August 06, 2008
Frogs and turtles and snakes
Here's a new development happening in my life as my own children get older: some of hometown friends have grandchildren. Yep. Grandchildren. Many of my conference friends still have babies and toddlers because they waited until their thirties to have children, but some of my hometown friends married soon after high school and had children right away, which makes it completely possible for them to have grandchildren in their forties. The bonus, of course, is now that my own youngest is a teenager, I can still find little kids to play with. Because really, there's nothing quite like the intense curiosity and energy of a small child on a summer day.
Yesterday, my friend Quilt Artist and I spent the day with Inquisitive Boy, her lively six-year-old grandson. He's been begging to try the canoes at Big Rodent Lake Nature Center, and she wisely thought two adults in the boat might be a good idea. How excited he was as he put on his life vest and proudly carried the paddles down to the dock! Quilt Artist showed him how to keep his weight low, and he crouched immediately. He clambered into the canoe nimbly, and then sat perfectly still at first as the boat moved alongside the dock. I showed him how the canoe tipped if he leaned one way or the other, and he nodded. Kids learn so much faster than adults! How fun it was to watch his eyes as he put his hands in the water and felt the ripple against his skin. He tried paddling for the first time — and even though the paddle was much too big, I noticed him looking back to watch how I held the paddle and then adjusting his grip.
We saw a great blue heron the shore, just a few yards ahead of us, and Inquisitive Boy gasped as it flew off, cutting across the bow of the canoe. The great blue heron is most definitely an impressive bird, more like something in a dinosaur book than anything you'd expect to see in real life. In a marshy area, a fat water snake swam out of our way and into the cattails. Quilt Artist, who knows about the snake dreams I often have, laughed. "I knew we'd see a snake if we came with you."
A patch of water lilies drew our attention to the mouth of a little creek, a curving path with overhanging branches, a waterway so narrow that on a few bends it was difficult to maneuver the canoe. We made our slowly through, with Quilt Artist pointing to plants she liked and Inquisitive Boy excitedly picking up a bird's feather. In the green speckled shade, I could hear birdsong and the croaking of a bullfrog. True to the map that Quilt Artist was carrying, the loop eventually brought us back to the lake, which seemed deep and wide after the creek.
We were all content by the time we pulled the canoe up on the shore. We ate lunch on a bench by the water and skipped stones across the calm surface. We walked the boardwalk on the bog trail, stopping to look at plants and bugs and frogs, and spent half an hour lying on our stomachs to watch a big snapping turtle moving in the water. We hiked in the woods, with Inquisitive Boy pointing out poison ivy to me, a plant his grandmother had been careful to teach him to respect. Before we knew it, the sun was slanting long shadows and it was time to go home.
When you are with a little kid, you can spend a whole lot of time just looking at frogs and turtles.
Posted by jo(e)