Once upon a time . . . había una vez . . . a small family who woke up grouchy. So grouchy. A bad night of stuffy noses and coughing: very grouchy. Grouching all morning. At least one of the two kids crying or whining all the way through breakfast, clean up, and some morning play. This after a whole day of it yesterday. In spite of it all, mom (me) got provisions ready and shooed everyone out the door.
Into the car, strapped in. Everyone quiets down. We pass through our neighborhood streets, quiet today. Around to the other side of our hill. (I couldn’t face a long walk today, even though it’s a very short drive!) Park the car, wiggle down from seats, out onto the street. Cross over to the open hillside. Up a bumpy eroded path, where footsteps are carved into the hard mud like the horse paths in the countryside in Ecuador.
All three of us are quiet, ambling up the trail. Big girl P says, let’s put down the blanket here, no here! We decide on a spot on the softest tuft of grass, surrounded by furry green hillside, under the gaze of a bloom of orange flowers. Open up the blanket, as it ripples in the breeze we all laugh. We tumble down and sit in a circle, waiting for snacks. I pull out two small tin cups and pour the warm tea. We open the snacks I’ve packed: cheese, crackers, carrots, but also some little scones we baked yesterday. A treat.
As we eat, I sing some songs and they join in. One talks of sliding down a hill — I’ve changed the lyric from snow to grass. It gives us an idea. After we eat we wander. Together all holding hands, mostly, as it is steep going, lots of loose pebbles. My daughter sees an open patch under the tent of overgrowth and says, it’s a house! una casita! She walks down the “steps” to the front door, finds the kitchen and the bathroom (of course). Followed by singing. More scrambling up hills. She gets stuck in a tricky spot and cries for help! But she gets herself unstuck! Bold and brave.
Brother and sister, ages almost 2 and almost 5, get down to exploring. Up close and cross-eyed, looking for ladybugs (“Mama mariquita!”) in the tall green grass. Dizzy following tiger swallow tails breezing by. Picking long stems with fuzzy buds on the end to be water hoses for their house’s garden. We get stuck in a high place and slide down on our bums, just like the song. We stay still cautiously on our perch, legs caught in the tangled grass, as some big dogs go by. Mama can gaze in the distance, the view of downtown’s skyscrapers, sprouting new ones since last I looked. The calm clear blue mass of the bay. Trees, birds, houses, hills, neighbors. It feels so restful for my eyes to look a long way off. The longview.
And back to the small furs, my little chigüiros ambling through the brush. I can watch them in peace, admire them. Revel in their silliness, their curiosity, their kindness to each other, their plain old cuteness! Dose up on love and warm feelings. I know I’ll need a reserve of it later, back at home when the bickering will start again — grabbing items from the other’s hands, desperation to beat the other to my lap, quick slaps or pinches of frustration, howling with the pain of not getting one’s way. This round of sickness has tested me. Worse than the usual.
Here in the sunshine, the blue sky and green grass, I don’t even have to try to feel totally present in the moment. Really here, with my feet on the earth, enjoying my children as they enjoy being themselves.
I take my two on outings to nature spots, not to hike from here to there, but just to wander. We focus our energy and connect, seeing each other face to face, as we sit together for some food and songs, and then I let them go. I always follow closely along, but this is a familiar way for them to be so they don’t run off. They stay close and they listen. I don’t see other families out there with us often, so others must choose the fenced-in playground instead. For me the challenges there are much more stressful — toys to fight over; comparisons of who is bigger, stronger, faster; those parents or nannies who don’t notice when there is trouble.
I prefer the freedom, the space, and the peace out here.
Here you can listen to us sing a favorite song for our winter-time nature outings full of forests and birds.
En el lejano bosque
Ya canta el cucú
Oculto en el follaje
El búho contestó
Cucú le llamó cucú le llamó
Cucú Cucú Cucú