We have a patch of woods near us, just a little area a few houses down which is completely wild and untended. It can’t be larger than an acre. But it has all the really important aspects of woods: tall fir trees, shorter alders, a few twisting madrones; patches of holly and oregon grape; the occasional trailing blackberry vine; big, moss-covered stones; and, perhaps most importantly, deer trails.
It was only a couple months ago that we got to explore these woods for the first time. For a long time Nathan was uninterested in traversing any surface that wasn’t relatively smooth. Ryan is currently in this same stage. Set Ryan down on a surface as uneven as, say, the floor of an apple orchard, and he is liable to stand rooted to the spot, complaining bitterly about having been stranded in the wilderness. And to be fair, he’s making a pretty accurate judgment of his own abilities. After all, he still has occasional Walking Failures when traversing the living room — and there are very few rabbit holes in the living room.
But Nathan has moved past those kinds of Walking Failures. And one day in December when we were out for a walk, he discovered that he likes the woods.
I am, of course, thrilled at this development. There are some canonical Wonderful Things in my childhood memories, and one of them is being alone in the deep woods, isolated from any sight or sound of human civilization. This little woods patch can’t quite deliver the same experience to Nathan; it is, after all, only about an acre, and there’s no way to escape the ever-present sound of freeway traffic. Also it backs onto the water treatment plant (perhaps why it hasn’t been developed?), so you don’t have to go far to be reminded of human habitation.
But we can still spend a good hour tramping through it, particularly at Nathan’s current age, and with his very dubious sense of direction. There are fallen logs for him to climb over or crawl under, and a wonderful little tunnel through a bush that leads from the front, fairly open section to the secret back section. We’ve found deer spore back there; in fact, on our first foray into the back of the woods, we found two deer. I rather suspect that these are the same deer that like to wander through the neighborhood, nibbling on things like tender young apple tree leaves. I am still slightly bitter about that. But since we were in their territory, and since I had two small children standing enthralled by the deer twenty feet away, I decided to hold my peace.
We could spend longer there, actually, except that Ryan considers the activity to be extremely boring and/or slightly worrisome. He’s a bit of trouble to lug around while ducking blackberry vines and climbing over stones. One of these weekends perhaps I’ll leave him at home with Dave so that Nathan and I can have a proper woods-delving by ourselves.