There is something about being in a landscape as stark and powerful as the one found in Arches National Park.
Over and over, the kids keep saying how small they feel…’like ants!’…in comparison to the huge geologic formations all around them. The older kids and I have also hiked around some rather steep drop off’s, which is sure to put anyone in their place. The understanding that one wrong step would be the end of it…it’s a bit freaky coming from our pre-packaged and sanitized world.
But that’s why I love natural places so much, and books like ‘Last Child in the Woods’. This kind of humility, of a sense of our small place in the world, creates a bigger awareness of what else could be out there. Unknown. Undiscovered. Our microcosm becomes an infinite place full of imagination and possibility.
This is my nephew, a lovable guy who is a powerful kinesthetic learner–he’s hands on and going full speed all the time. I loved watching him explore this environment for the first time…first he touched just about every rock he could climb to, whirling and shouting and laughing. And then. He found his place and sat. Sat still and thought deeply. Every once in a while he’d call out what was impressing him: the snow covered mountains, the big window in the rock, the crows flying overhead. But mostly he was quiet and still, just observing.
Soon he was joined by Sassy and one of my nieces, who noticed the quiet mood and joined in. They had an impromptu meditation session. Wild nature can tame even the wildest kids.
The older kids did a bit more climbing at Double Arch, and could get quite a bit higher on the rock face. Double Arch has two arch formations, one that you pass under to get in the middle, and one that is halfway up an intersecting fin.
The older kids immediately fixated on that higher one, and started wondering what was on the other side. Was it worth knowing? Was it worth the effort to find out? Who was brave enough to try? How could one reach it? (Such an unschooling process!)
Once you climb up to that opening, you are greated with an amazing view (and quite a steep, long fall!)
They were all suitably impressed with the results. This led to their own version of meditation. It’s amazing what kind of deep thoughts you can have while perched on the precipice of your own mortality.
Don’t get me wrong…hiking at Arches is not dangerous at all…but only if you have a little respect and care. Things that come really only with a healthy dose of humility. Not a bad thing to learn while having the time of your life climbing, yelling, discovering, and exploring.
(See my shadow self waving to you from the double arch?! It’s saying, ‘Come join me!’)