When it’s 95 degrees and zero humidity this summer, when the sun beats down like a hot sheet of iron on your unprotected head, when every cell in your body aches for cool and water, I’ll look at this picture and not remember what dank cold felt like. Though it looks quite a bit like Glencoe in Scotland, this is Southern California, land of the surprising green and wet winter that reminds you that the landscape is alive after all, not just a sun-blasted scattering of wispy grass with pockets of artificial green supplied by water piped in from hundreds of miles away.
Though it looks cold it was about 60 degrees and felt pleasant enough for a walk so we packed up the family and went hiking. CH got perilously close to a rain-swollen creek ringed by slippery rocks, then sat down in some mud in her beautiful knit dress. Hold on, let’s look at this from her perspective: hey, look at that waterfall! I wanna dip my toes in the water. I need to sit down. Hey, look at that rock! HEY LOOK, A STICK FLOATING IN THE WATER! This is probably not that different from my sister’s border collie, though he thinks at about quadruple that speed.
This puts me in mind of the joys of exploring the wilderness without parents. Starting at a very young age I explored the Eastern woods with my brother and we’d sometimes spend the entire day walking among arrow-straight tulip poplar trunks that shot up ten stories, pushed our way through reeds and brambles clustered along muddy streams, strode through arboreal meadows of skunk cabbage, and heard the sounds of birds who spend their lives in branches and leaves and frogs who delighted in twanging calls to each other. I came to know small paths, convenient boulders for sitting and jumping, fallen trees which made me dismount my bike, creeks that hid soft sand and deep pools of crayfish, and surprising cliffs and berms that made the perfect launchpads for hurtling oneself through the air in hopes of finding a soft landing. Playing outside in all that nature had to offer was a gift of my childhood, and I only hope that CH can find an outdoor place that she can continue to explore and return to, that teaches her the seasons and always entices with another vista, another bend in the path, another adventure over the rise.