“It takes time —loose, unstructured dreamtime— to experience nature in a meaningful way.” – Last Child in the Woods
At least once a week, but usually much more often, we head into the forest. It’s about half a mile away from our apartment, and we absolutely adore living nearby to such a gorgeous landscape. The hillside we live on and the forest nearby is the very beginnings of a small mountain range here in Hungary. We love it so much, and intend to explore every bit of it. For now though, we only get as far as I dare venture out with such young kids.
There are many winding paths through the woods here, and we love just quietly walking along. Unless we have set plans to truly hike a great distance (usually when Daddy comes along), I simply let Margot set the pace, pausing as often as she likes as she decides to explore one thing or another.
She ventures off the path just a bit here and there, crouching low in the greenery and closely inspecting some leaf or insect. A quiet wonder settles over her when we are in the woods, far deeper than anywhere else she has been yet. This is often interrupted by moments of sheer exuberance, as she perhaps is overwhelmed by joyfulness and it simply must spill outwards. She will take a moment and run shrieking enthusiastically down the trail ahead of us, and then again pause quietly as something catches her eye.
I very much love these little moments where her small hands cannot resist picking and plucking and feeling. She will reach down and pick that flower or leaf every single time, or grasp an interesting stone or stick and turn it over and over again in her hands. She studies its texture and shape in depth, filing it all away in her memory as she learns about the greater outdoor world.
Sometimes we make a game of counting things, as she is learning her numbers in an organic, casual way. In the photo just above, we are counting water droplets on the grass beside the path in the forest. Or we will decide on the colours of the sights around us: purple flowers, blue sky, green trees, yellow bee, brown dirt, etc. The forest truly is a rainbow when you slow down enough to observe it. Toddlers are great at helping ease the pace of things, and really just life in general.
I love that nature provides a way for Margot to practice and develop her fine motor skills too. As her fingers carefully pluck petals off of flowers or gently dissects pinecones or other plants, her fingers and hands learn to move with great precision.
She’s always so excited to show me what she’s discovered too, often running ahead of me, finding some small woodland treasure, and then rushing back to proudly show it off. We’ll study it together, and I’ll answer her questions as best I can, or ask her gently prodding questions to keep her mind moving and wondering about the forest around her.
There are so many hidden wonders in the woods, and the more time we spend there, the more I am aware that we truly haven’t seen it all yet and there’s always something new to discover, whether it’s a cute cluster of mushrooms, or a fascinating beetle like this one. We loved its vibrant green body, and Margot had many, many thoughts about where it was going and what it was doing. Could it be dancing or walking? Was it looking for it’s mommy? Going home to get a snack? Or maybe it needed to nurse? (haha)
Being a boisterous 2 (almost 3) year old, Margot hasn’t quite grasped that if we kept our noise levels to a minimum, we’d probably encounter a whole lot more wildlife. It’s mostly limited to birds and bugs at the moment, but occasionally we’ll spot a rabbit, lizard, or a red squirrel. I look forward to quietly happening upon more wildlife in the future as the kids mature.
Like a true little woodland fairy, Margot attracts butterflies, and they love fluttering after her. We’ve spotted so many beautiful butterflies and moths. But they are so difficult to catch a decent photo of, so I’ve only managed to capture a couple of shots.
One favourite game of Margot’s is to climb onto any stump we come across in the forest, and to perhaps do a little dance atop it, and then leap off. There’s a fun stretch of the trail where there are several of these one right after another, every few meters.
Cassian is of course riding along on my back as usual, quietly observing us and the beauty around him. I so long for the days when he can walk (which are quite soon, I think!), so that these two can adventure along, side-by-side, and so that he can finally experience the world as he is so clearly aching to. Soon, my sweet boy, soon. In the meantime, we chat about what we see and hear, and I tell him all about the natural world around us, trying to involve him as best we can.
Our time in the forest is my absolute favourite of all. Nature is so healing and soul-filling. I come out renewed each time, contentedly walking home with a full heart. My kids do too, whether it’s simply by riding on my back, or running on the path beside me. Living on the edge of a forest is so wonderful, and this is my favourite place I have been so blessed as to call home.
This is part of a Little Woodlanders series! Also check out…
- Little Woodlanders: an Introduction
- Spring: in the Garden
- Spring: at the Park
- Spring: Under the Cherry Tree
- Spring: Wildcrafting Herbs