When I was little, I walked with my dad across the University of Oregon campus just before school started. I held his hand as we meandered under the centuries-old trees and kicked the crackling fallen leaves. I often stooped to pick up acorns and chestnuts.
I’d find them in my pocket all fall and winter long—little treasures squirreled away.
Even now I can’t resist picking them up. I run my thumb over the smooth shell like a worry stone and remember those crisp autumn walks with my dad.
The other day, on one of those cold but bright fall mornings, my girls and I took a walk. It was just chilly enough for me to be grateful for the
furnace baby strapped to my chest, and Peeper stopped every few steps to investigate something or other while Finn waited impatiently.
We approached a chestnut tree and the mess of nuts, shells and leaves surrounding it. Squirrels scolded us overhead while Peeper picked up a handful of chestnuts and talked about how pokey the burst-open shells were.
We brought a bunch home and started a “special project,” as she has taken to calling her art endeavors. We incorporated the treasures into our fall art crafting—take a look and you and your little may love painting with chestnuts, too!
Lately, Peeper is fascinated by combining complementary things. “Together!” she cries, popping a bite of cheese and hot dog into her mouth, or “Pomegranate on top!” while balancing a seed on a forkful of peas and tofu.
Her enthusiasm makes me think of the scene in Ratatouille when Remy discovers how two tastes together can pop like fireworks or melt together for a transcendent out-of-body experience.
The other day, I followed her lead. Peeper loves art, and she loves the outdoors. So voila: nature painting!
With a bucket in tow, we set out on a walk in our neighborhood. We picked up bits of this and that, dropping rocks and fallen pine boughs in with a plunk. Peeper soon caught a taste for collecting, and before long her bucket held an abundance of nature’s detritus.
I’m a big fan of letting Peeper get dirty. I have no problem with grass stains on her pants, hands covered in dust or tasting sticks and pine cones and tree bark.
I absolutely love the outdoors, and I want her to explore, too. But there came a point this weekend when enough was enough.
On Sunday, Peeper, Finn and I met a friend of mine from grad school for this hike on Sauvie Island (which is bigger than Manhattan, if you want to squirrel away that fact for trivia night). The 3-mile loop on the wildlife refuge stipulates that dogs must remain on leash, and I was more than happy to keep Finn on lockdown: Cows, and the poopy evidence thereof, were everywhere. Finn has a disgusting track record with hikes through pastureland.
The scenery was gorgeous. We caught glimpses of Mt. St. Helen’s—or maybe it was Mt. Adams, but I couldn’t be sure because the top was obscured by clouds. Birds swooped this way and that. Old barns punctuated rolling fields.
Halfway through, we stopped for a picnic lunch. Peeper practiced standing on her own and chowed down on tomatoes. Finn waded in the lake. It was perfect.
Until I spotted the tick. Read more