Each night after supper, we gather our three toddlers, lace up our sneakers, and walk down to the old railroad tracks. My husband pushes the twins in our double stroller and I push the four-year-old on his tricycle, and we bump along down the path through potholes, puddles, and large rocks. On the way home, Daniel plows ahead with the stroller, but the four-year-old climbs off his trike at the bottom of the hill across from our house and meanders along behind me.
When we first started doing our walks again in the early spring, I used to get annoyed with how long he took to climb the hill; he loves to pick flowers, grass, weeds, rosehips, crab apples, and branches to add to his “collection” (which is a pile of dried up vegetation in our garage). I would haul the tricycle up the path behind me, and every time I turned around to see where he was, I’d find him only a few steps further than he was the last time. He stoops every few minutes to collect another piece of nature.
I find it hard to not get antsy. I feel like an ant under a magnify-glass with this summer heat. I know bedtime is just around the corner once we walk through the doors, which means less than an hour is left before I can click away on my keyboard again. Yet despite my pleas to move quicker, my four-year-old still takes his time walking up the hill.
Our world is one of hurry, bustle, and get-that-checklist-scratched-out. If there’s not a finished product to show, perhaps it’s not all that productive. Yet as I watched my son toddle up the hill, I saw someone else: My younger self. I saw the girl who walked on the small causeway her parents had built years ago between the river and a pond, and that’s where she made up stories of unicorns and magic. She faced the painful realities of broken friendships through re-imagining them in stories. She leapt between rocks to cross the pond pretending wild rapids or lava rushed underneath her.
I wouldn’t be the writer (or even person) I am today without all those hours I spent wandering the forest behind my home and noticing the tiny toads that crept along and the painted turtles that ambled beside me. If I dream of my son having that same kind of imagination and believe in its importance, maybe that means standing longer than I normally would on a boiling hot day to wait for him to find his way to the top with me.
One of those hot days, I took a deep breath and looked over the rolling hills and wind-swept grass. I watched the sun cast a golden glow over the field next to us, noticed the bright pink buds starting on the apple trees, and discerned a small beaten path off ours from deer traveling through. I felt the sun on my face and the salty air brush my hair, and I realized how good the warmer weather made me feel.
As I did, I felt my own imagination stirred again. I thought of my stories of an Elven princess running through similar fields to safety. I thought of another character bent over gleaning from the harvest. But even more than that: The sunlight slanting over the trees and thorn bushes reminded me that a dawn is coming when we’ll be rescued from the briars of sin and its effects, and suffering will haunt us no more.
Until then, I want to breathe in the common grace of fresh air for my anxious heart and let the beauty of God’s creation stir me towards hope—and I want to give my son that same opportunity. So my husband and I stand at the top of the hill and we ruminate on our day as we wait for the four-year-old to bring his treasures and tell us the stories of how he found them.
Featured image by on Freepik