Nature and the Heart

We remember significant events. We remember birthdays and holidays. We remember the names of people who influenced us, the names of past pets. We retain in our minds events that were exceptionally happy and extraordinarily sad.

A memory marker was set for me yesterday.  It happened on a walk. We might think there is nothing memorable about taking a walk outside. Yet, a walk with three grandchildren created events that left a well-defined cluster of vivid images and two statements that were worth more to me than receiving a large unexpected gift of money. Honor was indirectly given to me as well.

The greatest honor we humans can receive is unforeseen heartfelt thanks. Such gratitude is even more rich when the words of thanks come from the mouth of someone you love. No amount of money can equal unexpected sincere thanks from a loved one.

When heartfelt thanks are given, the human heart is touched and a memory made. This is not an everyday occurrence.

We were just taking a walk. My two grandsons, 9 and 11, planned to take a walk with me into the woods to see the wild things that lived there. We agreed we would go on the walk the night before. There was a level of excitement and anticipation that gave the three of us pleasure. We went to bed looking forward to this adventure which would include a walk on lake ice.

In the morning, their 6-year-old sister overheard we were going outside on a hike into the woods. She wanted to go with. My heart sank. Where I wanted to go with the boys would be difficult and far. Just at that moment came a memory of this precious 6-year-old sister taking a strenuous walk with us five months earlier. She walked without complaint the entire time then. Suddenly it did not seem at all a problem to bring her with us.

The air temperature was 21 degrees F when we stepped outside. She walked at my left as we travelled down the street. Sometimes she even bumped me she was so close. The adventure began as we left the street. Adventure is greater when there is challenge. The first challenge we attempted was moving down a steep bank through trees. Wanting her to get down safely without falling so she would keep going with us, I helped her move down the steep slope. The boys, being older enjoyed the challenge.

When we got to the bottom we were at the edge of the lake. Since some thawing had already occurred at the edge my next concern was to get all of us safely on the lake ice. Finding a strong spot of safe ice my feet carried me about 12 steps onto the lake. Then I noticed she was not with me. Turning around my eyes found her with frown on her face standing at the edge of the ice. Her next words were, “I’m not going out on that.” My response was matter of fact. Sincerely not wanting to cause her any trauma that would prevent her from wanting to go outside in the future, my words were, “Well, we can go back then.” At that point she found a new resolve and to my surprise and delight she stepped out on the lake ice and joined me. Her brothers slid by us with sticks they were jabbing on the surface of the ice.

I wish that we could have recorded her words as we moved across the ice. Reflection often revels to us the significance of events we fail to recognize when they are happening. We had only gone half the distance to the woods when she declared that she had never been on the ice of a lake before. That set off a mental buzzer in my mind. My experience reminded me that the first time a child experiences something enjoyable outside a memory is in the making. Abruptly our walk had substance not planned for. Now my desire was to listen to her comments and extend her memory with the natural world where she had just found new enchantment.

The ice was beautiful. Shiny, smooth and filled with thousands of abstract swirls in shades of white and blue, we marveled. One of her brothers went sliding past on his belly. “The ice is not cold!” he said. Perhaps he meant, “this is so delightful, it does not even feel cold.” As we neared the shore where the woods  began, he spotted a perch frozen in the ice. The marvel and wonder continued unbroken.

Our walk in the woods was a delight. I shared the gnarled trees my eyes enjoy each time I walk there. We listened to Chickadees sing their spring songs. She was not impressed with the piles of deer scat we found. But, she did marvel at the ringed white shelf fungus on tree trunks.

The woods were not what made this walk one of the finest in memory. It was the joy of a little girl. On the walk back across the ice, we walked in the middle. It was safe. We could see deep cracks revealing a nearly 2 feet of strong beautiful ice. They were striking with exquisite clarity. The bubbles caught her brother’s eye, then she was looking. We saw larger than fist sized to tiny tip of a pin sized bubbles. Her voice was bright, happy, filled with joy.

The best was yet to come. We took the easier path up the steep slope. When we returned to the street for the final segment of our hike, she surprised me again. With bright enthusiasm, she said, “This was fun!” She added, “Let’s do this again.” My heart was delighted. My heart was humbled. It had just been my experience to make a memory, one that could last for her lifetime, with this wonderful, innocent, 6-year-old granddaughter.

She is already a writer. With her words, ‘Let’s do this again.” in my mind, I suggested she take a piece of paper and draw our walk. She made two drawings. The ice, the bubbles, the frozen perch, the trees and yes 4 stick figures all made their way onto the pages.

DSC_0084 (2)

We will do another hike. Till then, there is a wonderful memory of a walk with a 6-year-old girl and her brothers. The drawing goes into a frame.