Any Mainer knows that tanning is a lofty endeavor. However, futile as it maybe, I found myself this morning trying to attain that sun kissed glow on a logging road in northern Maine. It seemed the perfect plan. I need to prepare for my upcoming nuptial. The dress is strapless and I am the queen of the farmer’s tan. I also needed to walk my dogs, so two birds with one stone, right? Wrong! In my attempt to be efficient, all I returned with was a number of deer fly welts in places they should not have been and pasty white shoulders. I mean really, who wears a tube top in the north woods? I could go on about the practicality of short sleeves, but what I really want to talk about is my marriage. Wedding dresses, white shoulders, tan lines, these things don’t really matter in the long run as I embark on an entirely new chapter in my life: my new family.

As humans we want to connect to something more than the self: family, kin, kindred, clansmen, tribesmen. We have aligned ourselves to the moon, sky and stars, tides and seasons, animals and trees. It is apparent we want to belong and connect to a past, a traceable lineage with roots in countries, cultures and traditions: a family tree. I think to find that family tree and trace its roots we are going to have to go outdoors. It is where the trees live.

Take for example the Boxborough Minutemen. I had the pleasure of escorting them on a wilderness canoe trip down the West Branch of the Penobscot to 1st Debsconeag Lake. These three Dads have decided that to spend time with their sons they need to go outside. This trip in particular included other young men from their community who may not have otherwise been able to have such an experience. In speaking with one of the fathers, the goal is to set up challenges so they do not go looking for other challenges, challenges like drugs and alcohol. And in these challenges meet them together and share the failure or accomplishment, together, as a family.

This trip involved many challenges. The boys portaged around Debsconeag Falls, carrying their canoes and belongings. They ran a small section of white water and faced a head wind. They needed to stay and work together to navigate the boats on their own. They hiked to ice caves, and finally landed on Omaha Beach in the Debsconeag Deadwater. These are things families do. They carry the load, navigate the rough waters and stay together as they make their way to the beach for a much needed rest. In this expedition the boys hopefully learned they can rely on the wisdom of their fathers and rest easy on the branches of their family tree knowing they do not have far to fall. Their next adventures would take them to the top of Katahdin, and down the white water of the Penobscot. Who knows what they will do in the future? We do know; however, being outside is the perfect opportunity to seal a connection, camaraderie or relationship with each other. It is a place to create stories and tell our own without the daily distractions of work and home. Being outside says this is where you belong like no other place.

As a family you might want to put your feet on the ground, set some roots or remember them. And I mean ground, dirt, soil, earth…not tarmac, cement or linoleum. Sink your roots in deep. Find a family, your own or the one around you. Leaves, branches, fur, feathers, deer flies… it is all there for you. So go ahead jump on the family tree.

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