A little over a year ago, we invited readers to submit stories of their own Backyard Adventures and announced a deadline of January 9th, 2009. Here we are in 2010, and still (happily) receiving submissions. The most recent is this beautiful audio slideshow from father and Bend, Oregon resident, Jason Albert, entitled Backyard World. The words that follow speak to the motivations that lead to the creation of Jason’s slideshow, which readers can view using the link at the end of his essay. Whether you’re a parent, or just someone who believes in the value of “seeing small to make the world big,” Jason’s slideshow is a gem we’re happy to share.
I am keen on listening to first person accounts of deep commitment and adventure; all transpiring with a close connection to place. I vicariously inhale these adventures, and used to think that they would be nothing without their setting in far-off, exotically-spiced countries. A good friend once had his windowless and dank basement apartment plastered with cutouts from climbing catalogs. We would drool over these images. Regrettably, we could not be bothered with the real Montana wilds a few blocks away. Not, that is, with some godly climber pulling a move with their pinky in a “real” mountain range that I knew had prayer flags fluttering just beyond the camera’s lens. We dreamed and ogled. I could picture myself there too, even if I would need super Wonder Twins’ powers to travel safe and fast in that terrain. The catalog images compounded the effects of the “it must be better beyond my backyard” virus I harbored.
The virus is now in remission. But for years I, too, “jonesed” for adventure – quelled only…
…by an endless drive, or a carbon-spewing flight to a remote locale: be it the Bugaboos or a secret backcountry slope where some earthy juju combined with orographic lift causes snow so dry to fall you swear it is made of fairy dust. I just had to be there. I convinced myself that the ho-hum of playing in my own backyard was just that: ho-hum.
Two young boys later, and I now know I was very wrong. I can recall a time when discussion of anything we’d learn in a science class was buried deep in section Z of the newspaper. Now, even the most reluctant citizen must have command of basic science vernacular or their ideas, presuppositions, and vision are as useful as a square wheel. Only the fool has not examined the unyielding positive slope depicted in the graph of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels measured at Mauna Loa, Hawaii. If that data is not enough to make me love my backyard, then I am as much a fool now as I was back in that Montana basement.
For the most part, I am now a stay-at-home dad. I want my kids to have adventures. Here in Bend, Oregon adventure is readily available. But like all places, and like all conflicted adventure addicts, I am trying to teach my two boys good and wild adventure is accessible in your backyard without the assistance of the combustion engine sitting in the driveway. My adventures now are at once, more complex, subtle, and wrapped in penetrating challenge. The challenge is to make close-to-home adventure the real deal. I take my daily dose of Peter Pan and Pied Piper mojo and realize that adventure is having my six-year-old sow zucchini in May and harvest it in July. Adventure is adding to the over 1,000 discarded plastic bottles squirreled and collecting in our garage to fashion our own “Junk” raft to float the flat sections of the Deschutes River this summer. For us, backyard adventure is about learning to explore, examine, and love minutiae: digging a deep, deep hole; finding rolly-pollies; watching Water Ouzels feed at the river; sledding on a dinky hill; and seeing small to make my boys’ world big.
View Jason’s audio slideshow “Backyard World.”