Head for the Hills
by Izzie Roepke
Sitting at a coffee shop with a very pregnant friend I listened as she expressed her desire to find a common connection and bond for her growing family. Something they could do together, enjoy together, something they could always come back to. As she spoke my memories, vivid and alive, transported me back to a rough wooden trail, a crisp breeze blowing, and a view of a magnificent glacier. Just in front of me my daughter, 6 years old then, was standing experiencing the same. In the next second I felt the warm air thick with dust, remembering my three year old son with his green and yellow binoculars tight to his face, his warm breath clouding the window as a herd of bison claimed the road in front of our car. And I can still feel the serenity my husband and I felt when we found an old canoe perched at the edge of a high mountain lake and rowed it to the middle, feeling as if we were the only souls in the world.
I know what knits our family together. What binds us, connects us, challenges us, and takes our breath away; the experience and discovery of this natural world that seems to have been created just for us. It is not by accident, this love for nature and creation. My husband grew up exploring the Rocky Mountains, sent off with slingshots, sandwiches, and a gallon of water. He backpacked, slept under the stars, built an endless number of forts. While I grew up in the suburbs, that didn’t stop my parents from loading the car and hauling my sisters and I across the country from campsites in Texas to islands off of the East Coast. We began learning early the joy of waking up to a campfire breakfast and the changing of leaves in the fall. I remember vividly a night spent in the tent with my family as the rain poured down and beat on the sides and we listened to Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon Days on cassette. The smells, the feel, the soothing sounds of that night are so quick and easy for me to recall even from so many years ago.
Right now my family is stretched thin from a combination of necessity, provision, and running after dreams. Being together is cherished and sacred, found these days in the small moments of reading before bed or quick dinners before we part ways. I am often irritable and quick-tempered during these times, something I quickly regret, and long for redos and second chances on lost moments to connect. I dream of days with expanses of unplanned time and carefree spirits; afternoons spent wandering in fields with a picnic basket and blanket and no agenda. In reality we are learning to plan less and embrace this season of life. To take every available moment to stick our faces in the sun and our feet in the dirt, whether it’s outside our front door or in the middle of Yellowstone National Park. If given the opportunity of a free evening or weekend, we all make the very easy and unanimous decision to grab a sleeping bag and head for the hills.