Wake Up | My Family Travels
The groto

“Marie, wake up. Wake up.”

Early morning calls to the San Gabriel Mountains on sunny summer days wasn’t exactly how I thought I’d be spending my summer, but now I couldn’t imagine spending it any other way.

Snug between my brother and father hopping from rock to rock across a stream, I focus on not loosing my footing and falling into the frigid water. Finally reaching solid ground we continue on a path, not more than two feet in length. On either side there are bushes and ferns, concealing what is on the forest floor. Trees and poison oak line the upper areas, enclosing the path into a multi-colored tunnel. Trotting farther on, we reach a large boulder, fifty feet in height. Examining it closer, I notice moss, ferns, and one single flower sprouting from its side.

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We are walking through a valley, high with golden brush, and on the side of our trail, a large cactus is growing. Well California is a desert after all, I remind myself. Sometimes living in the city warps our perspectives on the environment. Upon closer examination of the cactus, I notice one single flower, near the bottom of the plant. Yellows and light browns fleck the insides, while pink sprays out from the core, creating a picture perfect flower, something straight out of National Geographic.

Getting distracted from our hiking, we stop and I can’t help but realize my lungs, although used to a good work out, are betraying me. I’m so tired, is all I can think. Beads of sweat are dripping down my neck, falling onto my back, effectively soaking my shirt. My dad motions for us to keep moving, and I give myself a pep-talk, knowing my body may refuse to move any farther. You can go to what you perceive as your limit, and push yourself even farther. You are the one who got yourself out here, and you are going to be the only one to get yourself back. I force my legs to move one in front of the other. We find the stream again, and are moving across it once more. Casually, my foot slips, and soon my body takes a jolt as the sixty degree water swallows my ankle whole. We keep moving.

Coming on another bend, we begin to see fur on the trail. My brother gets excited, what young boys will give to see a dead animal. We see a dead coyote, only a baby, and dried from a week under the hot, California sun. It’s missing patches of fur and has its stomach ripped open, its insides exposed. But this is a part of what makes nature beautiful. There is both life and death here. It reminds me how insignificant life is and how much we take for granted. One move and we can be on the verge of death like a surrounded baby coyote or blooming like a summer cactus flower.

In society today we often don’t see what is right in front of us: the beauty of nature. Wake up.

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