The Reluctant Adventurer

By Diane Selkirk
A Web Exclusive

Little girl and mother out in the coldThe snow line was halfway down the mountain. It looked as though a house painter had drawn a clear unwavering line that divided the green foliage from the new snow. The winter sky was a bright, inviting crystal blue; it was the sort of day I dream about during gray winter months.

“That is where we’re going.” I told two and a half-year-old Maia as I pointed high up at the snowy peaks.
“Maybe make snow angels and toboggan ride?” she asked.
“No, this time we are going cross-country skiing. Remember the little skis we got?”

Maia chattered happily about her skis and my thoughts drifted to past ski trips. I recalled the pain in my tired legs and snow chilled hands as we pushed on through bad weather in hope of shelter. Then crawling, chilled and hungry, from our tent after a fitful night to be welcomed by one of the most awesome vistas in my life. I love being outdoors and involved in wilderness adventures. Since Maia has joined our life I have missed our hiking, kayaking, diving and ski trips. We have gone on a few modified hiking trips and done some car camping with Maia. But like those leisurely Sunday brunches, and wine-soaked late night debates with friends, it seems high adventure has left my life.

Short of leaving Maia with our parents and going on our own (which we have no desire to do) I occasionally feel like I am waiting for her to grow up enough to participate in a real adventure. This is an uncomfortable secret I hold. Mothering my daughter is the most fulfilling thing I have ever experienced, but there are moments when I feel like I have lost part of myself.

I looked down at my little daughter as she joyfully clutched her tiny skis to her chest and felt a pang. Her cheeks were flushed with rosy excitement and she was sweetly bundled in multi-colored ski clothes. In that moment I wasn’t entirely sure if I was mourning the adventurous life I once led, or celebrating the introduction of my daughter into an adventure filled life of her own.

On the mountain Maia lasted for ten minutes on her skis then demanded to go home. “We have more skiing to do.” I coaxed. “If you are done skiing on your own, you can ride in the backpack on daddy’s back. We’ll ski for a while then go to the ski lodge for a snack.” At the offer of a snack Maia brightened and insisted we go to the lodge “right now!”

Feeling discouraged we agreed to head for the lodge. I had a different vision for the day: We were going to ski hard, enjoy the view, then finish off with hot chocolate to celebrate our first great family skiing adventure. Instead, my daughter wanted to go home, play in the lodge, or go throw snowballs; anything but ski.

Once we were on our way Maia’s complaints stopped. My skis found their rhythm and the snow-softened landscape transported me. I felt as though the day should last forever as the trees blurred and the rolling hills lulled me. At the junction to the lodge I made eye contact with my husband Evan and we veered the other way. Silently we continued for another minute and a half. Then Maia started asking about the lodge.

“It’s actually very far away” I lied, with a twinge of guilt. “Why don’t you pass the time by looking in the woods for some animals?” We skied a few trails while Maia reported sighting deer, squirrel, panthers and gorillas, then what she adamantly insisted was the lodge. Stopping to look, we saw nothing but a trail leading into the woods. “A trail would make a good adventure.” Maia suggested. Reluctantly, I took off my skis. Evan freed her from the backpack and we set off into the woods.

I was not cheerful. I was thinking about all the great things I used to do and how we now had to modify them beyond recognition to include our daughter. Maia was joyful though as she set off on her escapade. She made her way through drifts, up and down hills and over a snow bridge. Everything intrigued her; she examined footprints, peered in a frozen creek and tested the flavour of the snow from several different patches.

Busy with my own sullen thoughts I hardly noticed when she stopped and stared at a bush. From just under the bush a little brown bunny stared back. Maia began talking to the bunny, too softly for me to hear, but with an intensity that made me stay quiet. Curious, I moved closer and heard Maia ask the bunny about Easter eggs, then give her name and a rough approximation of our address. Maia thought she had come across the Easter Bunny preparing for spring!

“We need to go now.” Maia whispered to us. “She has to make chocolate eggs for so many kids…” Enchanted, we started back to towards our skis. On the walk back I joined in the adventure; we leapt over a creek, slid down a snow bank and examined the chewed branches of a bush. Back at our skis Maia willingly got into the backpack and we skied for a while longer. She told us that seeing the Easter Bunny needed to be our secret, so other people wouldn’t disturb her. “She was my special adventure.” Maia explained.

At the lodge, sipping hot chocolate, I was surprised to find myself feeling tired and content. Somewhere in that afternoon I realized that adventure comes not with what I do, but with how I receive it. I have happily exchanged sleeping in and reading the morning paper, for being woken too early by musical giggles. Spending the evening reading stories then nursing my daughter to sleep is every bit as meaningful to me as debating world events. I can miss what I had – but I owe it to myself to appreciate the beauty of what I have.

My family is my adventure. Our travels may not be the stuff of epic adventure tales or enticing travel articles anymore. Our experiences are smaller, more personal, and I now realize, deeply fulfilling.

Raising my cup of hot chocolate I proposed a toast. “To our first great family skiing adventure!”
“And the Easter Bunny” whispered Maia.

Diane Selkirk is a freelance writer and at home mother to 3yr old Maia. She enjoys sharing the wonders of the natural world with Maia – often from the deck of their sailboat as they explore the BC coast and beyond.