Archive for June, 2014

Intensity and Buzzards

Mesa_Verde_National_Park_Cliff_Canyon_2006_09_12

Our family finally finished The Weddings (both my sister and Dave’s sister got married in the first half of this year), and, after the last one was completed, we decided to go on a much-needed family vacation to Southwest Colorado. Dave and I lived in Cortez, Colorado for a while during residency and graduate school, and it is one of our favorite parts of the state; we were excited to share it with the kids for the first time. We started by visiting Mesa Verde for a few days – a guided morning tour of the mesa top sites, which finished up with a ranger tour of Cliff Palace. Watching our kids see the archaeological sites for the first time was wonderful – they were as awestruck by their majesty and intrigue as we were when we first toured them.

In the afternoon, we ventured over to one of the self-touring sites for a look around. Life with intense kids is a waiting game Рthe intensities can only be held in check for so long before they start to flourish again. Vacation with intense kids is no different. After everyone kept it together during the morning tours, Dave and I figured an unscheduled afternoon would work best. That way, the intellectual conversations, emotional exchanges, and predictable discomfort with clothing and shoes could happen on a backdrop of our own schedule, and be adjusted as needed.  After we finished the self-tour, I suggested we might consider a short (read: leisurely) hike into the canyon. We scouted the two hikes that can be done from the canyon floor: the Petroglyph Hike and the Spruce Canyon Hike.

The kids read about each hike on the sign, and E and A begged us to do the Petroglyph Hike. H was non-committal about either. Dave and I had previously done the hikes 20 years ago, and we hike a lot around Denver. It was around 90 degrees, but we had packed water for our trip into the canyon that day, so we committed to the hike, and H agreed to go along for the ride. The hike was supposed to take two hours round trip, and we only needed to be out of the canyon within four hours, so we figured we could make it easily. Plus, between the three of them talking incessantly and bouncing around, I thought an outlet for their psychomotor intensity was warranted.

We started up the steep climb of steps, H vanishing into the distance (her strategy was get the hike over with as soon as possible.) E and A hiked along at a brisk pace, exchanging conversation about video games and soccer. Dave and I followed behind, carrying the water in a pack, and marveling at how 20 years could go by. The hike was steep up and down, and went a long way into the canyon. By the time we reached the Petroglyphs, the kids were doing fine; Dave and I were hot, tired, cranky, and wishing we were 24 again.

We stopped and took a rest under the shade of an overhang. H had come back to the group, and the three kids were now running around, talking very loudly, and deeply immersed in an imaginative world of their own making. It’s one of those moments where I saw them for what they truly are: intelligent, complicated, intense humans that the universe produced into a society that isn’t quite sure what to do with them. Out here, though, in the expansive canyon, they could be themselves without restraint.

So Dave and I hiked Рand grumbled Рbehind them. The climb from the top of the path up onto the canyon rim is a free climb up a rock face, with some strategically placed foot and hand holds. I tried not to think about what would happen if we fell. Once we were on the rim, we began the long, hot hike around the canyon rim back to the parking lot. Turkey vultures circled constantly overhead in the heat, reminding us to continue on. (More than once, we  joked that the kids should just leave us for the buzzards.) The kids encouraged us, engaged us, pulling us along with their words and questions. We finally reached the car, about two hours after we started. Air conditioning had never felt so good.

For Dave and I, the strenuous hike served to scrub off the grime from the first half of the year. We went from wrapping up our first full-time homeschooling year right into two family weddings (and replacing a broken dishwasher), all while keeping up both of our jobs at a brisk pace. Our own intensities were worn down, beaten under the heat, with buzzards circling overhead. The hike was a turning point, a rallying cry for the year. We both finished the hike, and the vacation, with a renewed feeling of intensity and purpose, thanks to our intense and resilient kids.