ground with their magic freezing powers.  And in this way, we made it to the top of a steep hill. (I was sore the next day.)  
(^Sorry about the crappy photos...I've been exploring my new iphone, learning what it can and can't do.  It can do a lot, and it can't do much.)
When that game wore out and the kids would ask for a snack break right after having a snack break, we moved on to "flower power":  I'd pick a plentiful wildflower to carry Juniper further up the mountain.  She'd hold it high in the air and march up the trail.
We'd stop and tuck into mountain maples.
Or pick berries.  Kids are natural foragers and they love plucking something right out of the forest and popping it in their mouths.  (It is well worth it to know your edibles.)      
Or their pockets.
We were too late for huckleberries, but we came home with enough oregon grape to make a batch of jelly.  
Most glorious of all, when we got as far as we were going to go, we ducked into a dry wash.  My man took the best kind of nap and Hazel found a fairy cave.  The kids went bonkers, spending the next half hour or so cleaning, furnishing and decorating the fairy cave.  And I had absolutely nothing to do but watch, make suggestions, and simply exist in the presence of my children.  My happy place.  
^Note the stack of "firewood" staying dry inside the cave.  
In the end, this little fairy ended up with: dry firewood, a fire-ring, a cup, bowl, plate and spoon; flower decorations, a cradle and pillow for her baby, a supply of (poisonous but it doesn't matter because fairies are magical) berries, a flagpole, tent, sleeping bag and pillow--in case she wanted to camp outside of her cave.  
They would have kept on going but I insisted we leave in case the fairy came back home, since we were sure to frighten her away.  
You know how you can have a gloriously full day?  We had a full hike.  Even though we were no more than a mile from home and we never made it above timberline and we didn't even have a creek to walk along, we had a complete, satisfying, bucket-filling hike.  
 My man was rested, Hazel exhausted, I was in my happy place, and Juniper was pumped.  
 She ran down the trail a la Laura Ingalls in the prairie grass, but tripped on a rock, flew through the air and landed on her face.  
She wiped the tears away, laughed about her flying body, and was ready to pick berries again.  We were only gone from the house for a few hours, but it felt like the universe had granted us a whole extra day together.  My happy place.  

Thursday, August 14, 2014

sisters forever

Juniper's toddler chub has lengthened into the svelte body of a kid.  Lately, she inhabits an intense physicality: pounding, stomping, jumping, running, pulling, with ropey muscled legs.  I can hardly get her to sit down to draw or paint anymore.  She says she wants to be "an ice-seller" when she grows up (like Kristof and the mountain men in the opening scene of Frozen).  She stomps her feet singing, "Born of cold and winter air and mountain rain combining...."  She loads pillows, bags of compost, cardboard boxes, or firewood into a sled or wagon, pulls, stomps, sings, yells, "Beautiful!  Powerful!  Dangerous cold; Ice has a magic can't be controlled; Stronger than one!  Stronger than ten!  Stronger than a hundred men!  Ho!"  And off she goes.       
Then she hops in the sled or wagon and asks that I pretend to be the mule.  (I am a mama; I am always the mule.)
:: We are listening to the Frozen soundtrack, again.  Hazel is wearing a white cape and one sparkly plastic princess heel, lopsidedly clomping around the house, CLOP....CLOP....CLOP.   She disappears and it gets quiet.  Me: "Where's Hazel?"  Hazel appears from around the bend: "No.  I'm Elsa."  Lately, Hazel is either naked or wearing a cape, or wearing a cape naked with one plastic heel, and a crown.
^It's rare that we find *both* plastic heels.^
They are Elsa and Anna, or two Elsa's together.  They wear blue and white because those are "Elsa colors".  Though they dress as princesses, they want to grow up and open a business as Ice-Sellers, together as sisters.  Because they cannot imagine a day when they will be apart.
(They find it unimaginable and horrifying that Elsa and Anna sleep in separate rooms.)  
They share everything: books, toys, clothes, shoes, cups, food.  They share a room and sometimes a bed.  In their own beds, they sleep with no more than twelve inches between  their heads.  They play rescue, animal shelter, restaurant, Charlotte's Web (a.k.a "butcher"), dinosaurs, family, and race (J: "as fast as Lightening McQueen because he's my favorite").  
This swirl of togetherness is everything I could have hoped for.  This is it: the most important relationship I can cultivate, this sisterhood.  It is the relationship that will endure beyond all others.  For better or worse.  I am aiming for the best.  
My mom always says she got exactly what she wanted: a boy and a girl and she wanted the boy to be the oldest.  As for me, I wanted the pair.  Although I surely would have found irreplaceable joy in any combination, I wanted either brothers or sisters.  Not that brothers and sisters don't play together, but you know....  I played with barbie dolls and my brother blew them up with firecrackers.  
Lately I have seen some fledgling fist-fights.  We practice empathy, work through the anger, but in the end, the magic wand is one sister or the other offering a compromise.  They do it on their own, usually, and witnessing this selflessness for the sake of the whole makes my heart sing.  They always prefer to be together.  One minute they are hitting, the next minute Juniper is grasping Hazel's hands asking, "Hazel, you promise to be my sister forever?"

