On the morning I left for my first solitary pack trip, my son told me he thought I was brave. I was glad for this. A part of most everything I do is for him. I suppose this is what we do as women, as mothers, as parents. It is what we want to do. Always in some way caring for those we love, doing all we can to make our children’s lives as positive as we possibly can. And still know when to let go. Or try to know. I am not very proficient at that part…
He is 16. I can no longer pave every road before him, much as I would like to. What I have tried to do is teach him to pave his own roads. This is an odd analogy – here we are living in the high mountains and travelling in the back woods, where the nearest paved road to our home is 18 miles away. But I think you know what I mean… I’m referring to seeing, following and even smoothing out the path before us. Finding the right direction in life, and making the right choices to get down that path. We will never make all the right choices, will we? But we can, we should, always try.
And so, he called me brave. And yet, all I felt was scared. I wanted to show him, him more than anyone else except myself, that we can do something even if we are afraid. First, with a great deal of preparation. I’ve been packing for years. I have the knowledge, the skills, the tools, the physical ability. I knew I could, or at least, should be able to do it alone. But fear isn’t always so logical… There are times, no matter how prepared we are, we are still stepping into the unknown, and a secret, silent part deep within us steps and shouts “NO!”
As I wordlessly rode down the trail later that first day, high away in the hills yet so deeply buried in my own tangled thoughts, the horses slipping and sliding up a muddy slope through the last of the dark timber before breaking out above tree line, I looked across a break in the woods to the mountain tops across the valley and saw peaks I know he has scaled… in the winter on his snowmobile! And I wondered who of us was really brave… Or are we both? Are we all, any time we step just a little beyond the paved road?