Do you remember when you were a kid, driving down the highway with your parents and constantly being badgered to look out the window at mundane roadside features such as trees and lakes? My parents made me do that all the time.
“Look how beautiful that view is,” my mother would say. “Just look at it!”
So fine, I’d look out the car window, but I could never understand what the point was. Why would adults, I wondered, make such a big deal out of trees or water or hills? They were just the typical parts and pieces of the same old landscape — the same today as they were yesterday and not a lot different from mile to mile either as far as I could tell. Now if there’d been an ostrich running along or perhaps a woodshed on fire — I can see how those things would have been interesting to look at. But pine trees? Yawn.
At some point, of course, that changed for me and as an adult I find myself enthralled by the landscape, especially here in the Mountain West. And there’s no more amazing landscape than that of Arches National Park in Southern Utah, a popular destination from which our family just returned.
I’m not sure how many times I insisted that our kids Belle and Joe look out the window at the sheer sandstone cliffs, slickrock domes, and impossibly towering spires before I realized I’d heard myself somewhere before.
“Look how beautiful that view is,” I’d say. “Just look at it!”
And sometimes, as you can imagine, I had to be a bit more emphatic than that.
“Belle! Joe! Look over there — No! Where I’m pointing — you’re going to MISS it!”
I guess I must’ve done that quite a bit, because after three days it got to the point where I couldn’t have convinced Belle and Joe to look out the window if we actually had passed a woodshed on fire.
We did get them to appreciate the landscape somewhat closer up, though, by taking them on a few short hikes, the most memorable of which was to the world-famous Delicate Arch. We had to do some cajoling to get 7-year old Joe to agree to it because he’s not naturally prone to overexerting himself.
He’s seen many photos of Delicate Arch and was excited about seeing it in person until he found out you had to hike a mile and a half uphill to get there.
“We’re walking by leg?” he asked, incredulous.
“Uh . . . yes. By leg,” we answered him, equally mystified. What other kind of walking he thinks there is I have yet to discover.
Ultimately he got on board, though, and all four of us made the hike with hats, sunglasses, and water bottles to Delicate Arch. A mile and a half really isn’t so far, but I reminded myself that it’s kind of like one’s level of appreciation for features of the landscape — it’s different for adults than it is for kids. A mile and half for my husband and me is probably more like five miles for our 7- and 8-year olds.
You can’t see Delicate Arch during the hour or so that you’re hiking up to it. What happens is you abruptly find yourself there after coming around from the other side of a red rock wall; suddenly this iconic formation is right in front of you and it does take your breath away. I was rewarded as a parent, paid back for all my insisting that Belle and Joe appreciate the view, when Belle actually gasped.
“It looks so much like it,” she marveled, and I know I couldn’t have come up with any better words than those.
After the hike as we drove out of the park I decided not to constantly pester Belle and Joe about looking out the windows. I suppose a kid can only soak in a certain amount of natural beauty in one day, and as far as I was concerned they’d fulfilled their quota on that one. So I bit my tongue as we passed by one amazing sight after another along that spectacular American highway.
Instead, I satisfied myself with a lot of pokes to my husband’s thigh accompanied by forceful gesturing. Whether he appreciated that or not I don’t know, but I do know that thanks to me, he didn’t miss a thing.