Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Meandering in Meadow and Marsh

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Meandering in Meadow and Marsh

Article excerpt

IN the past several years, on Sundays, I've tried to talk my daughter, Hallie, into what I call "field trips." These trips involve traveling a short distance to explore nearby ponds and rivers. Hallie, though, prefers what she calls nature walks - long meandering musings through the meadow across the street.

This Sunday, we make a compromise. She wants to stay close to home, while I want to drive a few miles north to a bird sanctuary. "Let's do your idea first," I tell her, "then do mine." We agree and set out down our hill to the meadow.

Hallie runs ahead of me through wet matted grass. She wears a waist pack adjusted to the smallest size. For the first time, it doesn't slide down around her knees, even though it holds two oranges, cheese, an apple, and some chips. She always carries the food, while I'm in charge of notebooks, binoculars, and pencils. The schoolteacher in me fairly explodes with the potential for "learning-related" activities.

Today, though, Hallie also carries a black-and-white speckled daybook that I gave her. I offer to take it while she crosses the wooden planks that span the creek. "I can do it," she says. As though to prove it, she skips across the slippery span and slides to a stop at the end where she crouches over the rushing water that splits around rocks and leaves. She hugs the daybook and gives me a big grin.

I try not to hurry her, though I'm anxious to get to the river. She stops frequently, anywhere she sees movement in the grass, and examines the ground for signs of life. She is ecstatic when she sees animal droppings. We discuss their appearance and decide deer have walked this path ahead of us. Closer to the creek, larger droppings indicate what I think are elk. "Are you sure?" she asks me. I tell her I'm not, and maybe their size could even mean a black bear had been there. A look of fear, like a passing cloud, shadows her face. "But they're afraid of us, right?"

"Most assuredly," I tell her. We slide down a small hill to a place where the creek is pooled and quiet on the far side and bubbling with several tributaries near our feet. Hallie examines a big puddle that has formed next to one of the small streams. Water-skaters look like swimming spiders as they skim the top. Green leaves and new shoots are pushing through the decayed foliage surrounding the water.

"I'm going to draw this moss," Hallie says. She takes just the tip of a strand of moss and lays it on the journal, open across her knees. In the middle of her drawing, a small moth-type insect lands on the blank white page close to where she's working. She laughs and abandons the picture of moss to sketch this newcomer. She finishes the drawing. As if on silent cue, the bug flies away. I ask her if she wants me to label her drawing "actual size," as she's drawn a bug close in size to the one that has just departed. …

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