I'm taking this as a call to jot down a few of my own #ParkLit thoughts; I was inspired by a photo Bronwyn posted of Mesa Verde, the national park where she just did a writing residency. I doubt she was housed in an actual cliff dwelling, but that's how I like to picture her: sitting inside an adobe house, laptop on her knees, gazing at the valley below.
|Great view. Tough commute.|
Sometimes we went places that were only impressive to adult palettes, places with a lot of trees but nothing my sister and I considered exciting. Things we considered exciting: rivers and lakes you could swim in, deer, gift shops, ice cream. The trip--to somewhere hot, I don't remember where--on which we discovered Pudding Pops was especially magical. We found them again in the freezer section of the grocery store when we got home, but they never tasted as delicious as they did from a vendor's cart by the side of the trail.
Here is a short list of my favorite non-natural memories from parks:
- googly-eyed neon rubber animals from the Big Sur gift store
- The Phoenix Shop at Nepenthe, the high-end hippie gift store just outside Big Sur
- butterscotch pudding in tin cans
- Junior Rangers badges
- bringing my pet rat, Rosie, who liked to eat the crumbling rust-colored motorhome curtains
|Do you need a rain stick? Turquoise jewelry? A CD of flute music? The Phoenix Shop is your place.|
Sometimes we went places that were so spectacular they broke through my desire to go somewhere more "normal" and kid-centric (i.e., Disneyworld). Mesa Verde was one of those places.
Traipsing through Anasazi ghost towns, I was filled with fascination and envy. There was a part where you had to crawl through a very small tunnel, and another part where you had to walk on a very narrow cliff-side trail. My parents patiently talked me through my claustrophobia and my fear of heights, and it was worth it. The part of me that loved Sunset Magazine spreads about spectacular tree houses and cool little play-nooks you could build beneath stairs fell in love with cliff dwellings. (Never mind that my dad actually built us an amazing play house, complete with a linoleum floor, a loft and running water that we almost never played in.)
|These lucky kids have a dog and a tree house! I only had cats and a playhouse. #HardKnockLife|
When I started fourth grade in the fall, we studied California history and were tasked with writing about Native Americans. Most kids wrote stuff like "The Chumash rowed very far in their canoes. They ate many fish." I pounded out a Mazli-and-Kachina story and volunteered to read it before I realized what I was doing. I was the only kid who'd written fiction about something completely unrelated to the assignment. By eighth grade, I would happily write "personal essays" about a huge network of cool cousins I didn't actually have, and now I can look back on my small rebellion with pride, but in the moment I wanted to sink into the floor.
- the rock water slide and swimming hole at Cuyamaca State Park
- the big red rocks somewhere in the desert that I climbed and got stuck on for a while
- anything climbable, really
- the sulfur stink of Yellowstone, and the bison traffic jams
- singing loudly and badly at the mouth of the Grand Canyon
- rafting in Yosemite during a drought, the water so low I could pop into the river and pull our boat on foot
- the mountain lion my mom spotted on one of her solo morning walks, proving that there was something to do at 5:30 am other than clang pots and pans
- the time my dad--who likes water about as much as your average house cat--waded up to his neck in Lake Havasu; it was so hot that we were actually allowed to use the air conditioning in our motor home
- the acorns we collected and discarded in the back yard when we got home; they're huge oak trees now