By Lisa Barr
Okay, here’s what you did NOT see on YouTube … A 40-something couple hiking alone along the back trails of Montana — 100 degree heat, downing water, dripping sweat, but loving it. In the distance, they hear the inviting sound of rushing water. They speed up and see the wide, sparkling river before them. No one needed to ask twice.
“Hey,” she calls out playfully once she climbs down to the bottom of the rocks, at the edge of the water. “I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours.”
He laughs, looking around and seeing no one. “Our kids would kill us … but okay, you first.”
Gone was the top, the bra. The sheer freedom of breeze and water and no one-ness was intoxicating.
“Your turn,” she shouts out.
Gone were the shorts, the shirt, and the boxer briefs were almost off and then … “Holy shit! Don’t turn around.”
But she does anyway. Two old, scraggly bearded guys fly fishing on the Blackfoot River had materialized out of nowhere, quietly watching the half-naked couple. Were they there the whole time?
Busted and laughing, the Husband & Wife Duo quickly gather their things and run.
I’m not saying who this couple happened to be, but let’s just say I know them more than intimately.
And so it went …
Flashback: A few weeks earlier. David and I were planning to embark on our annual one-week anniversary trip while the kids were away at camp. In the past, we’ve traveled to Tuscany, Napa, Provence, Maine, Vermont, Santa Barbara — but this year we wanted to do something rugged and go to a place where our cell phones had no real chance of working.
In Other Words: We desperately needed to de-Stress, de-Tox, and de-Parent.
It came down to this: Nature & Nurture. It was that time of the year to recharge our batteries, wipe off the dust, and rediscover our Inner Child and Outer Desire.
Camp buses had left carrying our two younger daughters to eight weeks of overnight camp, our eldest jetted off to Spain for a Teen Tour … and two days later we were ready to zip out of Suburbia. Let me just interrupt myself here … One of my daughters was experiencing her sixth year at overnight camp. Normally, every year a group of us Moms kiss our girls goodbye, keep it together, and then once the buses take off — the tears flow seconds after they are out of eye-shot.
Umm, NOT this year.
No, this summer, we were all like: Buh-bye … Just Go, Pa-lease!
Yes, we ALL had had a year full of teenage angst and Girl Drama, and needed a breather. We all laughed about it: Remember when we used to cry … ahhh. Now the bus takes off and there’s a secret little thrill, a skip in a step that takes place — not to mention later, a free reign clean-up of their rooms (read: dump their crap — a total blow-out — and they won’t even know). But before my daughter boarded the bus, she looked me in the eye: “Mommy, I know you need a break. BUT I give you ONE week, and then you will miss me like crazy.”
Okay, it was eight days later … but damn, she was right!
Back in the day (could it be 30 years ago?), I used to take out 100-mile canoe trips along the Canadian border as a camp counselor, and David also had done lots of rugged camping in his time. We also went camping as a family with our girls when they were younger (when they LOVED being with us). We did the whole nine yards — cooked outside, hiked, showed them how to assemble a tent, make a fire, s’mores, and outdoor pee-ing (simply the best). As they grew older, outdoor pee-ing etc., lost its appeal — and so did camping (I hate mosquitoes, spiders suck, I don’t feel like hiking — I just want to be with my friends). So our trips became more high-end — something that always included air-condition and smoothies-by-the-pool.
Hubby and I knew this year, hell or high water, we were going back to our roots, to recapture what we yearned for most in our complicated lives: Simplicity.
Montana, Idaho, or Wyoming? A spin of the globe, a finger lands, a “send” on a reservation — and there we were in Missoula, Montana. Okay, let me just preface this. This was NOT a pee-outside kinda gig. Apparently, the Rolling Stones had stayed at this 37,000 acre joint a few years back, we later found out. So yes, the Barrs went camping albeit glamourously — better known as “Glamping” — and it was just what the doctor ordered: A tent with a king-sized bed, built-in bathroom, and a chef who rocked his spatula.
