Big Changes and the Lifelong Need To Discover High Places

Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Around our house, my wife has always taught our children that change is a process, not an event. To this, I wholeheartedly agree. Of course, when you get in those nostalgic moods and cast the long eye of reflection on the past, it will sometimes seem like a big event directly corresponds with a big change.

In 1976, the beginning of the end of my parents marriage was readily apparent. I was twelve and like all children that age, I was generally self absorbed. There was a lot of speculation and conversation among my older siblings regarding the pending breakup. What was going to happen? Who was going live with who? All those pressing thoughts that occur to children during a divorce.

Oftentimes this conversation would become heated, but I tended to ignore it or say "This isn't about us, so why are we fighting?". Precocious, I know, but I probably heard it on some after school special. The big change for me in 1976 was that I had finally found my voice. I was to be the class clown. During the school year, I was sent to principals office nearly every day.

Perhaps finding my voice is too simple of a term. I had found my identity. I was breaking away from family and becoming an individual. I had been given a dose of freedom. Every day during that summer break, my mother would pack us boy's a lunch and send us on our own. As the great Norman McClean1 once wrote:
Every afternoon I was set free, untutored and untouched, till supper, to learn on my own the natural side of God's order.
While I didn't live in a world that was still covered with dew, it was as touched with wonder and possibility as Mr. McCleans world. It was the perfect place to be a twelve years old. It was where I found my love of high places. The panoramic views of my youth still influence my art even today. I lived in a land of mountains with rocky peaks, hills covered in evergreens and meadows with meandering creeks where you could catch lazy brook trout with your hands2.

It was very much a Peter Pan existence. My brothers, myself and Marlin, would spend those long summer days damming creeks to make swimming holes, exploring abandoned gold mines and climbing the rocky hills.

Our fort was an old electric trolley from Seattle that someone had towed up into the hills to use a summer home. Long since forgotten by it's owner, it became our makeshift fort, spaceship and submarine. Many a night was spent in it's confines, listening to the wind, the creaking trees and the skittering of small nocturnal creatures.

I am sure I am romanticizing that summer, as we are wont to do as we grow older and more nostalgic. It was the summer that I learned who I was and what truly moved me. The freedom of the wilderness, the freedom to just be and the freedom to say whatever I wanted. That summer changed me more then nearly any other3. If I am romanticizing it, it's only because it deserves to be.

1 - Not my favorite quote from "A River Runs Through It". This is my favorite quote: My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him, all good things - trout as well as eternal salvation - come by grace and grace comes by art and art does not come easy. 
2. Especially if they were particularly lazy trout that have been blocked by rocks both upstream and downstream.
3. The summers of 1976, 1981, 1982, 1986 and 1991 are my definitive summers. The summers that changed me forever, mostly for the good. My most important summer? Any of those will do, but 1971 is the one that saved my life.

Coincidentally the following song from 1976 is my current ring tone:

This is blog post  101 for 2010. Only 40 more to go to meet last years output.


  1. sounds like my childhood. Due to safe area we kids where roaming around all free time and in summerhouse almost all days where spent playing in water, rowing, buildig stoneman tools, rafts to go on, swimming, running in forest etc.. As i grow older i got my grans old cabin and a moped so i could come and go between summerhous & town, a freedom probably making me spend more time there with parents than i otherwise would have agreed on :-)


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