Gratitude makes the journey better and so does kindness

Tag: boys Page 1 of 2

Snow Falling On Growing Boys. Worthiness

Upon waking, a child’s face is sweetly scrunched up and bearing the dreamy gaze of recently peeled-off sleep. A flavour like no other. Another thing to miss down the road, another song that will keep on pouring notes into my mornings long after the boys will have grown up.

I woke up early today because the room was lit white. Snow! That heart flutter never changes. You wake up knowing something is different, a whisper of winter lays on your eyelids and you can’t remember where but you’ve seen it before… so many first-snow mornings that I left behind in the house I grew up in. The muffled sounds of my parents in the kitchen, the glow in the room, the warm covers… I savoured it every time.

Before waking up little boy I press my face against the window and look outside.

The backyard is white, and trees are again the standing candles that make me forget that beyond them is a busy road. All is muffled now. Roads no more, only the ones to my childhood and back, taking thoughts of now into then and the other way around.

simpleThe magic of the first snow, the extra blink you put yourself through just to make sure you’re not dreaming still… The white story floating all over the room, that room, this room. Time never stands still.

I wake up little boy and pull up the blinds… Little boy’s face explodes with surprise and he hides under the covers and then out again. Snow! ‘Can we build a snow shelter?’

We will. Breakfast? No one’s hungry. ‘We can eat snow.’ Indeed. Snowflakes twirl and dance with the wind, and we step outside to dance too.

Just us and a world of white. Big boy is out in the woods, winter camping with Max. A first. Celebrating boyhood and laughter among trees and sitting around a fire that can never be too long-lived. Growing boys sharing their magic with us, allowing us to peek into their joy, into their worries and silliness, allowing us to see them. It’s a two way mirror, if we work to keep it so.

‘Can we make it this tall, mama? I want to be able to sit inside.’

lil boy happyWe carry armloads of snow and pile them into the emerging walls of the shelter. I carry the big loads, little boy patches up the walls. There are magpies and crows watching us, there’s the dog next door that has yet to learn the benefits of familiarity and friendliness and his incessant barking makes us laugh.

I am privileged. To be building shelters, to be soaking in hugs and snuggles every morning and night, to have my boys learning alongside, to never think ‘enough’… Snow would not be the same without giggles and groans over crumbling snow.

The snowfall grows thicker. This is what matters. Presence. Through that, my boys hear the one thing worth repeating: You’re worth it. Being here is enough.

These days it’s about taking a breath in when you can. It’s about taking long enough to see the magpies dig in the fresh snow and admire their gracious gliding from the low bransides of lifeches of our backyard pine. It’s about wondering what they think as they do that and see us play in the snow. It’s about allowing children to never rush out of a moment that has much to impart to their lives and ours.

We leave behind a week full of grief and things worth knowing.

Before Remembrance Day the boys learned about wars. There’s much to learn. Way beyond facts and figures, we learn about people who become the facts and figures. People like us, the boys say. It is never about glorifying wars, it’s about honouring people and understanding that their sacrifice should count towards making a commitment to kindness.

It’s always easy to say it. Be kind. To do takes more. To do makes the commitment real.

‘Why do people create war? It’s so wrong!’ There is fault in wanting too much power, there is fault in oppression and there is fault in not admitting that violent action begets more violence in places where hatred is allowed to live.

Come the end of the week, terrorist attacks brought Beirut and Paris into a state of chaos and brought the big unresolved question back: Why? What makes people do that? The list of people to remember grows by the day.

Committing to kindness is the only thing I can ask the boys to do.

I commit to gratefulness for being able to savour moments that have boys and trees and snow and birds in them, moments when I hear laughter and I do not have to fear that it might disappear the next moment.

We need to find our way back. It’s through raising children to think kindly, to never forget about the wonder of the world, to see worthiness and be humble about it all.

worldsSnow dresses the world in white for now and that brings hope. The shelter has tall enough walls for little boy to sit and we’re going to find a cover for it. We hear voices and see smiling faces. Max and Tony are back. They carry last night’s campfire smoke on their cheeks and their eyes glow with the cheeriness of an adventure that added to the magic of first snow…

‘Mom, the snow is so deep up there, it’s so beautiful!’

