We visit family in Western North Carolina for several weeks, so I found myself thinking of how best to celebrate July 4 with the kids, while Jimmy was smoking pork all day for the evening BBQ.
Not that everything has to be a lesson, but I'm sensitive to holidays losing their meaning. So, what do I want Independence Day to mean to my children? What do I love most about my country?
The answer is easy: what I love most is the country, the land. And our legacy of wildly stunning public lands are the envy of many other nations. So we piled in the car to get some exercise and some perspective.
On the winding drive I explained what a National Park was, and how the Blue Ridge Parkway belonged to every American--even them.
Then we started hiking. We live at about 1300 feet elevation.We began our ascent at 2820 and topped out at 4220.
We got perspective, alright.
Even though they'd been to these mountains previous summers, the kids reacted in awe. They stopped and stared. Then they ran around, staying well back from the edge. There were big rocks to peer under and all sorts of things to discover first. Of course it only felt like they were the first to discover them. Unlike Columbus, though, they didn't try and stake a claim.
Right then it occurred to me that freedom often comes because we agree to share. To share land, roads (and their care). Basic services that I might need more one year and you might need more the next year, but that we each pay into every year, like the National Guard and other military branches.
This freedom to experience the natural world is worth fighting for, if you ask me, and is why I'm such a huge advocate for our public lands. There are always politicians out there trying to convince us we're better off selling our National Parks, Forests, Monuments, Wilderness Areas, etc., so they can be run privately.
That strikes me as unpatriotic. Certainly it's undemocratic, putting our natural national treasures into private hands.
And it's not sharing.
So as my kids explored freely, I vowed to take them outside more to places patriots have worked hard to protect and make accessible. To see the beauty of this land and to get to know their country.
And I vowed to share more. Except when it comes to bacon.
I write, read, recreate, and raise kids in rural Pennsylvania. I teach part-time in Outdoor Recreation Leadership, Creative Writing, and Women's Studies at Mansfield University.