Where to hold a family reunion? Warm weather or cold? City or country? Beach or mountains? Travel time, cost, different preferences, backdrops for family photos—there are many choices that influence where we gather. Once we are there, Nature serves as a host that lures us outdoors.
In mid-October my mother, three sisters and I held an important reunion. The last time just the five of us—the Brown women— were together was 30 years ago for a mother/daughters canoe trip into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.
A big clan, we have had many family reunions since then with partners, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. We have gathered for weddings, holidays, and funerals. But with just the five of us who live in four different time zones, it had been three decades.
We have aged, and we have an age spread of 32 years so a canoe trip was not an option this time. But nature is important to all of us and we all come from Minnesota so we chose to gather at a cottage on the shore of Lake Superior—a crown jewel of our home state.
Lake Superior is somewhat infamous for its weather. In fact, the week before our October gathering there was a gale-force storm with 65 mph winds. A snow squall covered the ground in white our first morning in Minneapolis. However, driving north we were lucky and had sunny skies and moderate winds even though our accommodations would have kept us comfortable regardless of wind or temperature. The inspiration of looking out our cottage’s window at the largest lake on the planet kept us in a place of wonder and encouraged our outdoor adventure.
Mom was celebrating her 92ndbirthday and our youngest sister, Margaret, was celebrating her 60thbirthday so there was a lot of fun and frivolity.
As is always the case, wandering in nature or sitting by a campfire brings forth stories and memories and an opportunity to share more deeply. We all have complex lives. It was incredible to come together for 4 days and reweave the bonds between us.
One morning we called a circle at our cottage’s dining room table and shared our respective health concerns. We spoke thoughtfully about the journeys of our children and grandchildren. We established a prayer list to better hold one another’s lives. As our elder, Mom spoke about her aging process and what she needs from us. I know we will work well together in the years ahead to support her.
As children, Mom and Dad annually took us on a family vacation to Colorado where we saw grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins and got to spend a week in the mountains hiking and fishing. The imprint of gathering for fun and togetherness in nature runs deep in all of us. It is part of the pattern that bonds us. I see how strongly Nature still holds us and I know that each of us has passed this love and respect on to our own children.
A grove of birch trees is one living organism, connected through a powerful underground system of roots and rootlets. Like the birch trees in this late fall scene along the shore of Lake Superior, we five have a deeply connected root system. We stand apparently separate but continue to nourish one another in ways that are both visible and invisible. And that is a lot to be grateful for!