Tuesday, April 28, 2009

It's Really Here!

Despite the calendar having claimed it was spring more than a month ago, and despite all of the snow melting before Earth day for once, and despite a couple of crocus and daffodils having bloomed in the last week or two, it didn't really and truly feel like spring until this weekend.

I took the boys on a little EarthScouts excursion in the woods Friday since I was going to be gone over the weekend (see? I'm learning to be flexible!). As we walked toward our destination, I marveled over the different ways each of them approaches the outdoors. M, a.k.a. Knowledge Boy, likes to learn and test his knowledge of the names of trees and he wants to know where everything came from and how it got there, like the rusty piece of metal that sits on a stump at the bend in the trail (and no magical explanations for him thank-you-very-much)...he's also destination oriented and wants to hurry us along.

Z finds a good "walking stick," and uses it to thwack every tree, bush and stump he comes across.

E claims every hollow stump or fallen log is a fairy house or gnome house that he built.

We made our way to Owl Tree, a big grandmother pine that was left alone when the area was cut over some years ago. M and I saw a barred own resting on the tree's branches on New Year's Day when he was one, and Owl Tree it has been ever since, even though we've never seen another sign of an owl there. Our mission, from the I Love Dirt book, was to study a tree and ask ourselves questions about its role in the forest, but the boys were much more interested in building fairy houses than wondering what kind of animals use what parts of the tree.

I was perfectly happy to lie in the sun getting pine pitch all over my clothes, and neither shivering nor being eaten alive by any kind of blood-sucking insect (we don't say the word out loud, for fear we will call them to us like evil spirits)...there is about one week in the spring and one in the fall during which you can have this kind of experience in Maine, and if you miss it because you're at work or something, you regret it all winter and all bug season. At one point, E said, "I'm hot," and I replied, "I know! Doesn't it feel wonderful?" I could have stayed there all day, but the boys got restless and we headed down to the river.

I was amazed to watch M make his way along the streambank to a grassy oxbow area downstream from our usual spot--all by himself. He's generally not a kid to wander off on his own, so I was pretty excited by this show of independence. But after a short while, I decided I should call him and make sure he hadn't fallen in, which worked out well, because friends had just then stopped by and had come into the woods to look for us and heard my shouts. We all headed into the grassy area, which I love because the craggy old willows remind me of cottonwoods from home (when they don't have any give-away leaves on them), and it just feels so wildernessy and so very not Maine-ish. We mucked around for a while before heading home for ice cream, and found not a single tick on any of us!

The weather continued in this manner over the weekend, when I headed south with a friend, driving to Massachusetts in an un-air-conditioned car, pointing into the sun the whole way...it was a long, sweaty drive (made all the longer because my car finds it amusing to not start after it has driven for more than an hour on a warm day...ha, ha very funny car!), but sooooo wonderful to reconnect with friends (we met up with two more in Northampton)...I was most reluctant to head north Sunday. The one consolation in the return trip was stopping at Friendly Toast in Portsmouth...if you are every driving through New Hampshire on I-95, you must stop there and eat...yum, yum. Just the plate of fries with provolone and bleu cheese with strawberry habanero dip (!!!), provided enough calories to get me through a couple of weeks of starvation...

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