It’s the last day of summer vacation. The weather is inviting, warm and breezy. Chiqui and Golondrina have got the idea that they want to build forts, they are giggly-excited by the prospect and they gather explorer packs with binoculars and magnifying glass, notebook and pencil. Chiqui prepares sandwiches and Golondrina packs fruit.
We head for the woods, for a secret place in North Park Village Nature Center that no one ever goes to, where there are no paths and we don’t feel we are destroying preservation work by playing among the trees. When we arrive, in the dappled sunlight, the children gather armloads of long, dry sticks and twigs and lean them against a low, horizontal-growing tree branch.
I sit a little distance away, on the slightly damp ground, with my back against a fallen log. I watch tiny, fat, ridged bugs run away from me, then settle into another piece of the rotting wood. The faint smell of deer mingles in the air with the low chattering of the kids. I am free, to sit here and breathe without thoughts, full only of appreciation and gratitude. I am so luxuriously rich in this freedom.
After a (rather hunched) picnic lunch under the shelter, we take our leave. On the way into the clearing, we run into an elderly Asian man picking leaves off a tree. His English is difficult to understand, but he tells us he’s lived in the senior homes here for 13 years and picked them all along. The tree is called “Pinong,” he says, and the leaves should be dried and boiled to eat. The children pick a handful of leaves, thanking the man and the tree for this new culinary adventure. Now they are excited to go home.
We are so blessed, I am so full!