When I was between the ages of five and ten, we lived in the a fairly suburb-ish area which happened to have a lot of wooded areas nestled between and behind the blocks of houses.
You were never far from a park and just up the road from our house, smack in the middle of the neighbourhood, was a massive forest.
There were paths all around, some that crossed over the stream running through the middle of the forest, and some paths took you through the trees, and they all led you to different streets.
Actually, the paths were the perfect system for cutting across to meet your friends, but only if you were walking. If you were biking, as you often were in the 90s because we loved our BMXs, you would obviously go around the woods, but if you were meeting someone 1/2 way, it was always quicker to walk through the paths than to walk all the way around.
This forest was my Narnia.
I used to spend hours getting lost among the trees, playing in the stream, picking flowers, reading books under trees, playing with friends, climbing trees, building forts with sticks, swimming in the swimming hole, and basically just being a kid.
I have so many awesome childhood memories that centre around that particular forest and I've always wanted Gretchen to have the same good feelings about playing in the woods and in nature that I did -- and still do.
Thankfully, my daughter is naturally drawn to nature and animals and exploration, just like her mama.
Recently, and for the first time, I took her to a woods across town and we spent the afternoon looking for items to add to our nature table and leaves/flowers to press. We've lived in this town for two years now, but I still don't know my way around super well, so I didn't realize how amazing this park is. It's a conservation area, and again, it's right in the middle of town, a little bit hidden, but still easy to get to.
Armed with her little satchel (aka pink fringe purse that she bought for herself with gramma, I think) we started our forest adventure.
One of the first things we saw was two guys walking back carrying two huge trout that they'd caught in the stream. I didn't realize that the stream ran through this part of the city, but it's the same stream that meets up in the park near our new house. (Moving day countdown: 12 days.)
Gretchen was fascinated by the fish, so we walked across to find the bridge and the water.
We found the fish and walked all around the bank watching them splash and chase each other. This part of the stream is just before a small bit of rapids where they have to jump up, so there were lots just waiting and resting near the bridge.
We even saw a young man catch one and let it go. Gretchen asked if he was going to eat it for dinner, but he was just doing catch-and-release.
After watching the fish, we made our way back along the bank and eventually into the wooded part of the conservation area. We found lots of little items to bring home (never picking, just found items from the forest floor) and she added them to her bag.
I love seeing her in the woods, just like I was as a child. There's something freeing and magical about being in the middle of all those trees with the light coming down through the leaves overhead.
It creates an atmosphere like that almost makes you feel like you're somewhere else entirely.
We ended our adventure with a bug-hunt in the grassy field between the edges of the woods. Gretchen brought along her little magnifying glass bug-contraption so we could observe the dragonflies and grasshoppers.
I know there will be more days like this in our future, especially with the freedom that homeschooling is giving us. I'm especially excited to visit the forest when all the leaves have turned. We're starting to see the beginnings of autumn right now and I'm SUPER excited because it's my favourite season.
Here's to many more forest-filled days. Peace. 🙌🏻