A year I’ll never forget

Last year, through a very wonderful and random chain of events, our 19 year old niece from Iowa moved out to Idaho to live with us for the summer. Three months turned in to a year and this past June we parted ways. Saying goodbye was harder than I ever would have imagined.

I didn’t know Mackenzie all that well before she moved in with us. I quickly learned that she has a huge heart, a spirit that craves new experiences, a soul that needs the wilderness and a brain eager to learn.

Her presence was a gift. She moved in right in the middle of me adjusting to life in Idaho while Mark started a new and demanding career. Not to mention it was the last two months of our ailing 13 year old dog’s life. She cared for Kaia and our home while Mark and I were out of town working. She became a friend during many hours spent in the car or on trails as I selfishly roped her in to going on road trips with me so that I didn’t have to go alone. She became part of Mark & I’s inner circle, woven in to the tapestry of our deepest conversations and biggest life questions.

A year together seemed like it was just right. We were able to offer Mackenzie some experiences of a lifetime as well as expose her mind to new ideas and perspectives. She is passionately curious and for a year it felt like we were able to feed that curiosity. But towards the end of that year we knew we’d given her all we could give and were eager for her to be wild and free before we started acting more and more like parents.

In June, a one-of-a-kind job opportunity that she had accepted in February, finally commenced. She began living on, and working at, a resort in the middle of the Oregon wilderness. This resort, unlike any other, is only accessed via bush plane or an 8 mile long hiking trail.

She was born and bred in Iowa, had never even owned a pair of hiking boots before and is now a bona-fide outdoors-woman. I don’t know the half of what she has done or seen or learned this summer but I do know she has found her home in nature.

This girl, who screamed every single time we saw a snake on the trail (and we ALWAYS saw snakes on the trail), texts me the photo above today and says “Made a new friend today. His name is Charles and I caught him in the river.”

I realize what a dorky, proud parent I sound like right now but I don’t care…I can hardly express how happy this text made me. Watching someone you love grow and learn and expand their heart and mind is wildly fulfilling.

We can conform as an attempt to satisfy those around us or we can follow our hearts and discover the truth about who we are through our curiosities. That pursuit may seem selfish to some, but to me it’s how we achieve harmony between our heads and our hearts. The confidence and peace of mind that comes as a result allows us to show up and be good, kind, empathetic humans.

Mackenzie, I have a tremendous amount of respect for the ways in which you have set out to discover your truth and be the best version of yourself that you can be. You inspire me.

Thank you for everything you’ve given me.

Also, I miss you.


  • Just AWESOME. Thanks for loving her as much as I do. And for helping her learn, grow, find herself and explore. Can’t wait to see her! I’ve missed her so much!

    Huge thank you to you and Mark for taking her in! Love you guys!

By Michele


Hi, I'm Michele, a nomadic wedding photographer and lover of the great outdoors. I live on the road full-time and document my adventures daily. This is my personal blog where I share and record my thoughts on living simply and intentionally with less stress and more joy. Check out my wedding and portrait photography at http://www.oncwest.com


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