There are times I find myself standing at the kitchen window, looking out on our boys in the back yard, pretending themselves into faraway places and long ago ages. In these moments, I often find myself feeling like a stranger. It's as though my children inhabit a magical country set right over mine, like one of those clear overlay pages in illustrated books, filled with details and colors that bring the more grown-up grayscale page to life. As I watch them in their world, I feel that if I were to go and open the door and try to step in, I might spoil some of that magic. As though the moment my foot crossed the threshold a wind would blow, the color would vanish, and rather than gaining entry to their childhood world, I would have flipped it aside by being too adult.
As my wife, four boys, and I packed into our van for two weeks of exploring the Canadian Rockies, I was looking not for escape, but access, to the innocent awe of my sons. We decided at the very beginning that this drive was not going to be one of those get-from-A-to-B-as-fast-as-you-can kind of affairs. No, we were going to take things in. If one of us saw something that seemed worthy of exploration, they'd yell, "Stop!" and we would pull over.
Thus entering the Rockies, we saw the country grow larger. We watched the world become wilder and more alien to human sensibility. It felt almost like we were traveling back in time, toward an age before the earth played host to our species. We gazed out of the windows, marveling at sights so stunning and numerous that it seemed like the Creator had taken a stroll one day, carelessly strewing glory about the land.
There was Crowfoot Glacier, where we studied the claws of ice gripping the cliffs perched over top of an emerald lake. There was Rampart Creek, where we leapt across the river, rock by wet rock, catching our boys as they jumped out after us.
There was Saskatchewan Crossing, where we picnicked in a mountainous basin that focused the sunlight down like a lens. There were subalpine forests, carpeted with moss. There were mountain-peak meadows, twinkling with flowers.
There were dizzying heights from which we threw out our voices, then waited and listened as our echoes flew back to us.
In each of these places, I felt myself gaining access to the innocent awe of my four young boys. Truth be told, I'd been to the Rockies more than once as a kid. But now, as a grown-up, they seemed bigger and wilder than they did back then.
And as I looked over at the boys, I realized that I was no longer standing on the outside, but with them on the inside of this magical world. And the words just slipped out. "This is where I want to be. This is exactly where I want to be."