Monthly Archives: July 2015

Travelling as a tribe

whale taleMy children gave me a gift.  They agreed to join my husband and me on a ten day journey to the westernmost islands of Vancouver Island in Vernon Bay, BC and on to a family reunion in Tulelake, CA near Oregon’s border.  That in itself was exhausting just to type.  So you can imagine the months of planning and logistics and the sacrifice it took for them to share their company and undivided attention in Canada with no cell service and spotty WiFi.

Between them and their spouses, they had five jobs to work ahead for and leave to coworkers. Two sleep-deprived but still angelic (mostly) children under five to maneuver through airports, on two float planes, aboard five cross-country jets and two long car rides to and from locations.

That said, I think it was a dream vacation for all of us. As much as it took to get us to O’Hare on time and prepared for our adventure, we moved as a clan, a family, a tribe because in most situations, it was  us and the elements. Which, as beautiful as they were, presented some challenges. Well, at least for me.

The rainforest hike described as sloping, but in reality involved ropes and ladders and repelling-like maneuvers on slippery moss, was a surprise. As was the rain downpour. And, lest I forget, the necessity of carrying a “bear bell.” At one point I stopped and said, “OK.  Where are the hidden cameras? Should I strip down? I am definitely feeling Naked and Afraid. ”

We sea kayaked on a day long trip that was billed as gentle rowing through uninhabited islands but involved some definite white caps and one tipped kayak.  And yes, it was mine. Lucky for me, my copilot was my strapping young son so the only negative outcome was wet clothes and a bruised ego (mine, of course, not his.)

As we navigated our way through our new daily routines in unfamiliar surroundings, I was impressed with how well we joined forces to help each other out of toppled watercraft and fog and through busy airports and delays and surprises and piles of laundry and “grab his hand” or “watch him for a second” and “I forgot a coat” or “do you have any sunscreen?”

We had one striped tee that became the “sisterhood of the travelling top” and other gear was traded and worn and shared.

We were a team and as little privacy as anyone had, or alone moments to take a breath, we made it through without a major hiccup.  No sulking, underlying angers, jealousy, sibling rivalry, hurt feelings emerged to cloud our sunny days and adventuresome spirits.  We rolled with it, rain or shine.  And relished the treasure of our shared time together.

I think my kids, and we, are all old enough to know time is precious.  And moments as a family can be fleeting. And that all we are assured of is the present.

And that is where we tried to stay.

In both locations, we were surrounded by extraordinary natural surroundings. We witnessed animals in nature doing what they do best, existing in their natural habitat– undisturbed and working together for survival. And I thought how our family was trying to do the same. I also wondered what all the groups of animals called their crowd or clans.

This is what I discovered.

In Canada, we saw convocations of soaring bald eagles swooping down from six foot wide nests atop 40 foot pine trees. Sieges of herons dodged float plane take offs. We kayaked by blooms of jellyfish, made wishes on swarms of butterflies, watched the boys play with armies of frogs, swatted scourges of mosquitoes and boated beside romps of sea otters.

Luckily we didn’t encounter any shivers of sharks or sleuths of black bears. But the highlight for me, and the rest of the crew I think, was a rogue humpback whale apart from her herd or pod, performing in the sea as though she knew we were clapping. Pulling that mammoth body completely out of the water, nimble as a minnow, and doing a full twist (breach) before disappearing  into the misty ocean with a finale wave from her wide mustache of a tail.

Wondrous stuff in a magical location.

My daughter and her husband play a game with their children before bedtime each night called “Roses and Thorns.”  They ask their three and five year old sons what the “rose” was of their day and what was the “thorn.” And mom and dad share theirs.

For this trip, I am hard pressed to decide on a rose.  It would have to be a bouquet of inside jokes and laughter and shared meals and held hands and hugs and awe and accommodating and encouragement and love.

And the thorn?  That’s easy. It all had to come to an end.