09/21/2011 11:32 am ET Updated Nov 21, 2011

Open Letter to a Son

Fall again, and school just started. Up here in the Rocky Mountains, the kids go into the wilderness for outdoor education. It's a mark of coming of age, and an opportunity for stepping into the timelessness of nature. At some point in the next week, my son will spend 24 hours on his own on the side of a mountain. No electronics and no books, no one to speak with but himself, and no outside words but those written to him in a letter from his parents.

Words come easily for me, and when they bring meaning to others, it's a greater gift. So I choose to share these words, intensely private words, in this most public of settings in the hope that they might prompt communication by others. It doesn't matter whose words they are... rather, words become unique when claimed by individuals. If you like them, please use them, change them, share them.

We've just passed September 11th, and now, this fall, it's fitting to take time to tell those we love just how much we care:

Dear Son,

We imagine that, by now, you are very tired but also very proud of all that you've accomplished in your group. We are so proud of you -- simply based on our imaginings about what kinds of things you've experienced. And, we always loved being on solo, too -- so it's nice for us to thinking of you there... in your little space within such huge, unlimited spaces.

A few sort of cerebral words... something sticky for your brain to chew on. Just this: it's good to take some time to rest and reflect. We know you think a lot (a LOT) but reflecting is sort of different... and probably you already know how, but if not, then reflecting is when you just let ideas or random feelings pass through your mind very lightly -- so you can examine them with curiosity but not too tight focus -- and then see what they tell you. This is how insight emerges, and insights are particularly partial to high mountain places like where you are now. So, please, think and reflect and have insights and then play and rest and sleep.

We want you to know how very proud of you we are -- "we" being your family, immediate and extended. You have incredible tenacity and stick-with-it-ness. You are bright and compassionate, witty and kind. You care about other people and care for yourself (which is the root of caring for others). You are funny (often exceedingly so) and also serious. You love life and you are curious -- about everything! And, when you wish, you are responsible, and courageous, and dedicated. All of these qualities are accomplishments already, and promise much for what's to come as your life unfolds.

This is a big year for you at school, and you are ready for it. Sure, there will be challenges, life is full of them. And certainly there will be difficult parts and painful moments, but there will also be many more successes and pleasures, moments of growth and also of greater understanding. Growing up is incredibly hard, and it is both a process and an outcome. You live each day as it comes and then, collectively, by living through them you become older -- and wiser -- and certainly more resilient. You become the sum of your experiences and MORE than them; it's a kind of alchemy and you, our dearest son, are already gold.

So, on this solo day, we want you to know that we rest confident in your capacity to live your life fully and joyously, purposefully and compassionately. We are not worried about you ("Our son is somewhere out there in those mountains... ") because we know you are capable on your own, and also in good hands. We also know that you have a heart filled with infinite love, and that you know how all those who care for you (and there are many) surround you in spirit and wish you well. We are proud to be your parents, and to have you as our son, and can't wait (but will) to hear all about outdoor ed.

We love you,

Mom and Dad