August 06, 2008

Frogs and turtles and snakes

Did you see that?

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.

Look closely

When you are with a little kid, you can spend a whole lot of time just looking at frogs and turtles.

11 comments:

nimiecat said...

"green speckled shade" I like that very much. It reminds me of my personal favorite "dappled sunlight." (if that makes any sense at all ;)

zelda1 said...

I so agree with you on the joy of taking a child a long. I love taking my grandsons hiking or looking for rocks. The nine-year-old always finds the neatest fossils. You're right about their brains absorbing everything. Plus, they always manage to help me see the things that I often over look.

Silver Creek Mom said...

I miss canoing. I used to love it but we have no time to take Nathan at all. I can so see him loving this and enjoying it. Wonder where I can rent a canoe?

Songbird said...

I've been enjoying nature with dogs this summer, especially frogs, but we also saw a great blue heron the other day, magnificent!

Julia said...

This is the first year that my daughter, who is also six, got to paddle the canoe. I missed it, but my husband tells me she was very good at it, and very proud of herself.

Rana said...

Kids learn so much faster than adults!

I wonder if it's because they have fewer hang-ups about not knowing how to do something - they can just learn, and not have to pretend like they don't need to.

Love the frog picture (of course).

(My verification word looks like something a frog would say: gyveeumv.)

concretegodmother said...

amen! great blue herons take my breath away. every time. and i'm with the kid -- i could stare all day long at frogs and fat water snakes and herons and other birds and insects and.... must be why i appreciate mary oliver so much; she, too, spends entire days looking.

i love your remarks about kids learning so much faster than adults. i'm sure some of that is attributable to the natural aging process, but i have to confess that i wonder how much of it due to what we beat out of them in school. (not real thrilled with my position in a broken system at the moment.)

jennifer said...

I love the frog picture, too.

frog said...

Our people!

Autumn Song said...

There's a lot to be said for looking at the world with children - or, indeed, like children.

Adults, I think, forget how to do this. Fortunately, my sister is a teacher and her class are four year olds, so she knows how to see through the eyes of children, and she reminds me when I forget.

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