It’s been a few days since I’ve made it out of the mountains, and I’m still working to make sense of it.
It would be strained to suggest that there was some well-defined purpose for this trek in the Tetons with dear friends and my 16-year-old daughter. I have this pile of scribbles that I’ve compiled over the years to make sense of weeklong treks into mountains and desert and why these are worth doing. Ultimately the excursions have some bigger purpose, making connections within and without. And there’s something about high altitude, low volume, heavy weight, and vast distances that draw me in and make me a better person. At least I stand by that claim as I grasp at justification to leave a portion of my family and take a long walk.
Yet, there’s also this other feature that I appreciate more as I think about learning and my work with students and teachers. I keep pushing people to think about the questions and ponderings they have about the natural world. But there are wonders that you don’t realize you should wonder until you’re in the presence and present of it. For example:
How did the plateau form such a flat contour above a glacial valley?
Why is this high alpine moss so vividly green?
Where did this dark colored rock come from, and how did it get so squished, as though it were taffy?
And wildflowers … I don’t even know where to start, because there’s the lushness and the color and the variety and the locality all at the same time.
And it could go on. There are some things that I know about the natural world — lots, actually. But then there is the experience of the natural world that trumps just knowing something or even seeing it through the lens of someone else’s camera or narrative, this passage included. There’s a renewed sense of wonder and awe that comes with setting foot on the trail, and that never gets old.