When we are young and perhaps single, our world is open to so many possibilities, oftentimes without our even knowing it.
I remember being single and finding myself camping, hiking, driving, working out, hanging out, staying up late, etc. with very little need for planning except to make sure I wasn’t scheduled for work. When I got married and had my first child, I quickly realized responsibility and obligation were creeping in. I gazed back at my single years with a bittersweet yearning. Not necessarily to have them back, but to lean back into them with a part of my heart, look around and say to my then naive self, “you should enjoy this now.”
I would be idealizing the memories to say that I didn’t experience deep loneliness and longing during those years of “freedom”, however. I wanted to meet my adventure partner and have children so badly it was distracting. Now that I am married and have given birth to our first little adventurer, I see this dichotomy of fulfillment and responsibility meeting each other head on.
Bills, doctor’s appointments, errands, bath times, cleaning, lists, busyness, cooking and working: these blissful hysterias were now my life. I found myself questioning this new identity and wondering if all the things I loved to do were gone – or at least put on the back burner for a long, long time. I would never trade my family for anything, but there is a considerable shift when you transition from singleness to wife and mother (or husband and father). This shift means re-evaluating, re-prioritizing and allowing this new season to give birth to its own beauty and lessons to be learned.
Being huge lovers of the outdoors, one of our priorities has been to venture – with our baby along – into the mountains to enjoy these pleasures as a family. Sometimes this “enjoyment” seems a lot more like work, but nonetheless, we try! After moving to Seattle, my husband obtained a Monday through Friday 9-5 job, and we joined the weekend crowd. There have been many times when I crankily stomped down a crowded, popular trail filled with loud city kids, blaring their iPhones with music. Why would you go into nature and listen to Rihanna?! It is beyond me.
However, we press on. There are also moments that feel nearly magical as we hike quietly around a remote lake that has grown still with the approaching of evening, listening to the soft sounds of fish jumping, rocks clinking, and breezes whispering. These moments bring stillness to this crazy season of life and bring me back to a place where I remember what is important. The little and the not-so-little things: simplicity, growth, focusing on the things that matter – and making the time to take in the beauty around us.
The Pacific Northwest is filled with so much drama that I can barely take it in sometimes. The towering peaks and blue-green lakes; the sweeping forests that gracefully canvas the valleys; the rugged coastline that greets the Pacific Ocean with a wild heartbeat that refuses to be tamed.
As a family you have to get a bit more creative and work a little harder to enjoy this beauty. Planning, packing, being flexible with naptimes, always having snacks, extra clothes, and a willingness to laugh at the absurdly chaotic moments are a must. We have found that in this beautiful area of the country we are blessed to inhabit, it is worth the effort to get ourselves out into it as deeply as we can. Rain, mud, driving, crying, and irritation are usually met with laughter at our child’s reactions to dirt, water and sleeping in the back of a car. There are pictures of so many “firsts” in the outdoors, a feeling of togetherness, a sense of memory-making and a deep gratitude to have people to share it with.
Here then is the lesson: No matter what your age or station in life, it is always worth the gas, the time, the effort, and the letting go of expectations that it takes to get out and enjoy the patient inspiration that nature offers us with open arms.
Caroline Knott is a stay-at-home mom and photographer living in Seattle with her husband and 15-month old son. She grew up in the Pacific Northwest and has a deep love for its rugged charm. She finds rejuvenation and peace in the quiet of nature so she escapes into it as much as possible.