As a mother, one of my greatest goals is to preserve the wonder and enchantment of early childhood. Children are so fresh and vibrant, open to suggestion and endlessly imaginative. I love giving small prompts and watching things be carried far beyond my first sentence or two. Yesterday, a glance ahead between the trees revealed just such an opportunity. An unexpected locale was ahead of us, just out of sight of the little ones, but a ripe opportunity for setting the scene of an adventure in their eyes. A quiet, brisk walk in grey-brown woods turned into a quest with a fairytale fortress at the end, likely offering up breathtaking views from atop its great height.
It’s really quite funny though when I think about it, because since we just haven’t lived in Hungary very long yet, most of the time when we hop in the car for an impromptu exploratory drive or walk in nature, we know as little as our kids do about what’s out there. Hungarian is a notoriously difficult language to learn, so reading signs around us is often next to impossible. Each bend in the road truly offers the unknown.
Yesterday we drove a small distance into the nearby mountainside. Earlier in the week we had just discovered an even greater expanse of woodland paths. These are far quieter though, being a bit further away from the city below. We set out to walk a much greater distance than before and just see what we would find as we walked.
Margot and Cassian had the same reaction they always do upon entering the forest. Margot’s feet hardly touch the ground as she speeds ahead confidently exploring. And Cassian toddles along, tripping over sticks and rocks, but hardly noticing as he does his best to keep up with his sister. I find it endearing that I usually only see the backs of their heads during these woodland wonderings, as they are so entranced by their surroundings. I do occasionally get them to rush back at me and my camera for big smiles, giggles, and a proud display of some nature treasure they have just found.
I didn’t expect much beyond some fresh air and family time yesterday. Wintertime here can be so cold and grey, and it’s hard for me to get outdoors. But it was a bit warmer out than usual, so I was expecting a pleasant enough time simply for that. On the drive up the mountainside though, I remember spotting a small tower of some sort in the distance. But due to the winding of the road, I lost track of where it was located and didn’t think of it again. Until suddenly after we had been walking for awhile, Taylor pointed out the very same tower just visible through the trees in the distance to our left as we walked along the path.
The path to the tower wasn’t immediately apparent, so we had to walk back and forth several times, but once the way was clear, I began to spin a magical scenario for Margot and Cassian. We were on our own adventure now, looking for the way through the forest to… “the Fairytale Tower!’ my mind scrambling for a suitably intriguing name. Margot quickly took to it, endlessly chattering about this Fairytale Tower, and helping me navigate our way through the woods.
Soon enough we broke into a clearing in the woods, and there it was, our Fairytale Tower. Margot was absolutely mesmerized, and we quickly began exploring the stone structure, an old lookout clearly built sometime ago.
Three flights of stairs leading to the top, we found one of the loveliest view I’ve yet seen in our little corner of Hungary. We were now perched above the soft brown, leafless treetops of this small mountainside, just as the sun was starting to dip down, casting a honeyed, golden glow over our hair being wind tossed across our faces and into our eyes.
Our city could be seen far below, with fields and farmlands beyond that, and even further out, much greater mountains than the ones we were on at present. On the opposite side of the tower, another town was just visible peaking between the hillsides, its lakes glimmering in the distance.
Such quiet beauty. Cassian gazed out quietly from my arms, with Margot begging to be hoisted up for a view as well, and Taylor taking a turn with the camera. Margot did get her turn looking out though too, and was at first full of excited observations, but she too quickly settled into a quiet reverie.
Once the sun decides to set in Hungary, it does so with haste. We suddenly realised that our daylight hours were quickly dwindling, and with it comes that drop in temperature that can be so fierce in January. So we descended from the lookout, eyes bright from the fresh air, and hearts full from a childhood quest completed: the finding of the Fairytale Tower.
On our walk back to the van, a deep peace welled up inside of me, seeing the tired but contented look on my children’s faces. This was such a good day together. Simple as that. Out in God’s Creation. An unexpected little adventure. Spinning imagination. A tale to tell. Memories made.
I want to always maintain the ability for finding and forming these simple moments together. These small adventures. This slowing down in living. Things don’t have to be elaborate and fast paced to be rich and memorable. I’ve found that most often, less is more. And the capacity for simple joys and imagination grows in the very blankness of the empty canvas of our day together.