Outside Our Hermetically Sealed Packages
Submitted by admin on Fri, 07/27/2012 – 07:54
After breakfast last Saturday my husband said to pack a bag and get ready to ride, pronto. Twenty minutes later we were on the open road for the maiden voyage of our new/old touring motorcycle and my first travel experience in this mode. I am a desk worker and meeting attender by day so I had a hunch I would enjoy this but did not know how much, nor why.
First off, we took back highways from here to Cedar Breaks, highways that cut through farms and main streets where the speed limit–in every way–is just slower. We passed family reunions, funerals in cemeteries, and so much open land I was thrilled by the vastness of this country’s interior and the reminder that it still is! Living in cities, one just forgets.
There was something else, too. I had forgotten how much cars remove us from the five senses that reveal the world. The one I noticed most—and that moved me to exhilaration—was smell. Every moment on that road came blended with scents and odors that read the terrain without using my eyes. In the morning I breathed damp marshes along Legacy Highway, and as it warmed up the asphalt smelled of tar while cheat grass hills radiated baked earth and pungent sage. All afternoon we rode on Highway 89 past parks wafting charred hamburgers and country diners serving comfort food. Open fields smelled of cattle, horses and hay. Then afternoon monsoons rolled in and drenched me with joy in perhaps my favorite smell of all time – fat rain drops on dry desert dirt. Then we climbed into the mountains and the rain made everything somehow more. Cedars were more cedary. Dirt was more earthy. And pines more piney. We were alive and I felt a part of the landscape, not apart from it.
It got me thinking about how much time we spend in carefully controlled environments for our comfort. They are like hermetically sealed packages that keep the outside out and the inside separate. I am not kidding when I say there are days inside my office when for an instant, I have to think about what month it is. What season for crying out loud. That is how removed life has become.
Now, lest I sound like a complete brat complaining that life is too comfortable, please know that I regularly thank the Almighty for stuff like, “clean hot water that comes on with a knob, a heated and air conditioned home, a car to get us places, and so much beautiful food I’m getting fat.” We are a spoiled society when we complain of having too much. I get that. But I also recognize that comfort may not build character, and too much of the indoors can leave us outside what is most alive on Earth.
So what’s this got to do with parenthood? With the passing of Steven Covey recently, I was reminded of a talk he gave on parenting. In his research, he found a common thread in families that describe themselves as “close.” They all went camping together. He conceded that there are probably other ways to achieve the same effect, but there seemed to be something special about getting outdoors together. In his analysis, it was a combination of being away from the distractions of everyday life, surrounded by nature, and in an environment not regulated by a thermostat. Things go wrong, there are mishaps and people have to be resilient. Families grow together and form epic memories not in spite of these events, but precisely because of them.
I couldn’t agree more, and I cherish memories of camping each summer. If I had come from a wealthy family, trips to Europe or vacations in beach resorts would have been amazing, I am sure. But I didn’t. The Andersons vacationed in the back country, sleeping in a beat-up camper and tents. We cooked hot cakes on the fire and we reeked of camp smoke. Sometimes we got rained on at 4am. Sometimes we froze our toes and did without whatever we left home. We caught fish, cleaned them with a pocket knife and ate them within hours. Our hands would keep that smell for days. For days. And my memory still keeps it.
Thank you, mom and dad, for getting us away from TV and out in the wild. For letting us experience the world with every sense. For awe at God’s creations and putting problems in contrast to the night sky. For curiosity at a tiny elephant-head flower and gratitude for a fish that gave its life to supper. For a healthy respect of the elements, and most of all for a close family.