My impromptu jaunt to the woods with the kids last week reminded me how much I’ve missed weekly outings like that. It’s also inspired me to get out by myself for a trail run or a hike with the dog on a more regular basis now.
There’s something so therapeutic — invigorating even — about hiking outside during a seasonal transition. It clears away the sleepy cobwebs of unused senses and helps us focus on the smells and colors and outward changes offered by Autumn.
After a summer of running here and there, camping, swimming and playing hard, it feels good to get back to more of an intentional downshift. I love summer’s frenetic energy. We all thrive in it. But things are changing now, and if we maintain the summer speed, all of the season’s beauty will be a blur out our window.
We’ve needed to notice more. To appreciate. To acknowledge. To connect differently.
So, weekly nature walks (or runs as they often turn into with two kids and a young Golden Retriever) are finding a place within our lives again.
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Family hikes have been the cornerstone of our Saturday mornings for a while now. We just got out of the habit in the summer.
On weekends in the fall and spring, especially, we make it a point to get ourselves out on a hike early in the day. There’s a certain sweet spot of time that works well for us: after breakfast, not too early, but before we get too cozy and boredom (i.e. antsy kiddos) sets in.
There may be protests of wanting to lounge and work on LEGO kingdoms or stay in pjs longer, but I find that if we keep things moving along after breakfast (or even promise to bring along a picnic breakfast) the kids are more agreeable to it. Even I need some prodding from time to time, to put down my coffee mug and leave my nest of books and blankets on the couch.
Once we are ten minutes into the hike, the magic happens. Suddenly the kids are hopping over logs and running ahead of us playing fairies or bears or whatever the game-du-jour may be. I can feel the week’s tension slipping away, the farther we get away from the road.
And suddenly we’re all feeling energized. The kids don’t whine or bicker in the woods (that in itself is amazing). I’m more playful. Steve and I have great conversations without interruption.
It is pure magic.
I credit Steve with bringing this tradition to our family. My hope is that the kids grow up with wonderful memories of this time together. Steve is kind and patient and completely in his element in the woods. He’ll stoop down to show the girls different wildflowers — he knows all the names. They’ll hunt for different animal prints. And ask him a thousand questions. He always answers them thoughtfully.
The kids have named certain rock outcroppings along the way and always make a point to visit them. “This is ‘House Rock'” they call out as they scramble up a chunk of massive boulders. “And, see, right here is the living room. Oh remember last time we made soup in the kitchen?” And then one of them will run to fetch crunched-up leaves and sticks so they can make pretend soup in the hollowed out “pot” hole in the rock.
We walk. We run. They climb. We sit. We talk. We take our time.
Our hikes are not long in terms of mileage. In fact, that’s never the point. Admittedly, it’s taken me a long time to relax into the idea that family hikes do not entail a destination or specific route. If I find that old mindset nagging me, I take a separate trail run alone at a different time to satisfy my need to count miles.
We go as long or as short as we like, and can typically tell when it’s time to head back home. My youngest is a good gauge. She’ll often start getting hungry or asking for a piggyback, and we know that our time in the woods needs to be wrapped up soon.
Inevitably, some of the outdoors always comes home with us. The nooks and crannies of our SUV are stuffed with “treasures” that had some significant meaning to the girls. Right now, there are two huge walking sticks wedged into the floorboard from our leaf drive last weekend. It’s not unusual for me to find a small pile of pebbles or weeds stowed in the contours of the kids’ armrests. We’ve had ladybugs. But no rodents, thank goodness!
It’s all the treasure hunting that inspired the idea for a Fall mobile. I’m not huge into buying seasonal decor, but I did want our home to reflect the changes happening outside. Bringing in natural items from our walks and hikes seemed the perfect solution.
I picked up some natural twine glinted with gold, along with a medium-size embroidery hoop at the craft store, and invited the kids in to pick out some colorful treasures to hang from the mobile.
It’s such a pretty little reminder of this brief-but-gorgeous season here in Colorado. I can see us changing out the treasures as seasons progress … maybe we’ll make homemade snowflakes in the winter or find wildflowers in the summer to replace the fall foliage.
Nature walks and making a mobile seem the perfect speed for us right now. Simple, inexpensive, mindful, appreciative.