Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Day of Firsts

When I was a pre-teen and teenager, as ungrateful as this sounds, I grumbled a lot about my boring parents. 

The chief cause of my complaint was that ‘we never did anything.’  I remember sitting in the vegetable garden as an 8th grader, weeding in company with my 12th grader brother.  Both of us murmured about the searing sun (and I can assure you that in August in the semi-arid prairie where we live, the sun is definitely searing) and muttered that this was the third or fourth day in a row we’d been commissioned to weed the truly unnecessary number of gardens our parents insisted on cultivating.  That, at least, is how we felt about it at the time. 

Lakes, Rivers and Mountains, oh my!
Looking back, of course I realize how spoiled we sounded, but at the same time our family never had any particular genius for finding means of entertainment other than work.  My mom seems really and truly to enjoy the tasks she takes on – especially anything that leaves her house and gardens clean.  If my dad came in one morning and said, ‘My dearest love, today we are going to do nothing but weed together,’ Mom would probably think it was romantic.  Teenagers see nothing romantic about such projects, though. 

My brothers and I wanted to explore the beautiful lakes and rivers and mountains and prairies which adorn the north of Idaho where we live.

Sadly, though, we never did.  More than a decade has passed since those grumbling days of weeding and I’ve not seen much more of my state than I had as a 12 year old.  Luckily, though, I have friends with better exposure. One in particular is the outdoors type and comes from a family to whom camping, hunting, hiking, biking, etc., are important.  Ever since I met him, in fact, he’s been a bit horrified that I had done so little exploring in the area.  This past 4th of July, he decided to remedy this fact. 

Comparatively early in the morning for us night-owls, we rallied our forces (with the help of plenty of coffee, needless to say) and headed up north to the Cabinet Mountains.  One of the deepest lakes in the States is Lake Pend Oreille, and its northern end noses into two impressive mountain ranges, one of these being the Cabinets.  They are relatively wild areas, with bears, moose, bighorn sheep and many other animals.  We ourselves saw two bear prints and a moose cow who crashed away from us into the brush early in the hike. 

It’s amazing to think of such pure land preserved just an hour from a sizable city.

Sego Lily: a Study in Three
We climbed some 2500 feet in elevation in our climb, and sat on top of a mountain in the meadow grass, with lupin and sego lilies blowing about us in the stiff wind.  Far off in the blue distance, the rest of the Cabinets marched away into Montana.  The highest, most jagged peaks of the range were visible from the height we reached.  With shining striations of white glacier on their highest flanks, they stood both beautiful and forbidding. 

There’s something so challenging and yet so entrancing about mountains.  At the same time you feel dwarfed and made secure.  Mountains are our Atlases, holding the sky off our heads.  Somehow their high, pure heads remind us that some things abide forever.  It’s not very surprising then, that so many people feel the appeal of hiking and mountain-climbing. We want to be part of that eternity, to feel that something of us will abide forever. 

I’ve often thought that human reactions to natural phenomena reveal the deepest parts of our nature. 

Both on a literal and on a metaphorical level, nature speaks to us.  Since I’ve begun reading blogs more, I’ve become acquainted with the ‘small stone’ method of writing, which seeks to encapsulate a moving experience in a few words.  So many of the small stones I’ve read address the writer’s interaction with nature.  Japanese haiku have a similar effect.  Nature inspires our creativity.

This rushing brook shares my enthusiasm!
At the same time, it reminds us of our desires and our accomplishments.  A forest seethes with mystery and we fear it and wish to explore it in much the same way as we fear and explore our own minds.  Mountains mirror the challenges we set ourselves.  Sometimes they seem insurmountable, but have we not even scaled Everest?  Flowers have the delicacy and ephemeral nature of our emotions, and yet the same beauty of intensity.   I could go on, but it’s easy to find the mirror of nature, since it surrounds us every day. 

On my first major hike, I was reminded of this mirror very vividly.  The mountain crags, the unfamiliar but lovely vegetation, the mountain creeks tumbling over stones – all these spoke to me.  They reminded me how glad I am to be alive, and to be a writer who remembers these vistas and lets them ferment into the fullness of story. 

Sometimes, perhaps oftener than we think, we all need to look back at nature to rediscover our reflection and our inspiration.


  1. Shame on you taking so long to get out into such beautiful countryside, but sounds like you'll be back and look forward to hearing how it inspires your writing!

  2. I do not think I ever knew that you were from Idaho. I first want to tell you that or rather disclaim that the poem I wrote is pure fiction. I was simple inspire by the random photo of mapcrunch dot com.
    Please enjoy this verse which really could have taken place on any road...

    I'm glad you enjoyed your trip. I did enough outdoorsy stuff as a child. Camping and such. And now that the bugs think I am a buffet just for them...well maybe I'll think about a winter hike.
    Cheers, Jules

  3. I know exactly what you mean by mountains making you feel insignificant and secure... beautiful prose Chiara - a refreshing read!