It is just this. The moment we’re in. It’s where we come as we are.

Here’s Why. Happy Mother’s Day

time...You may think me crazy but I really did not mind this morning’s quarrel so much, you know. I did not want the day to be perfect, so the loudness and messy bits made it just right.

You’ll ask in amazement, two pairs of brown loving eyes, puzzled yet again by what I say. ‘Mom, that’s crazy, how could that be?’

It is. Well, think about it. You set the table, as you did other days, with plates and cutlery and cups that are mismatched. If some days they all match it is by chance alone, not by design. No one should aim for that and I am hoping you’ll know that as you go and you’ll see the usefulness and the freedom of letting go of perfection. It really does not exist. Worse yet, people keep chasing it, though we are shown time and time again that perfection is but a myth…

That plates and cups and glasses and cutlery don’t match is only fitting, you see. Cups and plates and glasses break (my Mom used to say that is good luck) and cutlery migrates in the back yard for digging, playing games of getting lost on islands (glad the cutlery comes in handy) so dwindling numbers of each, that’s a great thing.

Mom? Really?

youReally. I will explain. They remind us of the temporary. Breaking, losing, getting lost, fixing, letting go, regret, it’s all there. Nothing lasts forever. Time alone does, and we do not own it. Rather, it owns us. So we need to remember, because if we do, we will never take each other for granted, nor will we forget about what’s important.

The quarrel made us all sit down a wee bit longer, and we talked about love, trust, the uniqueness of each of you and the imperfections brought out by togetherness if you dare to step in it the way we used to at our secret place in Vancouver where muck was up to our knees and we loved it so.

Remember when we got lost and the tide was coming in and we cut through tall reeds and they were rough and dry but at the same time they sand a song I will never forget… Time is now, they whispered, be here… Now. It hurts at times, you may be scared and overwhelmed, but most of all you will learn to trust and hope that you will find the strength to take your loved ones to safe grounds… I did that time. I took you both to safe grounds, and we hugged, and for days I nursed the scratches on my legs and was grateful for each and every one of them. And the work is never done. It better not be…

It’s not the perfect days at the beach that I will remember but that one… the day I knew I’ll never be anything but grateful for the gift of time with you and the honour to guide you.

The peas in the garden have pushed their green heads through dirt and the sun kisses them again and again. I celebrate that not because of the peas, but because weeks from now you will each pluck green crunchy pods and eat them and the sun will kiss your heads again and again and that will remind me of the fullness of life with you. It’s about beginnings, again and again, about hoping that I will learn to give you what you need most so you can grow to feed others from what you will become.

HeartsGratefulness. You taught me that. I will remind you of that.

For lunch you asked for miso soup. I had all ingredients but mushrooms. We sat down to eat and neither of you remarked they were missing. Mouthfuls of seaweed and noodles and laughing over silly things and there was nothing missing, really. Nothing at all.

It was then that I knew I had something else I will have to remind you of. That you’ll never have everything, no one does, so instead of mulling over what’s missing, taste what you have, share it with those you love and steep yourself in the moment that you have and will never come back, but know that the moment will become, I know that it will, the magic dust from which new growth will push out and become life…

GoldenHappy Mother’s Day my sons. It is because of you, all of this. That is why. You are the answer, and for that I am forever grateful.

Tying Wind and River Together… The Dance Continues

yellowThis is the place I discovered last year in May when the cacti were in bloom. And it was our first time seeing a cactus flower. It gives you the tingles. No pun, it does. You want to become a bee for the privilege of loading your insect pants with cactus flower pollen. A green bee. They exist.

Today is cloudy and the wind wraps us up in occasional shivers. It dies down just a bit as we follow the path. Dry dirt, past tracks of people and bikes and dogs, and the smell of sage, strong as we brush against the bushes still drowsy, awakened too son from winter, grumpy with sunshine that is too intrusive, too betraying of a spring that’s not here to dance with yet.

gazeWe have a companion, my dog friend, the dog of my friend. He runs ahead, waits, sniffs, runs again, returns, a furry pioneer smelling the wind and letting it ruffle its long smooth hair. It’s easy to become dependent on that gaze he throws back… Are you coming? Yes, do, the wind will ruffle your hair toosmell the world we’re in, it’s intoxicating. He knows. A dance forgotten. You have to smile back and catch the wind in your hair or else.

