Thursday, July 21, 2011

Sharing the love

Ever since I married Spence and moved to Roaring River Valley, we both talk nonstop about how to share its wondrousness with our friends. Even after 7 years there, I still love driving the tar-and-chip road upriver toward our farm under a long canopy of trees. I still walk to the barn on misty evenings to call in the horses and marvel at the peaceful, nestled feeling of being surrounded on all sides by steep soaring mountains. (I know they're probably hills by definition, but still, they're big). Sometimes I daydream that I'll quit my job, we'll go off the grid, blow up the TV and just hibernate for the rest of our lives in our little green haven on the river. It just feels like a safe place to hide away from an increasingly chaotic world. I also sometimes look up at the ridge towering over our house and expect to see a fierce line of warriors emerge on horses. (That's probably watching Dances With Wolves too many times.)

I feel okay about bragging on the beauty of our homestead because I really had nothing to do with it -- I simply married a pretty great guy who had the guts to build a home far, far from a grocery store. As such, we don't get many visitors. That is, unless we lure them out under the pretense of seeing something "purdy."

And boy, have we got it -- the surrounding rivers and streams and hollers and mountain tops (hill tops!) are simply as stunning as Middle Tennessee gets. But these are not the places you see by stepping out of your car and strolling a few steps. As blogamiga Julia put it, Inman Adventures are not for the faint of heart. To witness the good stuff you gotta work a little. Or a lot.

After one such "sharing the love" adventure, one of my friends jokingly created the Inman Adventures Difficulty Scale, which is based on a special LOG-arithm (how many life-threatening log strainers in a river will you have to portage?). This particular excursion was a 9 on the scale.

Last weekend was a 3-4 on the IADS. We invited two amazing blogamigas and their families to come out and see the spectacularity that is Roaring River Gorge. This is the river that runs beside our house, but about 10 miles upstream where the rock walls soar hundreds of feet above your head. The kids we toted ranged in age from 2 to almost 11 (or maybe exactly 11). We waded about a 1/2 mile, anywhere from ankle to hip deep, to a great swimming hole, where the two oldest and most exuberant boys gave me repeated heart attacks as they slid down chutes and leapt into swift water. Spence, who thankfully is a mountain goat, had to hoof it after them, giving them a multitude of safety tips, while those of us with toddlers hanging off our arms picked our way over boulders, poison ivy and very slick river rock.

Theresa's pictures tell the story best. She was our official photographer and I'm coveting her camera...and talent. We had only one loss: 3-year-old O's very nice sandal went floating downstream. (The river giveth and the river taketh away.)

While the river adventure was fun, the real love occurred back at the house over beer, sangria and Ethiopian fare. Julia graciously made misr wat (lentils) and I tried my hand at a vegetarian version of doro wat (chicken stew) with tofu. The kids explored every cranny of the house (eek!) playing hide and seek, a couple of lucky ones got to meet and greet the horses and even scoop some poop. And one daring soul dangled from the monkey bars, patiently and silently waiting for an adult to gently help her down (O, you know who you are!). Later, the girls (and one boy who will remain nameless) had a princess dress-up party. Although I'm dying to share it, I am saving that picture for future leverage.

While the six kids ravaged the indoors, we grown-ups got a rare few minutes of peace to sit on the front porch swings and talk about parenthood. It was like therapy for Spence, who as a SAHD doesn't get as many opportunities to learn from and trade ideas with other parents. We discussed education, discipline, sibling rivalry, gender differences, the diversity limits of living in a very rural area, and whether or not it's cool for your 2-year-old son to dress up like a princess (it is!). After everyone left, Spence couldn't stop talking about how comforting and validating it was to learn that the challenges he experiences every day are normal and not some byproduct of terrible parenting.

I am so dang lucky to know these amazing gals AND their families. They're so beautiful and hilarious and fun and wise. And I'm not worthy!

Here are a few pics to supplement Theresa's awesome ones. In case you didn't look the first time, go now, you'll be glad you did.

Very exuberant boys about to embark on a river adventure
Very wet and slightly less exuberant boys
Three blogamigas on the rocks (caption courtesy of Theresa)


The long walk home
Wading and swimming

Rosemary shows off her driftwood creation

D and O loving the mud
What a beautiful day.