A while back, I took my kids to Acadia National Park’s Take Pride in Acadia Day. This is an annual event where volunteers spend about four hours raking leaves off the park’s famed carriage roads in order to protect them from washouts during the spring snow melt. This was the first year I’ve taken the kids, as it’s the first year I thought they were old enough to be marginally useful (spoiler: it was marginal, but they were useful).
The section of road that we were working on was about three miles in from an access point, which means we got the rare pleasure of driving on the carriage roads in a van carrying ourselves and 11 newfound work partners. As we turned into the lot at the Eagle Lake entrance and stopped while someone opened the gate, I looked at my son.
“Ready to go ice fishing?”
“What?” he asked.
I pointed out the window. “That’s where dad takes you ice fishing.”
He looked out at the ice-free water as we drove along the lake and his face lit up. “Oh, yeah!”
We turned left to follow the long side of the lake. “Look!” said my daughter. “The bridge!” she pointed at one of the famous stone bridges that dot the carriage road system. “That’s where we went skiiing.”
“You got it.” I said.
“Hey,” she said to her brother. “That’s where mom and I went cross-country skiing.”
I often feel like adventures need to happen on new territory. Like they don’t count unless it’s all new and exciting. We have so many options available that it’s not uncommon for us to only go to a certain spot once or maybe twice a year. But I’ve started to realize that equally important to newness is layering my kids’ experiences, to show them the same trails in all seasons. They need to learn what a view looks like in new leaves, full bloom, fall color, and frozen snow.
It’s not just because I want them to understand the landscape and ecology, although I do. I want them to have a strong sense of where they are from. I want to let that landscape dig down into their souls, week by week, year by year, over and over. I want them to know that lake so well that they will want to come back to it again and again. I want to imprint it on their memories forever.
The world these days feels like it’s in a bit of an endless whirl. I’ve been a bit overwhelmed by all the anger and horror coming from every direction. With all of the blame and confusion swirling around, how do we find what’s real, true and good? How do we teach that to our kids? What is our gift to them?
I don’t know. But I’m trying to figure it out.
I will continue to bring my kids to these same spots that they are beginning to know. I will show them this land over and over again, in all weather, letting the knowledge of who they are and where they belong sink down into them. I can’t give them everything, or even a logical place to live most days. But I can give them this.
It is the only solution I have.
Eagle Lake, now and then.