Musings on Mary Oliver, John O’Donohue and John Muir

We live in a wild and precious place. “A geographical location that’s alive.” A spot on earth where the mountains call to us. 

And because we live here, we get to go! First we go. Then we take our children. And, inconceivably quickly, our kids answer that call on their own, without us. 

My first question, then, is this: when our children answer the mountains’ call, what do we wish for them? To win? To go big? To impress? To claim? To collect their best clip yet for their season edit? 

I doubt it. In our hearts, we wish for them experiences that enrich and inform, embolden and humble. We wish for them an apprenticeship of sorts, a chance to grow and to know. 

And if we really engaged our imagination, we might even wish for them the unimaginable: a deep, if only momentary conversation with this landscape. A stretch of seconds when the outer landscape convenes with their “inner landscape” — and they feel it. And it slows them. And it stops them. And they sense a small “unfolding.”  Their reflex for image or doing or besting retreats; and beauty takes its place. 

But that’s one big wish because we live in flashing, mediated bursts of time. There aren’t enough clubs, teams, schools out there to teach our children what O’Donohue calls the “art of inwardness or interiority.” 

Turns out that’s our job. And we have been given the perfect place to do it. In the few number of years we answer the mountains’ call alongside our children, it’s our job—and our joy— to show them how to form a relationship with this wild and precious place. A relationship built on reflection and aiming for beauty. A relationship that requires we tolerate and honor a “slow unfolding” in ourselves and each other that matches and merges with the geological time it takes this place to unfold.

Which begs this question: how do we do that? How do we tolerate, honor and prioritize the slow unfolding of anything, and more importantly, anyone


Written with respect for:

Mary Oliver, a Pulitzer Prize winning poet and writer, who derives insipration from the natural world. 

John O'Donohue, who was an Irish international best selling author, environmental activist, and a proponent of integrity, soul, and beauty of the inner landscape. 

John Muir, author, philospher, naturalist. 

Carolyn loves lighting young peoples’ writing minds through workshops and individual tutoring; she helps college applicants “find their essays” through personal interviews; and founded the Squaw Valley Kids’ Institute. By spending the first 15 years of parenthood homeschooling their two girls, Carolyn and her husband Jeff managed to slow life's pace just a little and connect deeply to community.




Wonderful. The wonder of our mountain world hands us so many opportunities to grow. If only we greet it with hands outstretched and palms up. J

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