“The Healing Wonders of the World,” column for July 9, 2013

His first trip to Yosemite National Park was the summer he turned 3. I have an old photo of a woolly-headed little boy, grinning ear to ear, standing in the river with his arms stretched wide as if to say, “Look! God made this place just for me!”

Nate was my baby, the youngest of my three. Every summer, when my husband took a break from teaching, we would strap the kids in the van and pack a week’s worth of groceries and camping gear around them. Then we’d drive four hours from our home on the coast to spend a week camping in the park.

That week meant a lot to each of us, for different reasons.

For my husband, a fourth-generation Californian, it was the continuation of a tradition that had started in his family long before he was born. Outside of a classroom or a gym or a baseball field, Yosemite was his favorite place on Earth.

For my oldest, it was a chance to chase lizards and catch frogs.

For my daughter, it was a time to read and work on her tan.

For me, it was a place of renewal. The granite faces of the mountains, the quiet rush of the river, the familiar whisper of the wind in the redwoods, were like a tonic that made me feel new.

It did that for all of us, really, but especially for Nate. Like his dad, Yosemite was his favorite place, the place he felt most free.

After the kids began going off to college, it was tough to get everyone together. But we kept the Yosemite tradition as best we could, even in the years my husband was battling cancer.

The summer after he died, the boys and I camped (without their sister, who was working), using the reservation their dad had made for us the year before.

Nate was just out of high school, unsure about college or plans for his future. I was sitting by the river watching the light play on Half Dome when he came back from a hike and told me that he had stopped in the park office and gotten a job.

We drove home the next day, packed up his things, then drove back to Yosemite. I left him waving goodbye in front of a tent cabin that would be his home for the next year. He began cleaning campground bathrooms and ended up running the ski shop.

In that year, he grew up. He came home from Yosemite the man his dad knew he would be.

Now he teaches third grade at the school where he once tried to smuggle his blankie into his first day of kindergarten.

Nate is also a husband and the father of two little boys, who are both named for his dad.

Randy is almost 3, with woolly red curls. Wiley is 6 months old, with toes like his nana’s.

This morning, Randy called me from Yosemite.

“Hi, Nana,” he said.

He was staying in a cabin with his parents and his brother (in a place that sounded like “Yosinamee”) and he wanted to tell me that he and his daddy had gone out last night with flashlights looking for a bear!

My heart skipped a beat. Then his dad took the phone to explain. They found a bear in the camp store. It cost $8.

Randy doesn’t know, of course, that he and his brother are keeping a tradition that began before they were born.

He has no idea what it means to his daddy to show him all the natural wonders that he first saw when he was Randy’s age.

He can’t begin to understand how proud his granddad would be to see his boy — a grown man with little boys of his own — in that hallowed place, hunting with a flashlight for bears.

He’s much too little to fathom such fine, unfathomable things.

But he will. Soon enough. Absolutely. One day he will know, as I do, that God made this world just for us.

Maybe next summer, Lord willing, his nana can go bear-hunting with him.


  1. sydney love says

    I enjoyed this story so much as I always enjoy your stories. Of course it made me cry as you so often do. You just touch a soft place in my heart. It is strange that so often I feel like you are or could be my very best friend. We think alike, but I just don’t put it into words well and I feel like you are speaking for me. I love all of your stories and some of them I use to guide my own children in the right direction. I feel like I have memorized so many of them. I agree that you need to plan to go with your family to Yosemite. Life goes by so fast and then you wish you had gone. We go to Sunset Beach here in NC almost every year and have for many years. There are other places I’d like to take my grown children and three little grands but I’m afraid if I change the place it will change the whole thing and someone will have a reason they can’t go. Most years we are all there at least for part of the week and they all seem to look forward to it. I told my husband this year that we had to build drip castles and play in the tide pools with the grand kids because time is a thief and one day it will be too late, they will have other interests. He always did those things with our own children and this year we made a point to play every day with the little ones and we both had the time of our lives. Brought back many memories of being young parents and doing those things. I am trying to not let an opportunity slip by to do something special with my grands because you never know when they won’t come your way. They aren’t expensive things but just trying to do something fun with what God has blessed us with. Thank you for your column and your outlook on life. Don’t ever quit!

  2. You hit another home run, Sharon.



  3. Susan Dudek says

    I loved this article. Traditions that pass from one generation to the next are priceless. Whe our son was small we had opportunities to go to the beach together with my mother, his Grandma Audrey. At the beach they would find some treasure, usually a seashell, and bury it to look for on the next trip. She died last May, and this May our son and his wife made me a grandma. In 2 weeks we are all going to the beach and my son asked me if Elle ( the new love of my life) and I were going to bury a treasure. He has no idea how that question was bittersweet, and, of course, the answer is yes. It is my turn to be the grandma that buries treasures at the beach. And I can’t wait.

  4. Nancy S. Davis says

    Hi Sharon….I sent this once, but came back to en with an error, so will try again. Isn’t technology grand!

    Loved your article on Yosemite. Brought back so many memories.
    I was raised in PG, Pico Ave, block from the Asilamar. Spent many years camping, Picnicking at Big Sur, growing up. My favorite place on this Planet. Second, Yosemite, & Bass Lake.
    With my own family, as our kids grew up,(3) , and husband, spent many years in/out Yosemite, Winters, summers, & Cedar Valley where my own parents retired too.
    Camped at Bass Lake 17 summers with our kids. We have returned many times, just the two of us, but sure would love to gather us all together, do another Bass & Yosemite, while we can still get about. 😉 Were in our early 70’s! Don’t know how that happened! lol
    Hard to get everyone together as you know., Oldest son, lives abroad, teaching. Youngest, Ketchikan Island AK, daughter is close, 10 min away. Two grand daughters, one, also 10-mins away , other, FL. Sure scattered! So be quite a trick to get everyone here on same dates. As you have experienced yourself. Did 5 years ago,was wonderful.
    My husband & I, in the middle, SF & LA . 6-7 hours from LV. 2 1/2 hours from PG. 3 hours Yosemite/Bass Lass. Up highway 1 , 1 1/2 to 2 hours Big Sur. 15 minutes from Morro Bay, Pismo Beach.
    Anyway, loved your article, keep them coming. Yours, Nan Davis

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