“I’m a monkey-slash-pig!” The kids are playing make believe as they climb through the low branches of a wild rhododendron. Theo tried his hardest to keep up with the big girls, jumping as high as he can to sit on one of the lowest branches.
It’s New Year’s Day and the weather is a beautiful 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Unseasonably warm. We take the opportunity to be outside. Many others had the same idea because the trails are packed. A local state park holds a “First Day” hiking event every year.
The idea is to walk one mile along one of the trails with a big group. Our kids have some friends in the group, and naturally we fall to the back of the pack. They entertain themselves by collecting a “nature salad” – picking up moss, mushrooms, and other foliage they find on the trail. I look ahead to see the last straggler of the group we were with disappear over the crest of the hill. “Let’s catch up.”
After the hike we spend some time in a natural playground. There are big rocks and tree stumps to jump on. The “ting ting ting” of old pots and pans echo through the trees as kids hit them with sticks. A lean-to shelter made of branches and bamboo stands in the center. There’s a weathered birdhouse, once brightly colored when it was newly painted, hanging on an old split rail fence surrounding the perimeter.
I take it all in. The fresh air, the crunching leaves, the freedom of simple imaginative play. Happy New Year.