Monday, December 29, 2008

Holiday Hike Reflections

The day after Christmas, my three mostly grown children and I rode our bikes about three miles down the road to a local nature park. I’d never gone there by bike before, but they’d enthused about the experience, so I went along for the ride on a beautiful Florida winter day.

As I peddled along a ways behind them, the dawdler now, in our gradually reversing roles, I marveled at them, and at the last 20 years of child rearing. Seeing them ahead of me appearing and disappearing from view along the country road unwinding ahead of me was a remarkable sight, and a sweetly amusing one, as my big, purposeful and independent children, kept glancing back occasionally to see where the old lady was, and waiting up for me at one point.

When we reached the park and embarked on our hike there, I felt immensely happy and content. An old feeling returned to me in a new way, a feeling I recalled from when my children were very small, of being a lioness with her cubs, as I lay on a blanket in our yard with my tots tumbling about me. It was a warm, delicious feeling. I felt it again that post Christmas day, except now, my mane showing some white, we were all lions together and the contentment came from feeling them strong and mature beside me as we strode together in our little pride down the piney wooded trails.

We talked as we hiked, geocached and placed a travel bug, took pictures, bird and wildlife watched and generally had a lovely time together, taking obvious pleasure in one another’s company.

I remembered all those years so long ago – was it really only 10 or 15 years? They were so little! – hiking along the trails of the nature preserve near our old home; working together at the nature center there, where everyone loved their youngest volunteers; watching the dolphins in the Indian River; collecting flowers and leaves; keeping tadpoles and watching butterflies emerge from cocoons. All that early love of nature and the outdoors has stayed with them, even with my 16 year old son, my youngest and least outdoorsy child, preferentially and perennially a tech geek, who manages to combine high tech and hiking with a camera and a GPS and to enjoy the outdoors on his own unique terms.

But all of them still enjoy a beautiful sunset, the tawny colors of late season marsh grasses, the reflected blue of a crisp winter sky in still lake waters. The sight of a turtle or armadillo delights them as much now as when they were tots. They still hush one another when they come across deer on the trail and soften at the sight of rabbits on a lawn. A good time for them is still a walk in the woods.

How lovely is that?

We have raised beautiful young people. They are good and kind and caring. They are intelligent and curious and open minded. They live intentionally, meaningfully, thoughtfully. I am in awe, feeling deeply undeserving of the remarkable good fortune of their good nature and kind hearts, even as I recognize that it is both nature and nurture that has brought them this far.

And homeschooling. I am so grateful that I’ve been able to be at home with them, to help them come this far, and to enjoy the experience of how far they’ve brought me, as well. I’m stepping back from their lives now, slowly, gradually, sometimes reluctantly, if only because my curiosity to see into their futures is piqued, to see where their lives and visions take them at this most remarkable point of embarkation in their individual journeys.

I’ve got plenty to keep me busy, fortunately, enough ideas, visions and curiosities of my own, and enough confidence in their abilities to follow their own paths with courage, common sense and wonder, that I can let my course continue to slowly diverge to pursue the journey I started nearly 50 years ago, beside the one I chose to trek with first.

And I know that as long as I can hike, I’ll have partners on the path now and again, and other paths to enjoy in the company of the lovely people my children have become.

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