Friday, July 10, 2009

I confess

I'm not always stopping to smell the flowers, meandering along, communing with nature. Lest you get tired of my tree-hugger ways, I'll tell you what happened this morning.

L had swimming lessons. The place where she takes lessons has a wonderfully landscaped entrance--it's practically a park in it's own right--complete with shade trees, a winding path, the soothing trickle of a waterfall, a stream, and gorgeous flowers (mostly natives!) On the way in and out of her class each week, we usually stop so that she can climb on the welcoming hunks of granite that appear here and there along the path. Or, we'll smell the flowers, as we did a month ago when the branches of the elders were drooping, positively dripping with blossoms. Or, we might just stop on the bridge that crosses a shallow, clear stream. We'll look down into the water and watch the silvery fish dart around, or maybe search for animal tracks in the soft mud along the streambank.

One week, we saw a huge and ancient snapping turtle dozing on a rock in the stream, its pointy snout turned sunward. Once, we heard frogs that grew silent when we approached. And the highlight, of course, was the "duck-uh-lings" as L calls them. We watched those sweet balls of fluff totter around on the streambank for what seemed like an hour last time L had a swimming class. She was so excited to find out that they had also spent the morning learning to swim.

On the way in to her class this morning, we ambled along. Searched for flowers among the lush green growth of summer. Listened for birdsong (and identified three species!) Scanned the stream for ducks as we crossed the bridge. Then we spotted a lone male mallard resting in the water. We watched him for a while. He didn't move, so we speculated about what he might be dreaming about. Flying? His babies? Fire trucks? Eventually the kids grew intrigued by the shadows of some leaves dancing in the breeze and we moved on. It was great to have some time to spare this morning so that I could follow their lead, we could meander, and they could stop and look at whatever caught their attention.

But oh, after class. I was in such a hurry to go. Both of my hands were full, and J was in the stroller. He was not happy about being strapped in, so he was screaming, and it was hot, and L was whining because she was hungry, and she wouldn't walk fast enough and I had a ton of work to do and errands to run and my mom had agreed to take the kids for the afternoon. So, I wanted to get to her house in Minnetonka so that I'd be able to get back to my house in the city and have a few hours to work before I had to get back to her house in Minnetonka, get the kids, and get back home to the city. Whew. And somewhere in there I had a few errands to run.

I was stressed, crabby, and I had a headache from slugging a huge cup of dark roast and not eating anything. I wanted to get the kids to mom's so I could work. I was hot. The scent of chlorine wafting off us all was getting on my nerves. I was hungry.

So when dear L tried to stop and feel a soft-looking plant, I rushed her on: "Come on honey, not today." When J pointed at a dark bird swooping through the sky, I didn't stop, "Yep, that's probably a grackle, let's keep going, guys." And when L crept silently to the edge of the bridge and said to me in a stage whisper, "Let's see if that duck is still sleeping" I glanced into the stream, and the duck was still there. Without a moment's hesitation, I said, "Nope, he's gone, I don't see him. Looks like the duck flew away," and I rushed them both across the bridge to the car.

Would it have killed me to stop for three minutes to look at the duck? No. And I wish I had. At the time, I felt so rushed and annoyed, though, that I wouldn't have stopped if it were a spectacled eider.

When the stars align, and I can pull it off, I do love it when I manage to allow enough time for us to be leisurely instead of having to rush. When I can let the kids lead, and I follow. If they feel compelled to stop along the way and watch a duck, hey great, I'm all for it. But today? It just didn't work. I wasn't up for it. Maybe next week the duck will still be sleeping. I hope so.

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