About a month ago, my oldest sister Sabina sent a group of my sisters a text asking this question: What do you do to offset the tendency of the darker-colder days of fall and winter to pull you down? We all responded with some of the ways we make Fall and Winter special. I shared a few of my own methods, and by writing them down I felt more committed to making sure to implement them. Thus as I’ve watched the leaves increasingly fall from the trees, and the colors start moving away from their most vibrant shades to more brown versions I felt the pull to get out and enjoy what’s left of the glorious fall. We’ve been adding more nature outings to our school schedule, and it has been so joyful! Yesterday, I might even call magical.

It started with a picnic on a rocky peninsula on the Meramec River. The kids whined about the rocky steep descent down to the river — they wanted to eat in the picnic area like all the other normal people, but my goal was “Adventure” so I continued walking ahead of them, far enough in front that their whines were washed out by the cheerful conversation between Zoe and me. Their attitudes quickly flipped when they found a large quartz crystal in the rocks- suddenly they were both geologists, hunting for earth’s geo-treasures! They were delighted and shocked to see that someone else had spent time on this peninsula as was evidenced by a fire pit- free from ash, but with the clear intent of imaginative play. We ate our simple lunch and commented on the warm sun, the beautiful arboreal color and the peacefulness of the river current. Then I held out my thumb and said with shock! “Oh dear, that bridge over there has shrunk. It’s smaller than my thumb!” The kids eyes brightened and they too held their thumbs up to compare the size with the freeway bridge we so often cross. We joked about how tiny the semi’s were, and came up with theories as to how it shrunk. We waved wildly to the drivers, and wondered- could they see us? Were they waving?

After much time spent throwing rocks into the water, we headed off into the woods. The trails, so thickly covered with leaves were hard to follow, so we didn’t- setting off on our own course instead. A bench at the top of a hill beaconed and the kids soon set to making a large leaf pile. The next few hours were spent in joyful creative play- the pile of leaves was a beanbag, a bed, a cave, a blanket, a pillow. . . we had a leaf fight, a leafy nap. At one point Zoe came up to me and said with insistence: “Take your shoes off.” So I did. At one point Chiara laid down on her bed of leaves and in so doing looked up, immediately she exclaimed in awe: “Andy look, it’s beautiful!” We all laid down next to her and looked up at the vibrant blue sky contrasted by the glowing yellow and orange leaves.

I watched and participated, joy brimming, that I could witness my children experiencing one of those moments of childhood I so cherished. A childhood wild and free. Anders asked if we could stay all day, he suggested we go home and get our tent and a hammock and return for an extended stay. I agreed it would be the perfect spot for our quiet time, and wished we’d brought our books. But Zoe had a potty accident, and her wet pants soon turned cold. We hiked out, leaving our magical spot behind, pining to stay. The next morning the children asked to return. But the weather had chilled significantly, and the responsibilities of home and school were calling. When we pulled out the leaves we’d collected for an art project we all smiled remembering the flying leaves, the sun-soaked leaves, and the feeling of pure content!

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