The Innocence of Sandstone

24 08 2012

When I was a boy, chockfull of innocence, I had loads of time to roam around the mystic foothills of southern Alberta. I had many favourite spots – both up in the hills and down by the Sheep River. The image above was taken at a spot not too far up in the hills, where there is a sandstone outcropping. It is said the spot was first used as a quarry for stone to build a house that can be seen to the east. After the quarrying, the place was a farmer’s dump. In about 1970, a fellow opted to play with some dynamite and blasted all the rubbish out of the tip. So, to this day, there are bits and pieces of ancient farm machinery lying all around. For me, it was a place where I would go to sit and focus on the surroundings. I would marvel at how the sky’s tones of blue would change from the horizons to straight above. The croaking choruses of frogs could be heard on a big slough to the south, just below a natural spring where I would play with garter snakes.  Beyond that, on the other side of the river, there was an ancient stand of evergreens where I never have been to. A local rancher, now 93, told us he once went there and his horse sunk into the mire so badly that he nearly lost it. So, the trees hold their mystique to this day. On the southern horizon was the big bump that is just to the east of Longview, and in the foreground the town of Black Diamond reared its doomed clapboard head. The blue Rockies were to the west, and the foothills, row on row, marched down to the place. It was a great spot to hide treasures, some that I have never found even forty years after hiding them under gritty slabs of sandstone. I greatly admired the sandstone and enjoyed sitting on it while experiencing the sighing and rattling sounds of grass and leaves in the wind, the metaphorically morphing clouds, the feel of the comforting stone itself, and being able to focus just on those timeless entities. The innocence I had then allowed me to have those experiences so vividly. Sometimes, I would lie and watch Red Tailed Hawks swooping, hovering and diving, and delight in the piercing calls they made while hunting the ever-present ground squirrels. In short, I had nice amounts of inner peace while in the surroundings, and need that more in my life now. Being so busy working most of the year, I frequently have to catch myself being locked into thinking about what needs to be done or dwelling on days’ events. Clearly, that takes me away from the present moment and what is going on around me. We need to be more like entities of nature which are eternal, but exist just for the moment. An awareness of this can help us through our hectic days in the concrete jungles, where we face surging masses of humanity instead of peaceful solitude.

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Realistic Fiction: The Family Hike

2 08 2012

One day in the blazing summer, a father insisted that his family go for a nature hike in the mountains. There were protests, pouting, some eye rolling and grumpy looks. “Look,” the dad stressed, “we are cooped up all winter and this is a nice time to go out and be together. We can take something to eat, and if you are really good we can buy some ice cream.” Grudgingly, the family of five took to the roads. One daughter looked out the van’s windows, another glued her eyes to her iPod, and the son played on his dad’s phone. The family pulled up to a day use area. The first thing the parents noticed was one daughter was wearing flood pants and flip flops, after being told, repeatedly, to wear long pants and walking shoes.

“NOBODY told me to wear long pants and I can walk in flip flops!” she pouted.

“This means we can’t hike up to the falls. Why don’t you think about where you are going, when you are getting dressed for these situations?” the father ranted.

“Now, dear, please let it be,” the mother murmured.

“Alright, we have some boots in the car that should fit her. Get them on, now!” the father insisted.

“AWWWWW, Dad!” the petulant daughter reacted, before slowly changing footwear.

“Please, everyone carry a water bottle. I have everything else in the daypack.” The father cautioned.

Minutes later, the 70-pound son danced in front of this father, arms up, insisting, “Carry meeeeeeee!”

“No way, you need the exercise and my back is wrecked.”

The family walked for another 15 minutes, chatting and noticing some water fowl before the following spewed forth:

“I am bored.”

“Can we go home now?”

“I’m tired.”

“She hit me!”

“No, I didn’t!”

“Yes, you did.”

“Accident!”

“I’m thirsty.”

“Where is your water bottle?”

“I left it in the car.”

“Here, have some of my water.”

“I don’t want it. Can we go back to the car?”

“No.”

“I don’t want to go hiking!”

“Can we have ice cream?”

“No.”

“WHYYYYYYYY?”

“Because you are complaining, fighting and did not listen to when we told you to dress appropriately!”

“I hate bugs.”

“Here, put on some bug spray.”

“No.”

“Dad, I have to poo.”

“AAAAAAAHHHHH! Why didn’t you poo at the parking area?”

“I didn’t have to then.”

“Do we have to go all the way to the falls?”

“They are just 20 minutes up the trail!”

“I’m tired . . . OWWWWWWWW!”

“WHAAAAATTTTT?”

“She pushed me!”

“He bumped into me!”

“That’s it! No damned ice cream! Why are you choosing to make this family experience into such a negative experience? I was hoping we could enjoy being together, out of the house and in such a beautiful place!”

“That’s not fair, I didn’t do anything and I don’t get ice cream?”

“But, but . . . you said earlier that you don’t eat ice cream because it is unhealthy.”

“It’s still not fair.”

“Now, dear, it is time to just keep on walking. You are being too angry.”

“Ooooooh, man. . . . . . . . . . . . .”

The father marched off in front, scooping up the boy en route and did not look back. When they got to the water falls, he was totally winded, sweaty, and the boy started to play in the water. He found some interesting fossils. The girls moaned and groaned and pleaded to go home again. It started to drizzle, and the family plodded back to the van in the now dreary surroundings.

The drive home was subdued and quiet.

Have you ever had a trip like this, with your family of children and adolescents?