18 May 2010

The Great Outdoors

Spring has sprung! Actually, it kinda seems as though we just fast-forwarded this time around right through spring and into summer, at the very beginning of April. And we're still not convinced that global warming, climate change, is a legitimate, serious concern? Uh-huh. Okay then . . .

(Clearly, this post was begun well in the past. Damn you, Writer's Block! And in the interim, the Midwest has experienced a variety of un-summerish weather. Apparently, we get monsoons here now. So let's go ahead and wrap this thing up before I'm washed away in a flood of biblical proportions.)

With the advent of warmer weather comes the opportunity to play outside. In the months since last summer, our son has obviously grown bigger and he is now way more mobile. No longer content to simply sit in a stroller or play in a confined, four-walled space, the Doozer is eager to explore, to run about and experience the great wide open.

[Ed. note: My wife and I had great difficulty agreeing upon a name for our son. We only pulled the trigger after some unnecessary harassment from the woman handling birth certificates at the hospital.
It's a big decision, back off, Lady. She was like an unctuous car salesman working hard to make a sale and get us off the lot. So, anyway, well before he was officially named, since we could not reach a consensus, he was often simply, the Doozer. And is to this day. I'm not entirely sure where it came from. Except it sounds funny and it's fun to say.]

And he's got some outdoor toys now: a ball, some sidewalk chalk. There is more than likely a play structure in his future. Mostly, though, he seems content to simply be outside, in the grass, walking or running, staring at the trees, the birds, stopping on occasion to point out the odd passing car or airplane flying overhead.

So we have entered that phase which encompasses grass stains and scratched knees, of digging in the dirt with bare hands and stomping through puddles. I am not much for the outdoors myself. (My wife often humorously, and accurately, describes the two of us as the country mouse and the town mouse. She couldn't be more right.) I suppose I must get used to it now. We live in a place full of foliage and fauna, so there is much in the way of outdoor activities all around us.

Unfortunately, I envision a camping trip in our future. Our near future. Can't we just take him to a bustling metropolis, replete with the creature comforts of a hotel stay, and introduce him to culture (art, theater, music, etc.)? Must we be subjected to mosquitoes and humidity and eating meals out-of-doors?

My own childhood experiences with nature were fleeting. Vacations meant cities and still do. There was one ill-fated (cue the
Deliverance-style banjo twanging) canoe/camping trip, undertaken by my father and I, along with two friends and their fathers. Having never been in a canoe should have been our first deterrent. But was not. We spent the entire first day paddling like maniacs, finding no balance or rhythm, zig-zagging wildly from riverbank to riverbank, often hurtling headfirst into low-hanging trees. Much consternation and cursing ensued.

Yes, son of mine, you have this to look forward to.

But, being a parent, I suppose, is an exercise in sacrifice, of adjusting your tightly-ordered world to suit the whims, needs, and curiosities of the very small human with whom you now share a house.

Who knows, perhaps in the process I will discover my heretofore unknown inner outdoorsman. Perhaps I will learn to love the sights and sounds, the trees, the birds, even the squirrels, deriving from them as much pleasure as my son does.

This is a lesson which I try to be open to, as a parent, a lesson which manifests itself each day in the varied expressions on the Doozer's face. When the world is new, everything is strange and wondrous and beautiful. After years of mowing lawns and raking leaves, of getting your glasses soaked in a sudden downpour or skidding off a snowbound road to find your car stuck in a ditch--it's easy to forget that there are nice things in nature, too.

In a funny way, becoming a parent almost teaches you to become a person again, a human. It's almost magical the way that a kid can reintroduce you to life, make you appreciate it in a whole new way.

All right, you've convinced me, buddy. Let's go stump in the mud . . .

Just give me a second to change out of these Lucky Jeans. And Pumas.

Change should be incremental. Let go, but don't totally lose your wits.

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