I am lying on my back in the tall grass by the stream. I cannot see the boys, they are far away and way past the tall reeds but I can hear their voices clinking every now and then. I close my eyes. I hear birds, I hear the grass swooshing in the breeze and the water rolling in liquid tumbles all the way to where there boys are then further down into the ocean. This is a place very few people know about. My happy place.
We walked through bushes and down steep hill sides to get here and we jumped over fallen logs that give us some benign scratches every time. Paying the toll, I’d say, it’s fair. The horsetail on each side of the path that cuts through the thick rainforest is as tall as me and the path is narrow and a bit muddy. The air is damp and green, and the leaves sieve the sunlight as if it were liquid.
We reach the place we designate as the camp site. A couple of old trees by the stream have sculpted a good place to sit on, and comfort-wise it is nothing short of my grandfather’s outdoors chaise-longue, the brown and white striped one that was always lazily dozing under the grapevine. I throw my backpack on the thick grass and we set out to explore further. We walk through tall reeds and I am quite sure it’s occasionally sinking muckiness would deter many from venturing forth. We squeeze through the bright green stalks that now have as many of my boys screams of delight hanging onto them as they have ivy wrapped around their sharp sword-like leaves, and a big opening is waiting for us on the other side. It’s low tide and I’ve never seen so much mud in my life. The stream is cutting his way into the clay banks and the boys run around, splashing in the muck and sinking up to their knees. They discover the “farty holes.” The ones where it feels you get stuck forever and then when you pry your leg out of the mucky claw, a squelchy farty sound blubs up with it. “Farts and burps, Mom,” Tony yells over his shoulder. A boy’s paradise by a different name. Sasha’s laughter drops in thick round dollops all over the “farty holes” and I laugh with him. The time is ripe for me to walk back to my tree chaise-longue and write some while the boys play. In all fairness though, walking is overrated here. Slipping and sliding is more appropriate. I take a shortcut through the stream and water bubbles cold around my ankles and then I skid over this brown buttery surface, thoroughly enjoying the feeling of mud slithering between my toes.
I get my quiet time of writing and reading and savour it fully. Over the next couple of hours the boys explore far, walking over driftwood logs to the other side of the stream, a balancing act that is carried out with utmost precision by both, except for this one time when Sasha’s attention is caught by a backswimmer and he plops in the middle of the stream with a yelp that only a five-year-old can yelp. Loud, that is. He crawls out of the stream screaming bloody murder until he realizes that his forever hero Steve Irwin did that on a regular basis. They’re out to swim into the muddy sea again, they get stuck up to their knees, again, they laugh, scream and then get lost as they’re trying to cut another path through the reeds.
“Can you catch me a fish, Mom? I want to study it…” So far Sasha’s scientific attempts have not been fruitful as the little fish move like crazy darts in the water. I tell him that if he can’t catch one himself then maybe it’s not the time to have one yet. He consoles himself with slower critters and minutes later shows up with a tiny snail crawling on his index finger.
The sun throws invisible fire pellets at our skin. The boys seek shade up the stream by the tall horsetails and I climb behind some thick branches of my tree bouquet to get out of the sun.
It’s past dinnertime when we leave. We walk back through the forest of wonders and the perpetual wonder here is the salmonberry, more of the same you’ll say, blobs of dark orange sweetness, but we pick each of them with equal surprise and delight. As long as they are bug-free. You see, most of the ripe ones have resident bugs in them. I find a millipede curled up for a good late afternoon nap in a big red one. I put the berry on the ground and to the best of my knowledge the millipede was still asleep in that soft red berrybag following the transition. The boys laugh. I get chastised by some giant nettle plants as I reach for another handful of berries. The sting reminds me of my parents’ yard where patches of nettles always punished the unawares. Good feeling otherwise. The boys are by their own description muddy and stinky. An understatement, I’d say, and that’s good. Kids should never be clean in the summer.
We jump in the car that has yet to be vacuumed. By the way our summer’s shaping up, I won’t be hurrying to clean it up any time soon. Sasha wants to draw a tadpole when he gets home. He’s also hatching some plans to get some fish from the stream tomorrow, no pun intended. He’ll set them free after studying them, he says. Back by tomorrow then.
And there’s no point in asking where the place is, because that I ain’t tellin’. Call me selfish, but some things I just won’t share.