Today we went back out to Richland Creek with Joy and her wee bairn. I love going back to enjoyable places over and over again, especially in good company. I think it establishes a sweet and comforting continuity of experience--across seasons, across circumstances, across moods, weather, and stages of life--which also allows for building-upon and connection-making.
For example, the last time we went to the creek, there was not a rotting deer carcass in the parking lot. This time, there was.
Joy noticed the deer had been hit by a car a few days before, and apparently someone pulled over to dress the carcass soon thereafter; there was the skull and rib cage, rotting in the sun and covered with flies, and then, further back in the tall grass, the hide and legs. We talked briefly about using meat rather than it going to waste, but surprisingly, the boys weren't so eager to talk about the body, and wanted to look at it only from the car window as we passed to park downwind. I'll offer this as another example of how clearly and easily most kids can draw the line between pretend killing, as in play, and real killing. (Also, I'd venture a guess that in the next couple of days, a deer hunting pretend-play scenario will comes up. This was Woody's first time seeing a dead body in such a state.)
Last time, we found a huge crayfish. This time, a frog who had lost his or her front leg.
Last time, we laid our blankets out on the smooth rocks and plunked stone after stone in the creek. This time, we sat on a wide, soft sandbar and made castles and cakes and signs in the sand.
What was the same was the careful hike down to the water, through tallest grasses and under delicate spiderwebs; splashing through the water and talk of the current, how it felt stronger against little legs when the creek was pressed through a more narrow space; watching out for snakes, especially among the warm rocks under the overpass; and looking carefully up, down, and all around. Joy's boy found this algae, which extended into the creek, and said it was like green brains squishing between his toes.
Fox was content this time, which meant that I could relax a bit into the two hours of open play that unfolded easily on the sand and in the water, in the intermitted drizzle and sunshine, and enjoy thought-provoking conversation and sharing a day so beautiful as this.