Sunday. A good day to take a walk. Hear stories along the way. Throw stuff (sticks and rocks and leaves and bits) into the creek, and–plop!–watch it drift away. If you’re local, check out the University Nature Preserve: eight acres of trails, Riley Creek, the preserve pond, and an iconic swinging bridge. Our family enjoys snow: skiing and sledding and building forts, but when the snow doesn’t stick around, there are times when we tire of the same old mucky-muck puddles that define our alley, our backyard, our dog-walking route. We need to get out.
Getting out is particularly important when you are outnumbered by young children. When you are chopping vegetables; helping your youngest to “cook” alongside you; and stopping every thirty seconds to firmly shout “Off!” at the dog, who is on her hind legs, snitching a pepper from your cutting board: it is time to go outside. When you hit your head trying to push said dog into her kennel; simultaneously coming down with a rollicking case of hiccups; and then turn the disposal on, only to have shards of a misplaced paintbrush shoot up at your face from the bowels of the sink: it is time to go outside. When your husband discovers that he has not only neglected to wash his hockey jersey from his last game, but that it’s been balled up inside his bag for an uncomfortably long time: then it’s definitely time to go outside.
I wish I could say that a stroll through the woods trumps domestic chaos, hands down. The problem, however, is that the chaos is strolling along with you. Prepare for everyone to get muddy, for at least one person to get wet, for tears, complaints, and tired legs. But also anticipate holding on to warm little hands, as you cross bridges and climb fallen trees; the joy of spotting a cardinal at the same time; the feeling of sun on your face; the crisp air; the crunch and squish of frozen mud beneath your feet; the look that you share over your children’s heads: “This is exactly what we needed.”