Autumn is the season I most look forward to, when the whole forest is set ablaze with colour and golden light breaks through the treetops to the forest floor below, slowly accumulating layer upon layer of crispy, papery leaves. The woodlands around us are always a natural playground, but they are truly in their prime during the autumn months. If only we had spent as much time here as I had originally intended. We certainly made the most of the time we had though!
We walked along beneath the swaying trees, sometimes quiet, sometimes with laughing and shouts of delight. These last rays of warm sunlight can only evoke joy, and when coupled with a powerful gust of wind that tousles the leaves above, it goes on to send us into a state of stillness and wonder.
I’m afraid our autumnal woodland experiences where too few for my liking this year. I had intended to be out nearly every day, but a sudden move to a new house and the chaos that ensues left us with limited time outdoors in this wilder stretch of land. We made the most of it all though, heading out when we could. I have to let go of the often elusive ideals in parenting and living, and settle for what is realistic. We can only ever do our best, and let go of the rest- letting go of comparison most of all.
Because in the middle of planning an intentional, meaningful childhood for your little ones, life is still happening, and you have to learn to take each moment as it comes. There is chaos, there is messiness, and there are beautiful nature walks too. This is how life really goes.
Margot and Cassian appreciate our cuddles at home on the couch under a blanket after a long day of trying to settle into a new home, establish a new routine, and work out the kinks of living in a new place. And they also appreciate the long autumn walks when we can take them. At least now we have an actual yard in this new home of ours! So smaller-scale nature time is only a few meters away, on the other side of paned-glass windows. And that really is something, in the grand scheme of things. So while maybe this Autumn didn’t hold as much as I had originally planned, it’s important to maintain perspective. My heart can still be quite full, and it truly is in this present moment.
Little Cassian is just about to take off as a full-fledged toddler, stomping through these forest trails like the rest of us. But he’s not quite there yet, and usually requires some time riding up on Daddy’s back, often enough resulting in a quick nap.
I confess I appreciate Cassian’s time up on Daddy’s back, so that I can spend some time focusing on Margot alone for awhile. We went on many little adventures together before Cassian’s arrival, and I know we both miss our moments together, all alone, just mom and daughter. So I always take those opportunities when they come, entering into her little world full of wonder and imagination, fully present and participating.
I follow along as she darts here and there, up and down the path, or stops to collect sticks and wave them around or transform them in her mind into some tool or other playthings, imitating the life she sees happening around her in this big world of adults and labour and an ongoing struggle larger than her young mind can comprehend. For now at least. But that’s part of the simple magic of childhood: it provides a gentle easing into the greater world beyond her. Nature time grants a means for her to work through the things she observes, learns, and wonders about.
And time out in the forest truly does the same for me as well. I, too, am able to process through my experiences in this world and all of the struggles that I know only too well, as an adult. God’s Creation is a powerful form of therapy, I believe. Basking in the glory and presence of nature, and His spirit and intention woven throughout. Understanding the purpose and cycle of things, the overarching plan. These are reminders I need daily, and that’s one of the primary reasons we go outdoors, into the closest bit of “wild” that we can find, to meet our Creator and practice stillness before Him, and to find joy in the little things once more.
Because how can there be anything but peace, contentment, and joy in God’s presence, in His created natural world? I myself have never been disappointed once I’ve gone out, and there quieted my mind and my heart.
This was likely my favourite day this autumn, looking back now. We had no limitations on our time. The weather was perfect. The sun was bright and the air was crisp and fresh. Margot played and played, and we came back home breathless and full of brightness and joy deep in our spirits.
Margot was an absolute delight to play beside on this particular afternoon too, as she always is of course. But the forest had some special offerings this time. We happened upon a low bowing tree once, with a deeply knotted hole in its trunk. Rainwater had collected inside, with autumn leaves scattered across its surface.
This of course became a rich, delicious forest soup in our pretend play. Margot sat for so long tending her recipe, stirring and watching over it until it was just right, and she then imaginatively served us up bowls of fresh, hot soup.
As she lingered on in her play, I observed the variety of leaves at my feet, just appreciating these brief days of patchwork coloured forest floor. Soon it will all be gone, and then my heart must face the long, grey winter. Little moments like these fill up my soul and help carry me through the darker months to come.
Some of the highlights of our time playing together were just the simple conversations with Margot.
“What do you like about the forest?” I asked her.
She paused to think for a moment before declaring, “It is my bedroom.”
And she then went on to tell to me how her whole house is the woods, going room by room, describing the details of it all and pointing and gesturing around her.
And I replied with a simple, “Let’s find out!”
I so love preserving the magic and discovery alive within her, watching as things unfold in her mind and as she thinks of new things to explore and new questions to ask. She’s learning so much, and it’s a wonder to behold. I’m so thankful for these woodlands and the natural playscape they provide for her.
“Look at this one! It’s pretty in the trees! Wooooow…” – Margot
Soon there will be two little woodlanders running around too, chattering and exploring, asking questions, growing, and learning. I can’t wait for Cassian to join Margot in all of this. But for now, he naps, or walks for a bit too. His abilities are only unfolding, and soon he will be a nature-explorer just as much as his sister is.
“Is there a squirrelo over there?”
“A squirrelo! Do you wanna play peekaboo with me??”
“Little squirrelo! Don’t go! Do you want to come with me? Yeah!”