I’ve always felt a strong connection to and curiosity for the natural world. That probably does not come as a surprise based on the little adventures with my family that I share here. Perhaps it’s the coming to the end of the long winter or maybe it’s just been the act of getting out everyday to walk the dog, but it’s felt as though my eyes have been opened to the fact that that connection had been weakened. It’s always been a kind of spiritual thing for me. To go out into the world — to have the luxury to just listen, to see the minutia that make up this big beautiful place, to feel the cold wind bite my nose or the rough tree bark under my fingertips or the sun on my shoulders — it builds something important in my soul, something that needs to be there.
We’ve always taken our kids out with us and that really changes the experience. There are moments like this…
… that are absolutely priceless. This photo of my babies sits on my nightstand because I simply want to remember that moment, everyday, forever. Introducing children to the outdoors, there is so much time spent re-learning… well, so much. And there is little to compare what it’s like to see the wonder in your child’s eye as they catch frogs or see a racoon hidden up in a nest. There are the hilarious moments — usually involving water — when one child cartwheels out of a canoe (in a life vest, going very slowly) or the other falls into a river and gets her shoe stuck in the muddy river bottom. But the outdoors with kids, it’s also at times challenging. Someone is always tired or cold or hot or hungry. Someone is always talking. It can be very hard to nurse your own personal connection to the world and there are times when it taxes one’s patience. Through the years though we persevered though because we knew it was important to foster our children’s own connection with the natural world.
And then the craziest thing happened. The kids grew up and they love being outdoors. They understand good trail etiquette. They stick together and can run ahead, giving us moments of quiet clarity. They understand that sometimes when we shush them it’s to listen in order to find a bird up in the treetops and they are even interested in looking themselves. They investigate and play with us, but also love time to explore independently. They still need our help and guidance, we still watch them carefully, but we also trust them to understand their limits (to an extent at least, our daughter is still a bit of a daredevil). To see my son on the trail is to see him come alive – confident and strong and adventurous. This is the balance we’ve been waiting for all these years.
Yesterday was a day in which this balance changed the very color of the day. We went back to a family favorite, Parfrey’s Glen, a pretty spectacular gorge in the Baraboo Hills. It is a rocky hike in the summer along a creek complete with little rapids and in the winter, it is a rocky hike with a fair bit of ice that can be quite slick. But unlike the summer, in the winter you run into maybe one or two other groups of hikers there. We pretty much had this little gem to ourselves.
And the kids were great as they stuck together and worked as a team and they had a blast. The air was crisp and just hearing the rushing water beneath the ice was a much appreciated sign of spring — as well as a good opportunity to talk to the kids about ice safety. There’s always a lesson to be learned, isn’t there? And we enjoyed one of the nicest hikes we’ve had as a family. Moving fluidly, spending time with each other together and each individually and even…
I have to say, there just aren’t any people on Earth that warm my heart and make me laugh like these three people. It seems that there is little question that the connection to the natural world is intertwined with my connection to them and I think that’s exactly as it should be.
After our little hike we cruised on down to Prairie du Sac to see if we could see some eagles. They usually congregate in numbers just below the dam on the Wisconsin River there. We had a picnic my husband had packed (picnics are my favorite) and afterward the dog went for a swim.
As you can see, the river is pretty open so there were only a couple eagles to be seen. Still a nice spot to stop and have lunch. And it certainly made the dog happy which is only fair since he had to wait dutifully in the car while we hiked as he is not allowed on the trail at Parfrey’s Glen. We bring him along on these trips even if he can’t hike because he seems to prefer riding in the car with us to staying home alone in his kennel. I can’t blame him one bit.
From here, we had a bit of an impulse stop…
… at the always beautiful Wollersheim Winery.
Usually we pick up a bottle or two and maybe do a quick complimentary tasting. This time, however, my husband convinced me to taste a flight….
I’m definitely not a wine aficionado — like my music, I just like what I like. And I’m actually not much of a drinker at all, but I do like a nice dry red wine once and a while. I had stopped this time with the Beaujolais in mind. It’s a wine that I really like, but don’t always find readily. And the red list had 2 or 3 I hadn’t tried before, so I couldn’t argue with my husband over the tasting.
And the kids enjoyed studying the intricacies of their sparkling grape juice, too. We may or may not have taken a case home. Really, I had to — if you purchased a case you got a “free” bottle of port and my husband loves port. So really, I did it for him.
Pardon me re-sharing the same photo from a couple days ago, but I just love this photo — I think it’s just very peaceful and it does capture my mood on the way home. Plus, I didn’t snap one yesterday on the drive back (whoops). I can share that I’ve got about 20″ left to go before beginning the colorwork on the other sleeve though and I’m already more than a little antsy to get there. If I’ve learned anything in this little life though, it’s that a little patience in the moment can go a long way in finding joy, it can even help to see it in the slow or trying moments. And, you know, that’s exactly as it should be.