Our family reunions are usually happily noisy. With cousins, second cousins, and even third cousins gathering at Antelope, the old family ranch, most moments include a low hum of adult conversation, giggles of delight as children soar on rope swings, and the gentle moo of wandering cattle.
But early morning hours, as brightness starts to fill the sky, are almost silent. Teenagers are worn out from late night games, adults and children huddle in their sleeping bags to stay warm, and it seems that even the animals sleep late at Antelope. So early morning is my favorite time.
This year I woke up extra early and quietly snuck out of the tent. It seemed cooler than most summer Antelope mornings, so I sped up my walk to keep warm. Deep breaths of the crisp Idaho air cleansed my soul as much as my lungs. With each step and each breath, my whole being felt renewed. Everything is beautiful at Antelope.
Even the sagebrush becomes glorified as it helps to complete the picture of serenity. I pulled out my phone and started snapping photos to help me remember how cleansed I felt on this walk once I returned to the city. Straight up the hill, leaving the dirt road for a cow path, there were signs of the ranch coming to life.
I soon came face-to-face with a cow. She was bigger than I, so I stepped to the side, trying to avoid the thistles, to let her pass. Everything was so beautiful that I kept snapping pictures.
Then the thought occurred to me: I should really take some pictures of myself up here. My family and posterity would be more interested in seeing me than in seeing the scenery. I found a small boulder and sat down as drops of understanding trickled through me. A photo of me will show what I looked like. But photos of the scenery will show what I felt and what I thought about. No, I determined, I would not take any pictures of me on this comfortable Antelope morning. I would take pictures of my feelings instead. After all, that’s who I really am.
And then I thought, “How often do I encourage others to know just the superficial me?” Although that is part of who I am, my core is really made up of my thoughts and feelings. I determined that morning at Antelope to not only focus on knowing who others really are, but also on sharing who I really am.
We are not defined by “birth mother,” “adoptee,” and “adoptive family.” Although those labels may apply to us, they are not who we are. We are individuals. People with purpose, with joys and sorrows, with passions and ambitions. We are tender and kind, frustrated and hurt, happy and friendly. Looking past others’ labels and stretching and sharing beyond our own may be hard at first, but the result will be deeper relationships and greater acceptance.