Under tall granite walls that appear to curve towards the earth’s center, the stage is set with waterfall soundscapes and lanky pine trees. My son, who can’t even form a complete sentence, realizes he has a role in the show. Falling into the character he is dressed for, he runs on his tippy-toes with his arms hanging out to the sides and hands clenched into claws.
He heads up the trail, eager to startle someone. His pajamas, made of brown fleece fur, are decorated with tiny bear ears on the hood. Spectators mock that they can check ‘spotting a bear in Yosemite’ off their bucket list. Admirers tip me off the impending danger this wild animal poses, being so close to me and eating my snacks.
My mind starts to wander while my son scampers up to Yosemite Falls, harassing the crowds. I may need to dress Ziggy like a wild animal more often. This character suits his personality. People, including me, understand him better now than when he is dressed like a human and foraging for entertainment.
I can imagine it now. When Ziggy hits and kicks me, I’ll narrate the importance of play fighting in a young cub’s life in my best David Attenborough impersonation. For one day, he will be without his mother and need to hunt independently. Or when he screams loudly in public places, and all eyes inevitably fall on me after a startling silence, I can simply state, “It must be mating season,” with a callous shrug of the shoulders.
The next day, we enjoyed the open elbow room of El Cap meadow. I sat with binoculars suctioned to my eyes, searching for die-hard climbers on the winter wall. Ziggy frolicked through the tall grass, tripping every third step, while his father watched our son through the blades like a lion stalking its prey.
The hay-like smell of the grass and deep woodsy lemon pine scents softens my character and lets me parent in a relaxed tone. In the vast expanse of nature, I can teach my son calm behavior through my actions. I can prize his bravery over needing his constant obedience. I want to sit in the comfort of surrounding streaked cliffs until the snow in the high-up crevasses melts next winter.
I want to look at the courageous climbers on El Cap with my son all summer and be reminded of Yosemite’s ongoing history of bravery over obedience. I want my son to live like the stone masters, recognize and honor those who came before him, understand their greatness, and build on it.
Being in nature summons up the sparkle in everyday life. Humans need to roam like animals. Jumping, scratching, and playing their way to joy and fulfillment. Taking in sunshine or hiking through rain, I’ll take breathing in fresh oxygen over being ordered to sit at home any day.