I’ve never been on a nature walk with my kids. At least, not near where we live.
If I had to give a reason, the best I could tell you is that here in the west, I don’t feel at home. I miss the beaches of New England. I miss the woods I grew up in, with ponds and skipping rocks. I miss drinking in the smell of earth and burning pine until I think my lungs will pop. I miss the leaves. I miss the ocean.
The desert and mountains in Utah are beautiful, but it’s not the same thing. Nature here makes me homesick.
But on Monday, after I dropped my kids off at school, my four-year-old and I got out of the car, and a perfect fall day was about to swallow us in one cool breeze. The sun was shining, while storm clouds lazily collected in pockets of sky. I could not take him inside to sit at home and watch Sesame Street while I worked. And so I decided to take a nature walk with him—here in the Rocky Mountains.
We drove to the mouth of the canyon near our house, and walked about a quarter of a mile—not even far enough to pass the huge houses on the way in. But it was far enough for my little guy to spy a caterpillar, leaves, a flower, acorns, a small “twinkling” reservoir, and a snake.
It was far enough for me to revel in the random musings of a four-year-old, and try desperately to hold on to everything he said:
“I wonder what it would be like if a caterpillar and a person got married. Yeah, a caterpillar and a human . . . Uh, that probably wouldn’t work.”
“This is so beautiful! What is making that water twinkle like that?”
“I’m gonna get all the water in the world and it’ll be in a bucket and it’ll be like a thousand gallons, and then I’m gonna pour it all out!”
I kept thinking how my kids’ days as little ones are almost over—how their little voices soon will be replaced by maturity and reason. How their soft, squishy skin is turning to tone and callouses right beneath my touch.
I thought about how foolish I’ve been not to enjoy the outdoors with them, simply because I don’t live in my favorite part of the country. I thought about how I am finding a life here for us, and it is good. I have seen the hand of God stretched out to our family, through friends and learning experiences and feelings of peace.
I am in a desert, and yet, I believe I am standing above a hidden well. And I know that we will be okay, and that the woods and ocean will be there waiting for us, whenever it is time to return.