Tough sledding

  • (C) HOWARD SANDLER, BIGSTOCKPHOTO.COM

 

A few weeks ago, after a party, my son Truman, who is 7, asked me, "You know when I was outside yesterday with Danny?" "Did you have fun?" I asked.

"Yeah," Truman said. "Except Danny said he was going to kick me in the head because I don't believe in God."

This is the kind of gut-dropping information Truman delivers with perfect nonchalance. I would feel less confused if he asked me to explain the inner workings of DNA.

"What's wrong?" Truman asked.

I stood across the kitchen counter from where he was eating a chocolate doughnut. He chewed with his mouth open, truly gratified to be having dessert for breakfast. It's like a display to remind my husband and me that we are nothing like perfect parents. We hurry too much and too often and let the kids stay up too late. Sometimes we scold them for the bad habits they have learned by our example. We indulge them with doughnuts.

I considered our shortcomings and, worried, searched my son's face for hints of spiritual vacancy. Out the window behind him, light began its morning creep past the willows, up the draw. It's a big winter. Even for those of us who love snow, the wind and white are relentless. Snowbanks stand well over six feet, and the landscape seems to resonate with our familial moods - now untainted and bright, now heavy and oppressive.

One of the reasons we moved the kids out to these hills is so they can ski and sled just a few steps out the door in winter. I guess I never believed rusticating would save them from social pressures. I just wanted them to have space for their minds to grow.

While Truman finished his doughnut and wiped his mouth on his sleeve, I wondered why he announced to the other boy that he didn't believe in God. I admit to happy agnosticism, but not without reverence for place, culture, living things, love and science. We count ourselves among the respectful and the awed. As far as we can choose what we pass on to our youngsters, my husband and I hope for thoughtfulness. And we'd like the kids to be joyful.

Standing there at the counter, I thought it through. We've never kidded ourselves that a bucolic life presupposes cultural harmony. We've worked together building community with our mostly ranching neighbors, who are not themselves a cohesive group either ethnically, religiously or politically.

"What, Mama?" Truman pressed.

"I'm trying to think of a right thing to say to you," I admitted. Tossing Danny's statement around in my head was making me dizzy.

Probably not a good idea to say how impressed I am that Danny constructed an allegory for great chunks of history in a single sentence. Probably not OK to explain indoctrination and how easily it has found us hiding here in the sagebrush. Probably shouldn't tell Truman how sad I am that he got saddled with the weight of holy war while he was out sledding. And, for sure, I can't go into stories of child warriors the same age as Truman and Danny - commandeered from their innocence, incited to violence in the name of religion, and made to witness and participate in the worst of our animal behavior all over the world.

I got terrified and out of breath just thinking about it. But I didn't have to say anything.

"Don't worry, Mama," Truman said. "I can think whatever I want."

This really made me worry. Outside, snow started falling again.

"Well, do you still want to play with Danny sometimes?" I asked.

Truman shrugged, slid off his stool, and grinned so I could see the chocolate in his teeth. "Why wouldn't I?" he said.


Kate Krautkramer has written for National Geographic, The Denver Post, and NPR. She lives near Yampa, Colo., with her husband and children.

High Country News Classifieds
  • DIRECTOR - SONORAN DESERT INN & CONFERENCE CENTER
    The Sonoran Desert Inn & Conference Center is a non-profit lodging and event venue in Ajo, Arizona, located on the historic Curley School Campus. We...
  • CANYONLANDS FIELD INSTITUTE
    Field Seminars for adults: cultural and natural history of the Colorado Plateau. With guest experts, local insights, small groups, and lodge or base camp formats....
  • PLANNED GIVING OFFICER
    National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), the nation's oldest and largest national parks nonprofit advocacy organization seeks a Planned Giving Officer. Do you find energy in...
  • DEPUTY DIRECTOR
    The Methow Valley Citizens Council has a distinguished history of advocating for progressive land use and environmental values in the Methow Valley and Okanogan County...
  • ACTING INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS DESK EDITOR
    High Country News is seeking an Acting Indigenous Affairs Editor to oversee the work of our award-winning Indigenous Affairs Desk while our editor is on...
  • GRANTS PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    The Cinnabar Foundation seeks an enthusiastic, team-oriented and knowledgeable Grants Program Director to work from their home in Montana. Established in 1983, the Cinnabar Foundation...
  • ARTEMIS PROGRAM MANAGER
    The Artemis Program Manager will work with National Wildlife Federation sporting and public lands staff to change this dynamic, continue to build upon our successful...
  • ALASKA SEA KAYAK BUSINESS FOR SALE
    Well-known and successful sea kayak, raft, hike, camp guiding & water taxi service. Sale includes everything needed to run the business, including office & gear...
  • MEMBERSHIP AND EVENTS PROGRAM COORDINATOR
    Great Old Broads for Wilderness seeks a detail-oriented and enthusiastic Membership and Events Coordinator to join our small, but mighty-fun team to oversee our membership...
  • PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT FACILITATOR
    ABOUT THE HIGH DESERT MUSEUM Since opening in 1982, HIGH DESERT MUSEUM has brought together wildlife, culture, art and natural resources to promote an understanding...
  • LAND STEWARD, ARAVAIPA
    Steward will live on-site in housing provided by TNC and maintains preserve areas frequented by the visiting public and performs land management activities. The Land...
  • DEVELOPMENT WRITER
    Who We Are: The Nature Conservancy's mission is to protect the lands and waters upon which all life depends. As a science-based organization, we create...
  • CONNECTIVITY SCIENCE COORDINATOR
    Position type: Full time, exempt Location: Bozeman preferred; remote negotiable Compensation: $48,000 - $52,000 Benefits: Major medical insurance, up to 5% match on a 401k,...
  • EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT
    ArenaLife is looking for an Executive Assistant who wants to work in a fast-paced, exciting, and growing organization. We are looking for someone to support...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Driggs, ID based non-profit. Full time. Full job description available at tvtap.org. Submit cover letter and resume to [email protected]
  • ENVIRONMENTAL AND CONSTRUCTION GEOPHYSICS
    - We find groundwater, buried debris and assist with new construction projects for a fraction of drilling costs.
  • SPRING MOUNTAINS SOLAR OFF GRID MOUNTAIN HOME
    Located 50 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada in the pine forest of Lee Canyon at 8000 feet elevation. One of a kind property surrounded...
  • MAJOR GIFTS MANAGER - MOUNTAIN WEST, THE CONSERVATION FUND
    Cultivate, solicit and steward a portfolio of 75-125 donors.
  • NATURE'S BEST IN ARAVAIPA CANYON
    10 acre private oasis in one of Arizona's beautiful canyons. Fully furnished, 2123 sq ft architectural custom-built contemporary home with spectacular views and many extras....
  • HEALTH FOOD STORE IN NW MONTANA
    Turn-key business includes 2500 sq ft commercial building in main business district of Libby, Montana. 406.293.6771 /or [email protected]