The frizzy gray squirrel sat high upon the roadside rock and did his best to shun the steady stream of traffic through his chosen territory. A small flock of Marion turkey fussed and scratched for hidden seeds and bugs further back in the oak brush and a group of mule deer does and fawns fed nonchalantly in the nearby meadow. The seasons "coat of many colors" added an appealing backdrop to the picture postcard scene as we drove the mountain road, greatly appreciating the natural world just outside Grandma and Grandpa Washburn's back door.
Last Sunday, Laurie, McKale and I took a ride up the side of Blue Mountain, just outside of Monticello. We had recently dropped Alyssa off at the Shell station for her return trip to college with the Acton girls. It is always a sad event for Laurie and me to see one of our children disappear into the distance one more time. We knew it was for the best, but the tears still flowed and disappointment disrupted. If I were to succumb to my more selfish nature, I would keep my children near to me for all time. I, however, realize they must experience the world on their own terms. To "go forth and prosper" as it were, to stimulate their minds in an attempt to gain the knowledge and understanding only the chaos of campus life can provide. Life away from the sanctuary of Mom and Dad provides many lessons parents cannot express; ones that must be individually experienced to be fully appreciated.
To help alleviate, or perhaps soften the emotional impact, we decided to drive "high upon the mountain" and seek solace closer to the spiritual realm. The vistas from up there are magnificent, and the animal life more easily accessible. In times like these, songs the likes of Go Rest High on that Mountain by crooner Vince Gill and the more recent tune from teen sensation Miley Cyrus, The Climb (The only song I recognize by Hannah Montana, I swear!) come to mind. McKale brought along her camera. Occasionally she hopped out of the van with her Nikon and went high-stepping through the underbrush in her flip flops; moving in the direction of one critter or another in an attempt to capture them digitally. Often she would stop in her tracks, back-up a fraction, re-evaluate a particular scene, then frame a shot that captured her imagination. It was fun to watch the artist in her at work.
As I watched my youngest daughter frolic through the forest I felt the stress of cutting Alyssa's parental tether dissipate like mountain mist after the sunrise. I began to focus on the animals and their Navajo mythological interpretations. The animals themselves became relative to our situation. The squirrel is believed to be a seeker of awareness and understanding. The little guy on the rock was speaking to me, letting me know that to ferret out knowledge was essential to the development and future of our children. Turkey effects the world in a positive manner because of his foresight, generosity and gathering tendencies. Lessons learned from supernatural sources eventually helped this seemingly lowly creature lead the people to higher levels of consciousness and save the world from famine. The deer are sacred beings to be honored and respected, not only for the sustenance they provide, but for sacred ceremony as well. The Yei or Holy People used sacred buckskin and corn to create the people in their image. Symbols of creation, upward movement, education and continuation stood before me in their most unhindered and free living form.
As Laurie, McKale and I drove down the mountain I felt a little better about sending Alyssa off to school. Being without her beautiful, smiling face and captivating personality would be a struggle for us, as being away from home would be for her. Everyone's first venture into the unknown is frightening and emotional, but others have survived it as will we. In our modern age of cell phones, text messaging, Facebook, Skype and whatever else is just over the verizon, I think we will survive. Even without all that, there are still motor cars and personal visits. There is nothing more important than family-friendly visits and plenty of hugs.
With Warm Regards,
Barry, Steve the Team.