The trail snakes up, so steep you almost fall backwards, so you lean forward and see the dust up-close. You’re a higher expression of it. Dust is all. Walking, dancing. Dust…

Remember the boys on the day of the cactus flowers… They were running and dust was swirling behind them and back then both had long hair and the sky was blue. A swallowtail butterfly was resting on a purple flower that looked like a goblin’s head full of purple hair…

small Remember that boys grow; they turn back to smile every now and then, and you should do too. Never mistake their wind and dust-grimaced faces for grumpiness. You will though, it’s how you’re taught of opening the door that lets your heart dance outside, naked of pretense and belief that you know it all. You never will. Humbleness to go… to grow.

SidesWe walk, Max and I, and the city gurgles on one side and the silent hills grow on the other. We’re in between. Dog, me, him. Up and down, dance, know that life is happening now, learn to see life and the moments that happen as you blink. Breathe. Chests inflate with wings that stir the dust as you make our way to secret, quiet places.

ShyWait… A yellow thimble. The first yellow spring bells. So shy. It’s like seeing a friend, fragile and quiet. By the side of the trail, by the prickles of the cactus… awake, unspoiled by dust. Hello.

I kneel by it, I see more. There are Ponderosa pines dripping with sounds of birds singing of wind and worry, and all is as it should be. We walk far enough to find a spot with dried grasses, among fragrant sage. We sit down. Quiet. The mountains to the east have freckles of snow. They ache for more. There should be more. We sit, aware of so much, graceful to let the silence be. Dog, me, him. Sit, eyes on skies that move, thoughts that want to fly but stop right there. Just for a bit. Take it all in, leave everything aside and know that this moment will never come again.

Dog whines… he wants to move. We smile. Yes, let’s. The wind picks up and we walk. Hold on. We will come back. You’re tied to a place that echoes your heartbeat.

We drop off dog friend, then we sit, and eat and talk. Sip tea, talk softly. What if… Dreams and rewinding life. Be kind, rewind… We learn by rewinding, we step with truth and when the path is too steep we lean forward; for balance. There is a path to follow.

BoysThere is much to learn as we step alongside each other, boys in tow. It is portal to a magic land. Watching kids grow. You forget that they can be pirates and roaring dinosaurs and their growing pains are real. But their hugs are sweet and their eyes remind you of stories once told, of snuggles where seeds of patience and unconditional love were planted long ago. You tell the stories again, you have to… The language is kindness. You teach it to them, they speak it.

We walk along the river, stop to sit on rocks near the old metal bridge. Cold and quiet, the river laps in waves small and relentless. Let’s measure time by the lapping sounds. Me, him, a river so wide and deep. We’re here. Again.

TurnsAgainTwo ducks skid on the water surface. Him, her, water so green. They take turns putting their heads in. Head in, head out… Repeat. How human of them. They stare, I say hello. I have to. I love to, I always do. It reminds me of connections we so easily forget. In the middle of the river, a sand bank speckled with birds. Loud and pretty. We smile. Hands are warm and together.

Time to pick up little boy. Little boy and his friend. They have the same name and they delight in tiny things whispered in the back seat as we drive home. Sharks and giggles, and all that becomes when children are free to play.

‘Mom, was Ringo in here today?’

‘Yes love, we took him for a walk… ‘

Remember last summer when dog and boys piled up in the back and we drove to a lake that had clear water but also mucky shores and leeches?… ‘Yuck’ said the boys, fascinated and disgusted at once. Wet dog, wet boys on the drive back, moments that will always be.

Home… Boys keep on playing, running, chasing each other, laughing out loud, chewing on crunchy apples and popcorn made in the big pot… no kernels burnt today. Silliness. Hide and seek. Whirlwinds of now.

