Letter to My Son
Yesterday morning your mom and I walked with you beside the Metolius River. We’ve taken you there since you were little and riding on my back. In photos over the years, there you are, standing by the river on a log, or crouched and eyeing animal tracks, or staring at a great blue heron. Yesterday there was a heron, and there you were, twelve, watching it rise from the river and beyond the pines, those huge wings beating, your parents equally transfixed.
The day before, we’d driven you over the mountains to Bend for your soccer game. With joy over these years we’ve watched you grow and run and persevere. We’ve watched you play soccer in all kinds of weather, as we’ve hiked with you in all kinds, too.
This morning the newspaper headlines clobbered like they do, and I wanted us back at the river watching that heron. Our nation and the world in a tough spot, and I think of you in your life. I think of your generation, not so far from mine on this tiny planet, and sometimes I worry.
This afternoon I was in a high school classroom with thirty sophomores, and it seemed like at least four or five of them were stoned. Two or three others in various stages of giving up, medicating against the relentless world, those walls in their eyes, phones in their laps. And as I stood in front of those kids talking about imagination and icebergs and the long work of rendering true scenes on paper, part of me wanted to stop and say, “Let’s pause for a minute. Because I want to ask you all a question … What scares you most?”
Kid, I think of all the times over these years that we’ve gone to the field and kicked the soccer ball. How you’ve wanted to train and build your skills. I think of running with you on that field in all kinds of weather, sometimes we’re the only ones out there, soaking wet, while on the street nearby the traffic rolls on. All that urgency.
What I’m trying to say is, keep within you those walks along the rivers. The rowboat-glides across the lake with the mountain right there, and the times we’ve kicked the ball on the beach beside the ocean. Keep those mornings when we walk our dog through the neighborhood, and the times we have with family and friends.
Soon you’ll be a grownup with even more choices to make. Those choices matter. What will matter most to you, and how will you honor your truest self? What will scare you and how will you face those fears with dignity, grit, and some humor? Will you build and nurture a sense of perspective and faith in life that bolsters you in any kind of weather?
Let me pause and just say, Savor each stage. You know? Slowness — that’s the thing. Keep noticing those birds.
And remember that we love you, always.