“As a child, one has that magical capacity to move among the many eras of the earth; to see the land as an animal does; to experience the sky from the perspective of a flower or a bee; to feel the earth quiver and breathe beneath us; to know a hundred different smells of mud and listen unself- consciously to the soughing of the trees.” – Valerie Andrews, A Passion for this Earth
Today was a day for exploration. The strong wind had passed, but left interesting rubble in its wake. It wasn’t raining, and the temperature was mild. I filled my son’s backpack with nuts and set out for our favorite city park. Usually, we go there as an entire family but today it was just the two of us. I decided to let my son choose the path and the pace.
This is a tough one for me because I always seem to be rushing off to somewhere. Sometimes I hear the words of my neighbor, “I used to get really tense when I tried to rush my two young children. I started to wonder where I was rushing off to.” I get caught up in the mania of alarm clocks, the working world, and commutes, and most instances these have little effect on me and my children. We need to get my daughter to school on time, but sometimes I fritz out too much to get her there before the first bell. I hate disappointing others when it’s unnecessary.
But here is a park and a boy, and a wide open day. This will be an exercise in patience more than anything else. And it is perfect. We discuss whether the playground should be visited first or last. I pick up one piece of litter and my boy shows me three more missed pieces. He points out doggies, and slides under my arm when he’s scared of one. He trots along as I walk, and he doesn’t complain. He finds puddles that are far too muddy and jumps in them. We listen for bird calls in the trees and waves on the lakeshore. We scheme when we’ll leave the paved trail for the forested path. Why does this moment feel so rare?
I have been to parks with my boy on other wide open days, but I must have been distracted. Today was a noticeably quiet day at the park. We are passed by five pedestrians or so on the paved path, and see only one person on the forest trails. We had been skipping and singing “This park is all ours!” 1/4 of the way through the loop. Sound makes a big impact on me. I am highly attuned to differentiating sound and vibrations, so the quiet allows me to focus and think. I was able to teach my son how we can use our senses to lead us to safety or away from danger on a hike. We sniffed for smoke and savored the fresh air; we imagined tasting a sour edible grass and passing on a poisonous berry – we had the bandwidth to pay attention to Nature and to one another.
What do you miss out on when you are rushing from one place to the next?