Rite of Passage: A father and son explore a changing landscape

Mike Tidwell in Orion Magazine:

JourneysHeader2He’s fifteen years old. Not quite a man, but almost. We’ll be visiting colleges this time next year. He’s not a boy, either, although he looks consummately boyish in the innocence of slumber. I see the Little Leaguer in his face, and the kindergartener. In sleep we catch the last youthful poses of our children.

And at this moment, I wonder yet again why I brought Sasha to this wilderness place. Part of the answer is simple. I’ve traveled the world—the Amazon, the Serengeti, the Alps—and for me this is the most haunting and beautiful landscape on earth. We are in absolute backcountry: the Chihuahuan Desert canyons of “Big Bend Country,” literally that giant bend of the Rio Grande that separates west Texas from northern Mexico. The same sun washing over Sasha’s closed eyes is rousing the cliff swallows into song two hundred feet away. Around us, a million desert flowers go all electric in late-March bloom—red ocotillo, purple verbena, the magenta blossoms of cholla cacti. In the riverbank shallows, a longnose gar sloshes though the willow grass, hunting frogs.

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