My teeth clench and my foot braces hard against the floor of this shaking machine. All at once the conversations surrounding us are hushed by the droning of the wind against metal. My heart beats harder. I have always been a nervous flyer.
My stomach drops as the aircraft lifts sharply, wheels bidding farewell to the airstrip. The plane tilts left, and I see them like never before. “We’re going to fly right over our house.” My husband leans over me to glimpse what I cannot take my eyes off of: our mountains.
They stretch out before us without end, an infinite expanse of wilderness and wonder. I have never seen them like this before. At least, not since they became our own. Within minutes he spots it. “There! Do you see that curve in the road? Right next to it, there is our neighborhood.” And I do see it. I picture at once our three boys running across the living room, keeping my brave mom, who flew in the night before to stay with them, on her feet. They are a stone throw away, but 10,000 feet out of reach.
My husband points out rivers, lakes, mountain peaks, and canyons. I know them all by name, by smell, by tastes of picnic lunches, and hikes along their trails. I see day drives, afternoons spent tossing rocks into riverbeds, and where we hiked into the forest to cut down our Christmas tree. All of these places—our places— are laid out as if bark on a tree, rising and falling, with lines of river and trail snaking their way throughout. Home. And it is. We have made it to be, and we know it intimately.
Not a half hour later, the summits calm and taper into flatter land, then rise steep again into a wilderness I do not know. Our boys are now a range away. I turn to my husband, “Hey, happy One Year In Colorado.”
We are flying away from the new backdrop of our lives, and toward the backdrop of my husband’s childhood. For four years of his boyhood he called the moss-covered trees and cloud-covered mountains of Washington “Home”. And I could hardly wait to see these places that I had pictured so many times from his stories.
That week I would stand in awe of the 286-foot Snoqualmie Waterfall, maze my way through forests of 100-foot trees and beds of ferns, and see the creek where my husband and his brother used to spend entire days rope swinging and creek jumping. And as I did, I could picture our own boys, and it made me wonder about the backdrop we are choosing for their own childhood.
It’s incredible just how much the backdrop that we choose for our kids shapes their futures. It is something that our kids get little to no say in. We choose it, and it will shape them profoundly. This was a realization that weighed heavily into our decision to move to Colorado one year ago. However, it doesn’t take the majesty of the Rocky Mountains to color a beautiful backdrop. Nor does it require sandy beaches with ocean breeze, or a quaint farmhouse among golden fields. The backdrop of our child’s life is made up of so many details.
A backdrop is made up not only of the things that we see day-to-day. It is pace, and flavor, and music, and scent, and words, and embrace. It is the tiniest of details that make all of the difference in a home.
Our move to the mountains was not a fix-all. I would be naive, and sorely disappointed, if I expected it to produce the perfect pace of life. Yes, it has helped us to embrace wonder. But it did little to slow us down. That takes more than a move; it takes intentional choices every single day. Even among all of this awe and wonder, we can still become lost in the rush of life, and we often do. We still find harsh words on our lips, and our minds too busy to offer a listening ear.
Location does not change these things.
Choosing a backdrop is not often a dramatic move, but a continuous string of small, intentional moves; moves we make every single day. Moves like these:
- Reserving a campsite for a few weekends throughout the summer
- Looking up nearby nature trails, and choosing one to explore each weekend
- Playing music throughout the day in your home. (Our favorite Pandora stations are Caedmon’s Call, JJ Heller, Nickel Creek, and Rend Collective Experiment)
- Lighting candles in the house
- Diffusing lavender oil
- Sitting down (with your spouse if you are married), looking over your calendar for the month, and choosing two activities to cross off. Go on a family date instead.
- Choosing books, crafts, play, and time outside over screens in the morning hours
- Reserving one evening a week for Family Game Night
- Packing sandwiches and snacks for a picnic in the park
- Visiting the library once a week, and coming home with a new stack of books
- Sitting to enjoy a cup of tea with a book, or just while sitting with your kids
These small moves add up quickly. They hold the power to change the whole culture of a home, and the backdrop of our children’s lives.
We chose these mountains because they remind us every day to slow down and listen. They challenge us to this, but they don’t do it for us. We must heed their reminder to keep our hearts focused on beauty, and living a life in line with our values. That is what creating a backdrop is made of: intentional choices that line up with our values in life. Choices to take walks and pursue wonder and create beauty and speak kindness until all of these things engrain themselves into the culture of our home. Until they all add their own color to the backdrop of our kids’ childhoods.