Sunday, June 15, 2014

Afternoon At The Creek

I am a child of the suburbs. Growing up I fed my love of nature through books, reading with a kind of hunger the descriptions of a more pastoral life in the work of L.M. Montgomery, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Madeleine L'Engle. I lived on a cul-de-sac surrounded by other houses and shopping centers, and my explorations on foot only ever took my to other neighborhoods with different looking houses. A lonely child, I drew pictures of the fantastic house I would have some day and I always situated it on a vast property with a stream running through it. Of course it included stables, as would the house of any sixth grade girl.

My family wasn't particularly outdoorsy and we weren't well off either, so we didn't go hiking or camping or on trips to National Parks.When I was very young I had an uncle who would take my sister and I to one of the local parks and we would walk the trails together, but that stopped after my parents divorced. In retrospect I think he was trying to give them time alone to work things out and couldn't think of anything else to do with two little kids. After that our exposure to the great outdoors was mostly limited to the occasional trip to a 4H camp sponsored by a school. Even the summer camp my sister and I attended was focused on music and drama; it was located in a forest but we spent our camp time indoors rehearsing.

I still live in the suburbs today. My townhouse stands in the middle of a row of other town-homes off one of the busy main routes through my overdeveloped and overcrowded county. I love my house. It's the right size for us, it's easy to take care of, and it's very convenient to my job, but it's definitely not the dream home of my childhood. Mostly, that's okay. I have new dreams as an adult and this house fits them better. But I was happy today, while out with my family, to find an easy walking route that dropped us down onto a county trail system near my home. The system actually encompasses the entire county, following green spaces along streams with protected woods to either side that limit storm run off.

We wandered down the trail about a mile and a half enjoying the sound of the creek next to us. The trail criss-crossed the shallow stream in a few places and most of them weren't bridged. Maybe the stream is usually low enough that the crossings are dry, but it's been raining quite a bit lately and so today we found 6 to 12 inches of water at each intersection of stream and trail. This turned into a minor adventure as our daughter and I held hands and hopped across the on low round concrete pillars that seem to be placed there for that very purpose. My husband strode behind us carrying the stroller. It all worked well until our daughter missed a step and got her feet wet. Then it worked even better because she and my husband just waded across the crossings together. I stuck with the pillar hopping since I dislike walking in wet sneakers. Next time I'm bringing my water sandals and we'll leave the stroller at home. Our daughter was game for walking the entire distance and had much more fun that way, picking dandelions and daisies and finding pinecones and sticks to show us along the way. Before we went home we found a shallow gravel area where she and my husband could build little dams and splash rocks while I sat on the bank on a comfortable rock and soaked it all in. We scouted out areas we can bring friends for a picnic play date later in the summer.

It's not the idyllic, unspoiled farm country of my childhood books, to be sure. The road is never far away and we still live bounded by houses, shopping centers and terrible traffic. It's nice though, to sit on a creek bank in the midst of all that and give my daughter a little taste of a place where wet and muddy feet are all part of the fun. It's nice to see nothing but trees and water and rocks and hear nothing but a rushing stream and my child's laugh.