Sunday, February 11, 2007

Walk in the woods

Our little family seems to have the hardest time with outings together. I sometimes wish we were like families on car commercials, where the Dad is jolly and fun, and the Mom is patient and kind, and the kids are sweet and say insightful things in high lispy voices as they climb into their lovely, shiny, organized cars, filled with snacks and games to play on road trips.

First, our car is disgusting. Inside and out, with the slush and salt and snacks down beside the seats and dirty socks. The door grinds closed, unless you WD40 it, and then it becomes as slick and dangerous as the guillotine.
The kids fight and whine, and when we reprimand them, turning around to yell that they are bloody well ruining this family outing and next weekend we'll stay home, they sulk and sneer and poke each other when we're not looking.
The twins fill their mouths with so much Hubba Bubba that they cannot speak, and then insist on listening to their poems on tape at high volume on endless rotation.

D sighs and sneers at other makes of vehicles. "They look like cartoon characters with muscles! Those things are factory add-ons, which I hate even more. Cars should be sleek, like birds or fish."
I look out the window and hum. I imagine I am many other places, and look forward to being home again, after this family duty is complete.

Today we went to the woods, to feed the chickadees at the lookout, a mile walk down a snowy trail in temperatures lucky to be in double digits.
I lamented our oversight in not bringing the sled to haul the twins in, especially as a hundred yards down the trail they both stopped like demented little donkeys and refused to budge.
D threw up his hands. "That's it! We're going home!"
The older two, having a fantastic time hurling each other into snowdrifts looked up with rosy cheeks and shining eyes. "Awwwwww..."
"Well, we're supposed to be having a walk, so if people won't walk, we have to go home."
The older two grab the Bean by her feet and hands and begin dragging her down the track, all three laughing uproariously. Despite not feeling quite allowed to carry anyone, I hoist Cakes onto my back and gallop away. The older two tumble into a giggling heap and the Bean dashes down the path ahead of me, her blue coat disappearing over a little rise.

And that's when, somehow, despite the odds, it got good.
We all held sunflower seeds in our hands and chickadees and tufted titmice landed on us with their thin dry little clawy feet and rummaged about until they found the perfect seed. We stood still, and breathed, and leaned over the overlook, stretching to invite those little bundles of feathers onto our hands. Our hands turned red and cold, and D reminded us that the first sign of frostbite was pain. No-one wanted to move. There were dozens of birds of all kinds, the kinds you usually only see one or two of at a time. Woodpeckers, nuthatches and cardinals. Skaterboy counted 60 hits to his hand altogether. The Bean shivered as they landed on her outstretched palm. Belle casually stroked the underside of a chickadee with her thumb, and D chatted to them as they came and went..
"Oh, why thank you.."
"Yes, lovely to see you too.."

When it began to become clear evening was upon us we headed down the trail again. D and Cakes, then SB and Belle and Me and the Bean. We talked and laughed and some of us knocked each other down some more. Then clever SB heard a sound and searching the trees spotted the source - an enormous barred owl, about 10 feet up, watching for her dinner. Hushed, we all gathered on the path to admire her. Amazing to think those animals are out there.

Our last good find for the day was the spoils of a hawks meal - hundreds of beautiful cardinal feathers right there on the trail, just blowing about in the wind. We gathered up a few prime ones, unbloodied of course, and headed home with realitive peace in the car. Well, there was some whining about gum.

But what do you want? My life will never be a car commercial, but at it does have it's decent moments.

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