Story by

Sarah Sendlbeck

March 6th, 2018

We loaded up the rig, packed with provisions for the cold. A borrowed snowsuit for Stella, some unearthed winter gear that hadn't been touched this year, mittens discovered in coat pockets from last season. We were all looking forward to the frost out of the high desert of Joshua Tree and into the Sierras. We arrived at the park entrance of Yosemite just as the sun was dipping into the landscape, traversing into the valley as the sky painted itself in shades of vibrancy and power. As a hot pink glimmer grew into a fierce oasis in the sky, we caught glimpses peeking through the ponderosa pines. Gaining elevation, the ground became iced and white, our first sighting of sticking snow this year. The overnight chill was intense but welcome.

As the doors swung open into the morning, the alpine air filled my lungs with the scent of burning firewood wood, as the sounds of early risers could be heard through the Upper Pines campsite at dawn. Stella climbed out, equipped with her rubber boots and warm-layers. Crunching over the snow and giggling at herself; she welcomed the morning with joy and ease. (A model to us all who fight the daylight.) The park is quiet; almost a mockery of the chaos to come in the summertime. We value the slow and quiet, however cold.

We toured Yosemite Valley floor as if visitors to a new land. Gawking out the windows and stopping the rig to run down into the grove of a creek. Bridalviel Falls spitting mist and ice from her upper perch. We dip our boots into the cold water below, searching for critters. Stella's newest fashion statement, a pair of binoculars, hang proudly around her neck. She uses them like a superpower, observing the magic around her, lifting them to her eyes to behold the wonders that are just out of reach. Following her, and finding value in her observations, we allow her to be our teacher and guide. There's nothing more special than taking in the world in through a child's eyes. She sees the details and wonders around her. She feels the wind and questions its movement. We feel small beneath El Capitan, while she feels strong and powerful, like the world is hers, sizing up all that's in front of her and planning her escalation to the summit. It's a wonder to behold a child's spirit, and nothing can quite make that spirit fly like a space that is such a sanctuary.