Over the past few months my husband and I have been busily working through 10-packs of giant tortillas.
An easy work-from-home lunch recipe: leftovers wrapped into a warm giant tortilla, seam-side fried on a hot cast iron to a crispy seal. Slice in half, and voila. I like to slice the burrito on a diagonal and stack one half atop the other, because it makes the whole thing seem more appetizing and professional.
Of course, I’m not a burrito professional. I often make the mistake of overloading the burrito or wrapping it poorly. Sometimes the tortilla splits, especially if it’s old or not warmed up properly. So I end up with two burritos: both tasty, but one slightly messier and less pretty than the other.
I remarked to my husband the other day as I was sliding a plate featuring a perfectly executed leftovers-burrito his way (vegetable stir fry, with egg), “Did you know I always give you the food that comes out the best? Or that has more in it?”
“I do too,” he said as he picked up a burrito half. "That’s actually a mark of good leadership. Like in trail crews, if the leader who has more experience is keeping the best tools to themselves. That’s not good leadership. You want to give the best tools to the crew that has less experience so they can learn how to use them.”
Bear with me as I make the transition from burritos to the outdoors here. But his comment got me thinking about outdoor leadership situations, formal and informal.
Anyone who asks me what my column is about gets some version of the same line. I say something like: “My thesis is that if I, an uncoordinated asthmatic who is anything but naturally athletic, can get outside and enjoy it, you can too.”
One of my favorite things in life is connecting people. To each other, even to themselves (it’s thrilling to me to hear when friends and colleagues have insights about themselves), and to a sense of awe — and there’s no short supply of awe in the outdoors.
The less experience someone has, the better the aha moment. I love going outside with friends who haven’t been able to, for whatever reason — they’re recovering from something, they’re busy being a parent.
Visitors experiencing the wow factor of Alaska for the first time give me a rush by proxy. Seeing the wide eyes of friends or family trying something new — backpacking, camping, ice skating, skiing, you name it — makes me happy.
I always hear people say, “But I’m slow. Are you sure you want to go with me?”
My answer is always that I truly don’t mind, and that I’ll figure out how to get additional exercise if I want or need it — but that’s not even the whole truth. The whole truth is I enjoy simply being there for those moments of thrill. I not only get to witness a connection being formed with someone else and the outdoors, we get a new shared basis for connection by forming a memory.
All of my favorite things, all in one place? Yes, I’ll go slow for that. Sometimes supporting that connection means giving someone else the better half of the burrito.
My husband and I have done the thing that most outdoor parents do at one time or another and taken most of the load off my stepdaughter’s back while hiking or backpacking.
A friend visiting from out of state once insisted on bringing brand new boots for a backpacking trip. Halfway through Resurrection Pass she could barely walk because her feet were two big blisters. She strung her boots on her pack, accepted the sneakers I’d been hiking in, and I wore Crocs for the duration of the trek.
I’ve traded skis. I’ve traded ice skates. Sleds, bikes, raincoats, you name it.
And I have accepted the better half of the burrito. My husband has handed it to me in so many different ways while outside, a million times. He gives me the last of the banana chips. He swaps out the pedals. He’ll wear the backpack on the steep uphill slog.
Friends have loaned me or swapped equipment with me on times when I was visibly struggling with a new activity. Their generosity makes it easier for me to forge a connection to that activity, and I’m more willing to try it again.
Eventually, I’m the one who is adept enough to pay it forward and share the better gear with someone so they can have a better initial experience.
That’s why it’s a leadership thing. I fully enjoy watching someone new to something enjoy the better gear, the better experience, the better meal. Mine tastes the same, but I’m helping them do something for the first time, and I love that feeling.
Alli Harvey lives in Palmer and plays in Southcentral Alaska.
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