*This post was, in part, inspired by one of my favorite bloggers and this post.  

Saturday, August 2, 2014

July Camping: Green River Lakes {a personal history}

I know you know we have a history with this place, Green River Lakes, Wyoming.  We were married there.  You knew that.  But also, we met there; in the Upper Green.  Fourteen years ago my man lived in a 1950's airstream trailer nicknamed "The Silver Bullet."  It was employee housing, parked on the Green.  He was a fisheries biologist.  I was a wilderness ranger.  It was a hot, dry summer and the west was on fire.  We fought forest fires together and as they say, the rest is history.
But there are so many more fingers to this story, all cradled in the palm of the Upper Green River.  Before I had even met my future husband, I was partnered with his brother's new bride to patrol the backcountry of Green River Lakes.  We hauled a pulaski and cross-cut saw on our ten-day packs, cut huge logs out of the trail and didn't see another soul for days.  We were wet, tired and driven.  By the end, my cheap government-issued jeans were held together with duct tape.
And then, a year or so later, my man and I found ourselves working together on the Green.  We were snowmobile patrol rangers.  We spent an entire winter in this drainage communicating largely by hand signals.  I have a pair of earrings made from the ivories we pulled off a wolf-killed elk that winter.  Off-duty, we lived together in a tiny attic apartment in a tiny town.  We married the following summer.
But even before that--long, long, long before that--my step-dad's parents owned a small cabin on the Green, just before you get to the Forest Service boundary.  They had sold it long ago, but my step-dad (a born and raised Wyomingite) always wanted to come back.  So when I was just a kid he traded a sculpture (he was an artist) and a little cash for some land about an hour away from that cabin on the Green.  Slowly, he scraped together a cabin of his own.  And slowly, he made it bigger.  He spent his teacher's summers at that cabin.  Off and on, one or another of his kids would live there and work or ski or marry and move on.  I moved there after graduating from college.  I stayed in that rustic, remote cabin for three years, until I met my future husband.  So I suppose you could say that if a long ago couple from Cheyenne, Wyoming had never owned a little Cabin on the Green, my husband and I would never have met.  Such is the fate of the world.  Such is the binding ties of a place.      

::  ::  ::

We hadn't been back since I was pregnant with Hazel.  My mom and her dog came for a July visit, and so we went camping.  We stayed in the campground, paddled our canoe across the lake, hiked and fished and paddled back.  We roasted corn over the fire and my mom made "hobo packs" (veggies and meat in tinfoil and cooked in the fire)--something she'd remembered eating over campfires long ago.  We found out mosquitoes love Hazel and she reacts strongly to them.  We had three days, two nights.  On our way home, we stopped at another, smaller lake along the Green River.  Paddled more, fished more.  

I am no poet, but I'd started a quick just-before-my-head-hits-the-pillow list of our camp experiences one night in the tent, and it turned into a silly, rhyming poem, which I'll share with you:

::  ::  ::                          

Sunscreen sticky,
sandy toes
Dirt-crusted sweat,
Paddling and
wooden oars
Blistered palms,
campfire s'mores
Quiet lake
smooth and still
Waterfalls roar
on a hill
Smokey fire,
burning eyes
Mosquitoes bring
a small demise
Fishing a high,
unspooled stream
My mother sits
in a dream
Restful (more sunscreen!)
Peaceful (more bug-spray!)
Wakeful (Hazel has to pee!)
These lakes.
This stream.
Life's dream.
::  ::  ::
By the way, a few days after we returned home, I found out Wyoming's Governor is currently taking public comment for two proposed dams on the Upper Green River.  I understand that water is precious, but damming this wild river, in this wild place, is abhorrent.  Click here to send a quick comment (takes 60 seconds).  Comments close Monday August 4th.  Pass it on.    

::  ::  ::  
And a few more outtakes for the hell of it.  Mentally, put this to the tune of "Let it Go," which is pretty much what Juniper and Hazel were singing (yelling?) every single time they stomped and splashed and tumbled along the lakeshore.  I love their go-juice.  Their "This is the Best Day EVER!" vibe.  It's contagious.  
^I also love Hazel's broken-arm toddler run.^  
^Grandma running!^
I know, we need a dog...  
Let it go.