But all the real goodies were right there for the taking: canoeing, hiking, biking, ATV-ing, rafting, shooting — anything with an “ing” was on the menu. Just to qualify: We learned post-activities that we falsely thought that glamping was all-inclusive. No. EVERYTHING was a la carte — a majorly pricey jaunt. A simple canoe trip was the cost of a plane ticket to Manhattan.
The first thing you learn is that Glamping — unlike Camping — is costly. You do go rugged, but PAMPERED Camping has a way of emptying your pockets quicker than a Bald Eagle scoops up a fish.
We brought books and read in the shade, uninterrupted, and it felt so nice to be together in complete silence. I was on a steady diet of four glasses of wine a day. (Just for reference: More than 2 glasses of wine and I’m lying face down on my driveway). But for some reason my tolerance level seemed to spike in fresh mountain air. We met fascinating people every night as we sat around the campfire. Everyone had his/her stories — and as a writer, that was my favorite part of the trip. My husband was so relaxed, grew a beard, and became the Mountain Man he so desired to be. And it was really sexy. That whole no-work, no-phone thing definitely was a turn-on for both of us.
Away from all the crazy, we had become the best versions of ourselves.
Most of all, I could think amidst the quiet. I could make resolutions that were keep-able. I could analyze the year and those aspects about myself as a Mom/Wife/Woman/Writer that I wanted to do differently and those things that were working for me. My skin looked good — no underground stress pimples that needed zapping. I even let my crazy frizzy hair go natural — and my tresses had a welcome break from all the blow-outs and daily beatings.
The best part of spending the week under the Big Sky in the Great Outdoors was this: Away from my phone, computer, and daily demands — I was finally able to breathe.
There was one particular “New Age-y” day when I faced the mountains solo (David was on a 3-hour ATV tour). It was just me and Mother Nature, and she seemed hellbent on teaching me a thing or two about life and letting go of those fears/anxieties that continue to plague me:
- Fear of being a less than stellar parent. Am I parenting to the best of my ability? Am I so stressed during the week with all the demands that anxiety transfers to my daughters, contributing to their anxiety? My goal: “Re-gift” the inner calm I felt in Montana to my kids — that’s what they need, what we ALL need — especially once the school year/schedules erupts (disrupts) any chance of family serenity.
- Fear of all the “What Ifs” that could happen … if I’m not on top of things, and in total control. I was able to see clearly out there amongst the trees that I can only really control myself, and I need to stop micro-managing the people I love the most — and let them be who they are. It all works out in the end, whether they adhere to my Instruction Manual, or not.
- Fear of marital betrayal … This one is complicated, loaded … and deeply personal. But this time around, I married my best friend and lover, and as he puts it: “What are you worried about — I’m ecstatically married!” After 10 years, this man has passed every “trust test” in the book. Believe him.
– Fear of what if my novel — that I’ve poured my heart, soul and pen into — fails. Or on the flipside, what if it really succeeds — will book tours and demands take me away from my family when I don’t like to miss a thing? My family will survive those days here and there when I have to travel this year. My husband is supportive and my kids are happy for me and proud … Facing the mountains, I gave myself permission to both fail and succeed.
- Fear of heights and falling — Hmm, another control issue. There was a tough moment on our trip when we were biking on challenging terrain filled with rocks, mud, and debris. I shouted out: “David, I’m scared. I’m not sure I will make it.” He turned around briefly and said, “Hold on and just trust that you will ride right through it, the bike will follow your lead — Don’t think about the rocks or the mud, and you will be fine.” He was right — I was fine; it felt great to challenge my body. How does he know these things — why can’t I not only know them but also FEEL them too?
I could … and did.
And so as I glamped for a week, I asked internal questions and discovered external answers. I left Montana with my Mountain Man in tow, filled with a renewed purpose, a new calm, and a rejuvenated sense of All Is Okay-ness. RE-entering Suburbia and my life as I know it, I took with me Mother Nature’s advice: Keep it simple. Let life happen — and trust it.