Lately during the week, we’ve been stuck in a morning rut where all C wants to do is act out scenes from the movie “Cars” in the driveway with his toys. It’s not that that’s inherently a bad thing. He’s outside, he’s using his imagination, and he’s having a lot of fun, so I’m certainly not complaining! And often, it’s actually quite convenient – like when I’m working in the yard, unpacking gear from the previous weekend’s adventures, or even just fixing lunch/dinner. But when the chores are finished and we have the whole morning ahead of us, all of those reenactments can be rather…er, boring. Not to mention that this time of year is awesome for exploring everything Mother Nature has to offer. But after just having seen the movie a little over a month ago, C has been OBSESSED with “Cars” ever since, and lately our attempts to play something (ANYTHING!) else outside is met with protest.
So on this particular morning, I was determined to mix things up a bit. I allowed C to immerse himself in his world of Lightning McQueen and Mater while I cleaned up the kitchen and took out the trash, but I prepped him that when I was done we were going to go exploring on one of our local hiking trails – his initial reaction started with a longing look at his cars, but before he could protest, I quickly added – “We can take your bug box and see what we can find!” A smile crept across his face and he compromised, “But first Lightning needs to race in the Piston Cup.” Fair enough.
Lucky for me, Mother Nature was working in our favor, and provided us with the perfect transition from Lightning McQueen to creepy-crawlies. When I opened up the compost bin to dump our breakfast scraps, I was delighted to discover that we had a new tenant – a slithery Brown Snake! These tiny, docile snakes are pretty common in our area – I see one in our yard every couple of months or so. They are generally no more than a foot long or so, and are really good to have around in the garden, because they eat snails and slugs. (I actually wrote a post an encounter C had with one just a little over a year ago here.) I’m sure this snake in particular was quite thrilled about his new digs – the warmth from the decomposing scraps coupled with plenty of worms and bugs probably seemed like hibernation heaven!
Anyway, after we got a closer look at the snake, C was psyched to see what else we could find on the hiking trail. Lightning and Mater were long forgotten as we walked the trail at C’s pace – we turned over logs, peeked under rocks, and shuffled our feet under the leaf litter. I was actually amazed at all the cool things we discovered in such a short amount of time – 2 caterpillars (including one GIGANTIC one!), a centipede, some daddy long legs, and plenty of interesting nuts, leaves, and lichens! We also observed several squirrels frantically burying their nuts (not sure why the hurry…there’s still PLENTY of time left here before winter!). We also heard lots of different birds calling back and forth to each other and tried to imitate their sound.
We took whatever path C wanted to take – sometimes that meant ambling along the trail, other times that meant bushwhacking through the woods. We marched, we jumped over logs, and even swung on a few vines! But all in all, we had a great time together out on the trail. My favorite part was seeing his eyes light up at each discovery (and his favorite part was laughing at my efforts to get the centipede into our bug box…).
It’s amazing what an hour of unstructured time of walking around in the woods can do! While there’s certainly nothing wrong with playing creatively in your own front yard, there’s something very special about getting out in “the wild.” I may not be able to put it into words, but judging from the smiles and constant jibber-jabber on the way home, I know C felt it too.
Do you ever feel a “pull” to get out of your mid-week routine and seek solace somewhere in Creation? Where’s your go-to place?