A Big Horn Sheep that let us get within five feet of him. We stayed in the car and watched for a long time.

Nature’s beauty is a gift that cultivates appreciation and gratitude.
~ Louie Schwartzberg

We were on a winter road trip and had just left Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where we spent Christmas. We even found a restaurant that served both rack of lamb and pizza for Christmas Eve dinner!

Now we were heading east and south toward home. It was a beautiful blue-sky day with the sun shining on the new snow that had fallen during the night. The air was windless. Thus, several inches of snow sat atop fence posts and the occasional mailbox.

I was breathless in awe at the rugged, articulated beauty of Wind River range of mountains! Perhaps the most spectacular I had ever seen!

As we drove along, I wanted to share my recognition of this abundant beauty with Michael. He was eleven at the time. He sat in the backseat, occupying himself listening to The Chronicles of Narnia on tape and reading along. As a result, he wasn’t looking out the window so I asked him to pause the tape and said, “Michael! Just look at how incredibly beautiful these mountains are.”

His response? “Mom, we have been looking at mountains every day since we left home! You know what I think? These mountains are just more rocks with snow on them!”

Wow! That these glorious giants might be seen as “just more rocks with snow on them” had NEVER occurred to me.

I mused for some time after that. I wondered what brings me to having experiences of some physical places which are so compelling that I am moved emotionally by their magnificence. And I wondered whether there was something I could/should do to bring Michael to that “place” of appreciation.

This led me to reflecting on how during this trip Michael had shown appreciation and for what. For example, there was the farm we visited where he named the sheep the “Baa-Baa Crew.” Another time, in the early morning sun and mist he focused long and hard on the flocks of birds over the Great Salt Lake. Another indelible memory is the big horn sheeo standing and foraging right in the edge of the road. We stopped to watch. Then there were the bison grazing in the Black Hills. He was enchanted, And so I noticed his theme of appreciation: animals. He was so appreciative in these situations, in fact, that each time he didn’t want to leave; he would have watched for hours longer. I also reflected on how much he loved our dog, Bibi, and how well he had taken care of her throughout this trip. 

So…I finished my musing with appreciation for Michael in general and, in specific, I was appreciating that he was able to give me a glimpse into his honest experience in those moments. While I also appreciate the magnificence of animals, of course, I was also appreciating that he and I are different and that we see the world in different ways. Magnificent!

Michael and the Baa-Baa Crew

Photos by Barbara
On a road trip in the Western US