Marilyn Englander: Changing Plans

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When a chance for a memory-making trip with her daughter goes awry, Marilyn Englander changes plans.

Back in March, my grown-up daughter asked me to take her backpacking. It's not every day that an adult child wants her mother's companionship in travel, so I chucked my other summer plans and made a reservation for late August in Desolation Wilderness, southwest of Lake Tahoe, a location guaranteed to delight a beginner.

All spring I excitedly pawed through gear, refreshed my memory about purifying water, gingerly test-started the tiny gas stove, planned great meals. I day-hiked with a pack loaded with weights to get in shape. I was in heaven.

Now, though, the fires. First, the Dixie Fire worried me. Then, the Caldor Fire struck. My heart sank. The wilds of California that I love, that inspire and restore me, are in grave danger. I mourned for the lands. And I lamented that our trip was doomed.

Every morning as I monitor air quality in the Sierra, the situation degrades. This is drought; these are our times. Yet, though I can’t rescue the wilderness from fire, I recognized that I could salvage the joy of a few days solo with my daughter. I needed to pivot and be flexible.


Researching furiously, I envisioned other forms of togetherness. The point was to keep my eye on the main goal: time together.

The plan’s changed every day, every hour, but I’ve been willing myself to stay positive. Now we’re looking towards the coast --- even daring to see a silver lining in burning less gas to get there. Day hikes, a kayak excursion, a swim in the bay?

This is California today. And still, the focus needs to remain on what we can control and of that, what’s most important to safeguard. Time together. The good we still enjoy. The tremendous comfort of knowing nature’s capacity to heal. Holding onto that in the midst of grieving the great losses California endures, off we’ll go who knows where -traveling together.

With a Perspective, this is Marilyn Englander.

Marilyn Englander is a North Bay educator.