I make coffee, we sit and sip. Max, me, swirls of coffee smells, a day of time and stillness, coffee to slow down time that picks up again like the wind of the hill we roamed on today, following the path where memories of summers and flowers live, where we plant dreams of what’s to come and dogs run wild, tussled hair over brown eyes that know you know… Time, preciousness of bits we make ours every now and then, skies that bloom into storms, and then storms pass and new skies return.

roses are...The living room hides a bouquet of roses and the air is inundated by Brahms’s Hungarian Dances. Among the loud sounds of boys, whispers of days past and promises of kind presence, life happens here, true. Every day.

‘Mom, can we snuggle and read about sharks tonight?’

‘Yes we can.’

‘And the tickling that you do?’

‘That too…’

We call it as it is. Good night.


Will It Rain? Looking Back Into The Summer That Was…

Summer thenWill it rain? Who knows. It’s all a guessing game, though if you were to ask my dad he’d tell you it’s not. You do know, he’d say. There are signs. Humbly, you know it’s true. There are signs, you have a way to go until you learn them that’s all…

You want the rain because there’s tomatoes and spinach and garden peas that beg for it. Water is water but rain is better water, they seem to say.

Rain brings weeds also, there’s more weeds every day and less time, and you wish for a magic touch that will take them all away and make the garden clean of unwanted green. Someone once said that weeds are good, they would not flourish in bad soil. Take heart, is what they meant…

Bringing up children and tender crops. The same. Weeds taking over in both worlds. Screams, stomping of small feet and sulking, fights among boys too wild to know the slow art of diplomacy, and they’ll tell you being diplomatic makes you a loser… ‘cuz they know, they’re in the thick of it. Could all of that go like dandelion fluff, all the weedy dragon-like behavior and you’ll see but smiling faces, mannered boys taking turns speaking and never ever talking with their mouths full or stealing from other’s plates, no talking back… Nope. Sigh? No sigh. Joy. Nothing goes away that comes from within. Acceptance, all the struggle that children put into becoming people. All the struggle of tiny seedlings to push through gritty soil.

You pull weeds, and the air is pierced by the boys’ voices. Shrills, screams, laughter, then the loud dragons again… ‘No, no, no, I am not playing with you…’

Should you step up and see about it? You call their names… Silence.

‘We’re good!’ Magic? Perhaps. They are tough, you can see their heads past the weeds just like you can see the corn rising thin and green and brave, reaching high. There’s no going back now.

Weeds, glassy skies, rags of clouds hanging lose, the world seems lazier than a sloth in the leftover heat of late afternoon, but you don’t stop. You can’t. The earth is dry, feels sandy between your toes. Barefoot boys, skipping past pebbles, they don’t stop… They can’t. It’s the game.

It’s the rhythmicity of it that makes it all exist, grow, and become more. Day after day, small things becoming big deeds, small roots holding small bodies, there’s no going back now. Rhythmic. Every day. Enough to fill the spaces in your body where you felt fear so often. You will again, but fear moves up, like bubbles in a glass that’s always half-full. Fear for them, for the crops to grow. But fear withers like the weeds you pull out of the ground and throw to the side. Fear has small roots. It must…

‘Mom, can we go for a bike ride?’ Little boy rides fast, you run to catch up.

‘Tag me if you can…’

If you can, what cheekiness… Just wait.  You chase him just to hear the giggle, then you slow down so the mad dash won’t make boy and bike topple. And they do, but there’s no crying. Grimaces, a look of ‘it hurts’ that you want to go and make better, but there’s no need because… ‘Tag me again!’

Remember the day when big brother stopped crying when he fell. That day… he rubbed the knees, rubbed palms, no need for kiss to make it better. T-shirts wiped all that Band-Aids masked until then. ‘Will these scars stay, Mom? I hope they do…’

Signs of time. Scars are not to cover. Boys are afraid no more, now your fear can go away too.

‘Try to catch me on the way home!’

You run, but wait… there’s berries in the back lane, growing wild, kissed by sunsets and taken care of by invisible hands… time. You gotta remember to bring the boys to the back lane bounty in a couple of weeks. Bounty, growing wild. You know it’ll be sweet and flavourful, and it’ll be like that whether someone pulls the cluster of weeds surrounding its spiky feet or not. It’ll be sweet, whether it rains or not, or despite of it… You know everything grows stronger without perfection to choke it. Children too. Bounty.

