When I was 13, my parents took our family on a mid-summer vacation to Sedona, Arizona. As we drove into the canyon, surrounded by the famous red, orange and pink rock formations, my mom was trying to coax my six year old brother to look out the window. But he was too busy drawing. Even my 12 year old brother and I joined in: “Come on, J, you gotta see these rocks! They’re amazing.”
“I’m not interested,” he said over and over again, without lifting his head from his crayons. Not once did he look out the window.
Such is the task of a mother sometimes, as she tries to expose her children to the things in this world that are worth being exposed to. Like my parents, I believe in showing my girls as much beauty as possible. This weekend we took them up to the Central Coast of California, a region awash in beauty. There are the shifting tides, creeping fogs, windblown dunes, and orange sunsets of Morro Bay; the twisted oaks and green hills of the Paso Robles wine country; the misty shores and convoluted pines of Baywood Park. And in spring, when the hills are velvety green and the wildflowers are blooming, there's a beautiful surprise literally blooming behind every rock and tree trunk. Jeff and I both went to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and we took the girls, along with his parents, to our campus Open House on Saturday. At the top of the campus is a breathtaking botanical garden; if you're ever in SLO in April, make sure you stop by. (Here we are in the South African section of the garden.)
But here's what I'm learning about kids -- or at least my kids. "Views" are lost on them. Sophia is about actively experiencing nature. Don't try to make her admire the panoramic bay from the top of the dunes! She wants to roll down them. Don't marvel over an ancient pine's configuration. She just wants to climb it. The stretch of beach and it's breakers? It's a place to collect shells, not to stand and admire. The botanical garden? Can we play tag here, or chase butterflies?
Meanwhile, Livie can marvel at creation, but only on a small scale. While we are enjoying the valley view and the Viognier at Oso Libre winery, she's petting Ruby, the winemaker's Australian Shepherd. While we're gazing at the volcanic peaks over Cal Poly's campus, she's petting the farm cat. Above Morro Bay on the rocky cliffs, she's searching for pine cones. On Moonstone Beach, she's creating a stick and rock garden in a driftwood fort. For Livie, nature has to be tiny, touchable and preferably able to come home in her pocket. Two days later, I'm still picking pebbles out of the lint trap in my dryer.
Jeff and I are learning to roll with it -- let them experience nature in their own way. I believe that all this exposure is training them to appreciate Creation -- which is a foundational way we experience God. My mother-in-law once told me that when one of her kids calls her to tell there’s a beautiful sunset happening, she feels like she’s done her job well. She and my father-in-law took their kids all over the place -- from Yellowstone to Hawaii to the local fabric shop – to show them to pretty things and spark their creative interests when they were kids. It worked. Jeff is an architect, painter, woodworker. One of his sisters is a landscape architect, avid baker and at-home cook. The other has studied art history, worked in interior design, and is currently a professional pastry chef.
And my little brother, the one too busy drawing to look out the window? He's a singer/songwriter, creating his own beauty from what he sees and experiences.
I'd be so thrilled to see my girls equally engaged in creative pursuits – whether professionally or in their personal life – because I think being creative also links us to our Creator. So look out the window, kiddos. Beauty school is in session.