Finding Time, Finding Treasure

We long for a time in our lives when outdoor adventure, travel and exploration will be “normal life” and not just vacations. We are actively working to pursue that dream, but we’re not there yet.

In the meantime, there’s dance class and meetings and stopping for groceries on the way to pick up one and drop off the other. Don’t misunderstand, there’s beauty and value in the season we’re in now and we don’t want to miss it in the longing for what’s next. It’s just that these outdoor adventures recharge us – as individuals and as a family – and most of the time, I’m just driving past the woods with one eye on the clock.

Lately, we’ve noticed signs of a family depleted… short on patience and grace, bickering and irritable. So we made time for some family adventures. And what we discovered (or maybe remembered?) is that it doesn’t take as much time as we think to get out and recharge. Whole day excursions are wonderful, but with a glance at the calendar I can tell you what we’re doing nearly every Saturday between now and Christmas. We’re in a season where whole days are hard to come by, and yet we can’t wait until January to refresh and recharge.

One of the great things about where we live is easy access to nature. There’s a trail through the woods right across the street. I can see it out the window as I sit and write. It’s a familiar path where many of our neighbors walk their dogs. But the kids take on the role of “adventurers” and “explorers” all the same. They walk parallel to the path, through the woods, so they’ll be “forced” to step over fallen trees, duck under low branches and climb the rocks and stumps that block their way. They invent a hundred different scenarios, imagining themselves as different people in different places. Mom and Dad walk slowly along the trail, finding time for conversation that moves past logistics and details, interrupted often to check out this mushroom or that hole in a tree. We don’t make it far, but destination is irrelevant.

crawling log

log restEmelie’s baby, Lukas, is still with us on most of our adventures!

apple break

gathering wheatThe scenario: gathering wheat to take to the mill… they are poor and can’t afford to buy bread

Two days later, we find another opportunity but this time we’re after something a little less familiar. We drive a short distance to a place we know of but have never been. The kids take the lead. They find a ditch dug out by runoff from a drainage pipe, and a long-abandoned tree house rotting above our heads. They skip the well-beaten path and choose a tiny, barely noticeable footpath that goes straight up the side of the hill. (Someday we will read The Road Less Traveled for them!) We use the phone’s GPS to find a geocache at the top of the hill, and discover an overlook with a view of our city. There are rock ledges to climb up and down and sit on to eat a snack. We soak it all in, and it is good.

forest exploringSearching for the geocache

gps geocachingLearning to use the GPS to find the cache.

geocachingFound it!

The average time for each of these little adventures was about two hours. There wasn’t much preparation, just throwing some apples and water in a backpack. We put on some layers to suit the weather and out we went. So often, the perfectionist in me wants to turn things like this into a big event, but most of the time that just keeps me from doing anything at all. Two hours is manageable. Sure, not every day has those kind of margins, but usually at least one day a week does. And spending it this way gives us a lot more than watching Frozen again for the thousandth time. It’s so easy, when our family starts to get depleted like that, to look for escape and think we need a break from each other. And sometimes we do. But sometimes what we need most is to come together and recharge us – not just our individual parts, but our whole.

So we found the hidden treasure at the top of the hill. But the real treasure was some unhurried time together and a recharged family going forward. Priceless!



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