A Walk in the Breckenridge Woods

When I was in middle school, my best friend Elizabeth returned from a skiing vacation with a bubblegum-pink sweatshirt with white letters that spelled out Breckenridge.

I grew up in South Carolina where most people spent their vacations at the beach (just three and a half hours away) or perhaps driving to some distant relatives’ stomping grounds (my family was partial to Wisconsin). To ski in as foreign a place as Colorado was reserved for the most adventurous few. I remembered reading Elizabeth’s sweatshirt letters and letting the word sink in: Breckenridge. It sounded to my twelve-year-old ears other-worldly and a little bit dangerous.

Now that we live in Colorado, Breckenridge is just about two and a half hours away from our suburban Denver home. We go up there at least twice a year and for the past four years, we have spent time in the summer with our wonderful friends, Gina and Kris and their family. (Gina is a blogger who writes the popular The Daily B.) They are the most gracious of hosts: they open their vacation rental and invite us to spend lazy hours on top of a mountain with kids and dogs and the glorious fresh, hot mini-donuts we pick up in town.

While we were in Breck, we noticed the kids’ toys we brought and the books we toted up the mountain were tossed aside in favor of this:

Girls run up a trail in Breckenridge CO

The children played in the woods. The little ones adventured on the edge where watchful eyes could observe. The older ones danced off to build forts.

I know I work hard to build a comfortable home stocked with interesting toys, great books and comfy places to play. But maybe, just maybe, I’ve missed the mark. Children need to find themselves walking in the woods, searching for great adventure.

A girl looks at a homemade fort in Breckeneridge CO

They need to stumble on a forgotten tree house deep in the forest.

A wooden green chair in a treehouse

And just when they turn to go, their surprised eyes meet a mama bird watching carefully over this:

A bird nest in Breckenridge CO

When they exhale from this discovery, they tiptoe quickly away for more of nature’s gifts, however tiny and precious.

A wildflower in Breckenridge CO

A wildflower in Breckenridge CO

Girls on a mountain in Breckenridge CO

Jonathan and I are remembering that we did this always as children: we allowed the woods to absorb us, shape us and then send us on our way. Long live the forest and our children playing within until they head with happy steps back home.

Girls walk in Breckenridge CO

The Endless Summer

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School has not started for us yet. Due to a delay in construction for Girl #1’s school and the Montessori schedule for Girl #2, we are still in endless summer days here. While our friends’ children trod off to school each day or head up to bed while the sun still plays, our girls (and we) are stuck in an odd sort of twilight world: school seems close but really far off.

We are still wearing summer dresses and tee shirts that looked fresh three months ago but now are stained and faded. The older girls’ hair is sun-bleached and ragged. I keep meaning to make their back-to-school hair appointments, but something in me puts it off. Maybe I like this never-ending summer?

When school ended in May, I felt a loss. The orderly days, the sense of scholarly purpose, it was gone in a flash of Kinder graduation parties and Montessori picnics. Summer seemed foreign and completely unknown. But here we are, on the other side of it, gardens falling over with ripe produce and yards gone dead from the heat.

Oh, we’ll head back soon. I know it. First grade looms on Sept. 17. Cooling weather will chase us back to the drop-off line, Crocs exchanged for shoes that tie (if we can find them). Jonathan will welcome more time during the day to work on his next book. The baby will start to crawl. Healthy Creatures will be in the App Store. Life moves and swings and rolls on.