You follow the boy and his head of wild hair, palms of glowing sunset light caressing every strand and making them into golden streams. You’re at peace, not worried of rains and weeds and magic touches that can make everything perfect.

Magic is when you let go of the fear that you have to have it perfect so they’ll turn right. Magic is when you finally understand that they’ll still need the hug to make it better, but not for scraped knees. For egos that grow too soon, for life so loud it makes your heart pound and for bruises that come with it.

Day’s over. You pick tender leaves of lettuce, green and red, herbs… The shimmering sunset light is about to plunge behind the horizon. Tomorrow’s roots.

Soon it will rain and that is how it should be.

Advice To My Sons: Live With Joy

All of itLive with joy, no matter what comes your way, because joy is never to be lost, I’ll tell you why. You were once given to the world, to feel it all, to add to it, to stub your toes against thick knobbly roots and not feel anger but joy that trees exist and you can walk near them. You were given to the world to feel alive as you let your hand caress tall slim grass, smooth sands and waters that come from sky and ground alike, enclosing you in a circle where you cannot lie or pretend as you learn about what life tastes like.

Live with joy and catch raindrops in the nest of your palms at least once because rain was never meant to cause you grief but give life around you and for you. It does that, regardless of whether you see it or not, but if you do, you’ll stand astounded by the miracle of it all.

You were given to the world with joy, thus you must live in ways that will let joy be seen in you wherever you go. Live with joy so you have nothing to hide. It’s with you. Joy. It’s in how you start the day. Or how you end the day before. Remember that yesterday and today become the ground your soul feels before your feet trace the first steps and your eyes are peeled open by morning light.

Be joyful for the slimmest sliver of daylight that tickles your eyelids and for the furtive glimpse of shadowed stars as sleep steals you away for a bit. Make joy a constant thought you braid with gratefulness; they feed on each other. Do it every day, because every day brings gifts. Not all come with ribbons and beauty. Some will make you cry, some will hurt as you open them, but please, hang on to joy, you’ll understand why later on.

WorldsLive with joy. It gives you reason to forgive when forgiveness is what you have to give, find joy in the humble act of understanding it. Live with joy; it’s what will help you build boundaries that will keep you safe and your dreams too. Be joyful so you can understand what matters in life. Start learning it early. It’ll keep you grounded when the going gets tough, because it will. Joy will be the moonlit path that will lead out of the darkest scariest woods.

Take yourselves places where joy grows wild. Don’t ask where that is, you’ll find them. There is a place like that for everyone. You’ll be overwhelmed by the mirrors in which you will see yourself, your naked soul, reflected in ways that will make you understand life and your own place in it. You’ll understand how joy and tears are never too far from each other. It’s where you will find me. It’s where I’ve been plotting all along to meet you, since the first day I knew of your existence. It’s yet another place where we learn of each other’s depths and dreams.

Live with joy, because when you do, you grow wings that will take you high enough to never taste bitterness, resentment and unkindness. Joy leaves no room for that. Live with joy and you’ll find the right people to share that with. Simplicity

Simplify your life so you can see all the colours your were meant to see and hear the whispers of even the quietest of hearts. Make joy the key that will open doors you were meant to open. Remember that people’s hearts are doors too. Never force your way in. If you live with joy, you’ll be safe from that.

You will know that it is not perpetual smiles I wish for you when I urge you to give in to joy, but the ability to understand that as you should feed on it, your wings will grow strong and ready into stormy skies and cloudy grey mornings, just like they will soften and give in to the warm glaze of many sunrises and sunsets. Joy will see to that. You’ll grow tired of flying at times, of coldness and bleak horizons, and then, just the same, you’ll blush with the realization that your heart expands with every day you tell yourself ‘I have what I need to keep on going.’ That is joy; because you chose to live with it. So keep at it, it’s the right way to live. It’s what I wished for each of you the day you struggled to open your eyes to the world for the first time. You don’t remember it, but what you first saw was joy. All there could be. I thought you ought to know that. Now you do.

