Thursday, October 19, 2006

Grange on the Rocks

Fall was settling in, and it was a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Two suicidal deer had elected to stand their ground as Jana hurled the Travelin’ Van towards Dinosaur National Monument, so she and the kids were marooned at home for a few weeks after a good start to their big adventure.

Grange Simpson

As I sat on the porch next to the house above the trading post, reading the latest installment of Newsweek magazine, I was fascinated by the afternoon sunlight playing on the cliffs. Anna Quindlen’s most recent column was about, “[T]hat sense of waking up in the morning and thinking there may be good things ready to happen.” She expressed a great deal of concern over how that excitement gets lost in the incessant cautionary remarks we feel compelled to dispatch our children’s way.

In the background, I could, from time to time, hear rocks rolling down the talus slope. Lately Grange had become obsessed with scrambling up and down the slope between the trading post and the cliffs. Every time I went looking during the past week, I had found him crawling over the boulders behind the house. Although I had cautioned Grange not to roll the stones towards the buildings, his sense of adventure quite often overwhelmed my remarks; so the rocks kept rolling.

As Anna Quindlen educated me about teaching kids “Love of life,” an internal debate raged inside me. Should I re-advise Grange to stop, or should I let him enjoy himself? He could not move stones large enough to do any real damage, so I chose to let let him continue. For a long time it was quiet, so I assumed Grange had merely found something else to distract him. After about a half hour, I heard his voice, “Kira [pause]. Kira [long pause]. Kira, look at me.”

Steve on the Twin Rocks
Steve going up the Twin Rocks in Bluff, Utah.

By this time I was curious, so I extracted myself from the chair and walked behind the house. Grange had somehow managed to climb the almost vertical cliffs and was sitting at the base of the Twin Rocks, smiling like the Cheshire-Cat. My heart leapt into my throat as I envisioned him tumbling off the tall cliffs. In my youth, I had known someone who had done exactly that, and, although she survived, she was never quite the same.

The next instant my mind flashed back four decades, and I remembered myself sitting in almost that exact location. When we were Grange’s age, Craig, Barry and I had climbed these same cliffs hundreds of times without fear or fall. As I shouted up to him, “Just sit down; don’t move,” I imagined Anna saying, “Careful, don’t destroy his adventurous spirit.” So as I laced on my shoes to climb up to him, I knew I had to proceed carefully and let him enjoy his success, but teach him to stay safe. Anna’s comments had come at a convenient time.

steve and grange on the Twin rocks
Steve & Grange on the Twin Rocks.

Following a route I knew well from my youth, I was amazed how much more difficult the climb had become. Probably some geologic shift I assured myself. As I carefully picked my way to his level, Grange peered over an outcropping; on his face was a colossal smile. He was obviously proud of himself, and I was extremely proud of him too.

For the next two hours, we boulder-hopped, chimney-climbed, found “valuable” quartz crystals and investigated small caves. I was amazed that Grange showed so many of the same emotions I remembered feeling when I was his age exploring these cliffs. As we got ready to descend, I asked him to sit down next to me near the edge. He gave me a questioning glance as I placed both feet on a large rock and began to push. As the boulder crashed to the ground, he laughed with delight. “That one was obviously going to fall soon, and I wanted to make sure it didn’t fall on anyone,” I lied. The next day, a longtime trading post visitor stopped by to see what was new. “Hey,” he said, “did you see those two kids pushing rocks off the cliff yesterday? Very dangerous.” I just smiled and thought about the love of life.

With warm regards,
Steve, Barry and the Team.

Copyright 2006 Twin Rocks Trading Post

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