Appreciating Nature When You’re Eight

I was walking through our neighborhood this afternoon with my eight year old, and realized that I was stomping from one crunchy fallen autumn leaf to the next.

Will I always do that?

I asked my eight year old, “How old are you when you stop automatically stepping on the crunchy leaves?”

“I don’t know. I don’t step on the crunchy leaves,” he grinned. “I like jumping in the piles.”

Maybe we are never too old to crunch the leaves. We just know how much it will hurt when our old bones hit the bottom of the piles.

Later that night, I could hear him through our open door, impressing his Dad with his knowledge of football while I watched the dog outside. The moon was almost full and clouds moved through its light. And I wondered, how old will my eight year old be when he first notices how spectacular that is.

And then I remembered how he and the other boys in his class watched the clouds approaching Chief Mountain on a third grade hike last week (“God, please don’t rain on us! We love you!” and “Doesn’t that cloud look like a T-Rex?”), or how my boys cheered on the lightning during our last nighttime storm (“Yesssss! That was awesome!”).

Maybe we are never too young to celebrate nature. We are just much louder, more wild in our appreciation.

Sunsets on Cape Cod Bay

From the beach house we rented for more than 30 years, we could see the changing tides. From the screened porch and long kitchen table where we ate dinner, we could also see the sun’s nightly decline and its disappearance at the horizon. So since I can remember, my family has rushed outside to watch just as the sky turns red and the sun dips under the sea. When I was a kid, we sat in near silence, three girls respectful of its beauty. My father took hundreds of photographs each year that always ended up looking like a hazy yellow ball in a murky sky – always far away and unclear due to his poor mastery of the camera.

For the last five or six years my three boys have turned this nightly vacation tradition into a joyous celebration filled with cheers and “Goodnight Sun!” and “See you in the morning!” and “Have fun in China!” They clap. They count down loudly to the end when the last sliver of sun tucks itself into bed. Their voices travel down the beach from where they jump up and down on plastic lawn chairs. And our more mature neighbors down the dirt road laugh and reminisce about their many trips to the beach when their own children were young like my boys.

This year a miscommunication or twist of fate ended our time in that house. Although we still rented on that same perfect beach, we were in a different house – one slightly back from the cliff overlook and surrounded by New England greenery that hides much of the sky and sea. And we kept missing the sunset. The sun had to make its journey to China without the farewell parade of boys. No “Goodnight sun!” No “See you in the morning!” No clapping wildly as the sky exploded in vibrant color just before going dark.

A moment in our family story has passed unnoticed by the boys. They are unaware that a small piece of their childhood is already gone. Only I mourn its passing.

Goodnight sun!

The Texts my Husband in Atlanta Got from the Storm in Colorado

Context: First, I typically do not text my husband multiple times in one evening. Second, it is a well-known fact that every time my husband leaves town, Denver gets hit with a blizzard or other near-natural disaster. And I am left to dig us out alone.

Saturday

4:28pm: Well, just found all our gutter troublespots. Massive storm. Collected an entire large cooler full of rain, one and a half of that plastic container I was going to use in the laundry room full of water, and several large bowls. I survived the lightning by pure luck, only have a tiny bit of water in the guestroom window, and broke one more coffee cup. You would have been proud! A hot shower calls!

4:45pm: Still water coming in window, but able to soak it up as it seeps in. I hear the rain starting again. Need to check my coolers, tubs and bowls. No hot shower yet for me!

6:24pm: All quiet on the western front.

8:04pm: Round Two goes to the girl in the red sweatshirt. Another cooler full and multiple bowls. Two rounds of towels washed and dried and ready at their stations in case there is a Round Three in the middle of the night. All water collection traps are empty. But not sure how long we can hold the line!

8:20pm: I swear you and Mother Nature are having an affair!

Sunday

7:21am: I am a warrior!