Which Legoland Is More Real After All?

Because I live in Lego land. Truly so. The living room is home to a half-built castle which is home to a half-built garage which is, temporarily, just temporarily they say, home to some lost Lego souls (plasticky yes, but in Lego land that is norm) that have lost their hats, hair and an arm here and there. Yes, it’s all small parts. Very.

As you make your way into the kitchen – small open spaces allow for little if any delimitation of such areas, but please allow me – there is a box of Lego which I cover out of respect for myself. It’s a bit too much to see. The remains (if you are a pessimist) or the building blocks (if you’re an optimist) of an airport, plus some aircraft bits.

I am a realist, which is why I choose to put a lid on it. Literally. I know it’ll be a while until any Lego aircraft will be on takeoff status. It’ll come, just not yet. There are only that many hours in one day you see.

Just as you veer into the hallway leading to the boys’ room, a nice pine dresser almost invites the unawares to pull open the drawers. The bottom one I suggest you leave be. Yes, it’s the Lego of many sets, grouped under that impossible to describe category that shall not be named.

LostThat’s the drawer where I throw pieces as I find them, when I clean up or, in a more unfortunate turn of events, in the middle of the night. Which I do, more often that a human should be allowed to. I am not at my most gracious when that happens, but there’s nothing like a square little bugger like that to remind you about living in the moment.

If you’re still with me, we are now in the boys’ room. Under one of the beds there are two bins of … Yep, Lego. The Hobbit series came in strong because you see, when the kid has Lego on his Christmas or birthday wish list, you oblige, because, and only because… Lego is a game of building, thinking and well, growing up in a most harmonious way. Thinking, while staying out of trouble. For now. And not every day, but that’s a story for another day.

There are three more bins, a recent and lovingly passed on inheritance from my partner’s busy Lego past. Lots of exciting, now long extinct sets that need but busy hands to exist again in all their glory. Busy hands are here, I see them every day.

They do get busy. Every now and then, a fever runs through the house and I am never sure whether to bask in the fresh breeze of that enthusiasm or pack some quick bags and run out the door to hide until the fever passes.

Why, you may ask? Creativity is my most favourite ally in day to day life, so should I not encourage it when it hits home? Yes. And I do. But here’s the darker side, if you will allow me to call it that. As the fever carries on, great ideas materialize into half-built this and that. Like mushrooms after a copious rain, they sprout all over, especially on the kitchen floor because ‘Mom, I love sitting here while you cook and build Lego.’ Hence the kitchen becoming a mine zone. I am, in many ways, a survivor; a good thing.

Now when we call it a day, nothing really disappears. This plastic new species that inhabits our abode is work-in-progress for days to come, so I have to let the various contraptions be wherever they find some living space. On the dining table is tops. Location, location, location! Then there’s the floor, under the chair in the corner, on the old chest-turned-coffee table-turned ‘don’t you dare brush by it or everything falls off’ and so on.

A mere 800 square feet of living space can only allow for that much storage space though. So once the Lego cavalcade sets itself comfortably all over our living quarters, we politely retreat to dine outside. Al fresco as they say, with complimentary bugs. The bright side is that we get to see growing structures not made of Lego for a change.

Bad weather sends us back inside every now and then but then again, bad weather is a rare occurrence.

LotsSo yes, we live in Lego land.

I’d like to keep on doing so, because you know what? At the end of the day, no matter how many stray pieces attempt to tear my plantar ligaments, and yes, they do, the pain passes like a fleeting cloud and the happy glow of seeing the boys create and getting excited over building ‘something I’ve always wanted to build’ is a sight to behold.

The latest development is that any leftovers are picked off the floors as opposed to being shoved under the bed. Most days anyways…

As for the real Legoland (real is in the eye of the beholder)… well, for now I will choose to maintain the same attitude I have towards zoos. I prefer seeing the wild stuff, if I happen upon it by any chance. As you can easily infer from what you’ve read so far, chance favours me quite a bit. I get to see lots of wild stuff, hence my polite decline to seeing more. For now anyways…

So you see, although challenging at times, life in Lego land means a few things:

  •  That the boys learn patience (ever tried to search for the tiniest, say, white piece, in a big mound of many white pieces? It’s a skill.)
  •  That they learn to be bold in how they create…’It’s a barn’/’No, it’s not!/’Yes it is, because I am the one building it!’ Feel free to replace barn with anything that crosses your mind.
  • That they don’t care much about an orderly house and that allows them to just be. Clear of anything that might hinder spur-of-the-moment creativity, they learn to follow the impulse that allows them to transform ideas into palpable things.

