Like all losses, my family and I have been faced with the surreal realization that we can no longer spend time with her and her passionate, energetic, and fierce personality. Grandma passing did one thing for us, however. It brought the family together to reminisce, which most of the time included memories of us going outside.
Going into the forest on hers and grandpa’s property every year to cut down a Christmas tree. Going sledding at a place we called “Turtle Hill”. Taking her dogs for walks. Picking vegetables from her garden that we would eat for lunch and dinner that day. Horseback rides through fields of Balsamroot in the spring. Watching wildlife from the deck and admiring the vast views of infinite Montana skies. Listening to the wind in the Ponderosas. Gluing our eyes to binoculars in a tireless search for turtles at the Big Pond. Finding old treasures in the homestead on their property. The Indian Paintbrush that would grow up in the high hills off of the old logging roads. The list truly goes on forever.
My grandmother was born on a farm in France, and later returned with her family to the states to flee WWII. They then landed in Ohio on my great grandfather’s farm, where my great grandpa wrote novels and helped pioneer concepts of sustainable agriculture.
Connections to the natural world started early in our family history, and it’s been incredible realizing how they’ve successfully been passed on. I realized this, more than ever, upon reading a passage my great grandpa had written that hung on my grandma’s wall at the home she passed away in. It was a beautiful reminder of the values that have lived throughout generations:
What to be Thankful for
For the privilege and gift of living in a world filled with beauty, excitement, and variety.
For the gift of loving and being loved, for the friendliness and understanding and beauty of the animals on the farm and in the forest and marshes, for the green of the trees, the sound of a waterfall, the darting beauty of the trout in the brook.
For the delights of music and children, of other men’s thoughts and conversations and their books to read by the fireside or in bed with the rain falling on the roof or the snow blowing past outside the window.
For the beauties of the four seasons, and of the churches and the houses built by fellow men that stand throughout the centuries as monuments to man’s aspirations and sense of beauty.
For the powers of mind which find in the universe an endless and inexhaustible source of interest and fascination, for the understanding of so many elements which make life precious.
For all the senses bestowed upon me and for the delights which they bring me, for my body itself, which is so wonderful and delightful a mechanism.
For the smile on a face of a woman, for the touch of a friend’s hand, for the laughter of a child, the wagging tail of a dog and the touch of his cold nose against my face.
For all these things and many more, and above all, for people with all their goodness and understanding which so far outweighs their vices, their envy, their deceits.
For life itself, without which the universe would have no meaning.
She didn’t just believe in these things herself, but made sure my mom grew up similarly, who then raised us similarly. If you asked my grandma what the most important thing in the world is, she would most likely say conserving the natural world for the livelihood and enjoyment of both animals and humans (she was also quite the activist), and I think she believed this so strongly because it’s what she felt was most real in the world.
We now surround ourselves daily with social media feeds and endless emails and texts messages, all of which are fleeting in their nature. But our connections to going outside, in whatever form that may be, are experiences that drive a sense of meaning to last a lifetime.
Passing on the gift of going outside may be one of the most powerful things we can give someone!