Which in turn allows me to know they are still boys. In no hurry to grow, in no hurry to dismantle their castles, trains, train tracks, barns and people, in no hurry to stop playing.

Which is something we often forget. We start favouring orderly houses and having everything where it belongs at the end of the day, forgetting that children belong in that place where they can play at their hearts content to the point of having to be peeled off at bedtime and waking up early because they have to build further. From one day to the next, life is Lego land is as real as it gets. And seamless.

Continuity… The strongest argument to let Lego land be… A reminder of now and of all the tomorrows to come. Feet hurting or not, it’s a great place to be. Really. Age-proof too.


SilentIt was early afternoon and quiet. Nothing stirred and yet the snow on the ground had been pinched by countless legs, some coming in fours, others in twos. Soon after we took the trail through the trees, it became a game.

‘What’s this?’

‘And this?’

‘Yes, see the poop next to it?’

Poop mentions always draw big laughs. Yes, it will be like that for a while. It’d better.

‘What’s this?’
‘Oh, maybe a bobcat?’ Are there any here?

TrekWe are at Greenstone Mountain, it is family day and it’s a boys’ first longer hike through deep snowy woods.

‘Are there bears here?’
A reasonable concern. But nope, we tell them. They’re asleep. We hope…

Walk some more, it’s quiet and less spectacular for action-loving boys.
‘Can we sled?’
‘Yes, soon…’

We follow a side path, it’s an old snowmobile track covered in fresh snow and occasionally intersecting with an animal-only track running across. I wish I could understand them and the stories they hide, all the paws and legs that festoon the forest unseen by humans.

‘Shh… be quiet for a bit. Listen.’

A woodpecker raps against a tree not far from where we are. Then a soft trill of an unknown (by us) bird follows swiftly. Then it’s quiet again. We wait. Again. Woodpecker, unknown bird, silence.

The boys’ eyes, barely seen under the thick hats, grow big and round. How could they not. The unseen world revealing itself just enough to make them look around more carefully and scan the tracks with increased determination.

Ready, slope, sledWe come across a slope just perfect for sledding. Steep to climb but oh, the ride down with a bump and face-in-the-snow almost every time.

One boy goes classic-style, facing forward at all times and appropriately concerned about landing. The big brother, a thrill-seeker, tries everything: he sits backwards, then closes his eyes and the anticipatory afraid-but-loving-it screaming makes us all laugh. He rides on his riding on his tummy. Too wild, too bumpy, too tempting not to…

Once more and then we trek through the woods some more, just to the opening…
So we do.

Paws, softI see a big pile of old branches and trees and a flurry of paw prints leading right under it. Why, a bunny family of course! If only we could see them…

They can hear us. We can only imagine their presence. The unseen creatures, quietly crowded in spaces no man could crawl into, listening, breathing and listening and perhaps inching their way to the secret entrance once our voices and loud thumping depart.

‘Can we sled again on the way back?’
Slope’s waiting.

Our tracks will be sniffed for a long time. Animals will tilt their heads and look in the direction of our trekking through their woods.

Be quiet, never leave more than just tracks, even those are disruptive enough to the fine-nosed creatures here.

We’re visitors. We are grateful. We are given beauty and silence. Joy and laughter too. But mostly, the sense of wonder that only a walk through the woods in mid-winter can give you.

Horizon at duskLong grey clouds are piled up on top of each other over the blue-and-white speckled hills in the distance as we drive off the mountain.

We veer onto the highway and I wish there was a sign that said ‘You are now leaving the magic behind. On behalf of the unseen creatures whose marks you saw and wondered about, and whose woods you did not disturb and whose paths you did not purposely unravel, we thank you.’

I felt privileged.

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