"Treasure"...Overused, but the Only Term Sufficient
I have experienced of late, a rare moment here and there to pause, fighting the urge to attend to tasks, and revel in the gift of a treasure found. One day it was a chestnut tree found at the very back of a city park, bursting with chestnuts.
The kids and I gathered hand-fulls, lining our pockets (and handkerchiefs) with the shiny nuts. They came from this unassuming, bedraggled tree.
Unfortunately, we did not wait for the starches to turn into sugars and we rushed to roast them. They were awful…nothing like the roasted chestnuts I have had in the past. I will not make that mistake twice. But the children’s excitement at finding nuts was wonderful, they acted like they had found a hidden treasure trove of food.
Our next treasure was found at the local community center. While waiting for my daughter’s ballet class to let out, we stumbled upon a table full of pottery with a large sign saying “FREE.” My middle child spent 20 minutes combing through the stack, looking for the perfect find. His exclamation said it all, “These are amazing! We are so lucky we get to pick one!” It made me think about treasure, His treasure…our hearts given freely…previously broken, kiln dried, rather lumpy and misshapen. And yet He wants them.
Then there are the moments when we are outside and the weather is cooperative, that the children just shine, little treasures for me to care for. Messy, wet, but shining glory.
I have often felt the draw of the woods. The quiet places hidden in the trees, the sound of cars and commerce shielded by greenery. It is what others might call an “itch,” or a craving.
I need to be in the woods.
We moved to an apartment in a suburban area outside of Seattle in June of this year. My three children were accustomed to having the run of the back yard back in Florida. Digging holes in the dirt, picking herbs for made-up concoctions, building play forts and secret hideouts. They were free to be kids.
Apartment life takes this freedom from you. At least it does in this day and age. I cannot let my children out unattended (two of them are still under 5 years of age). This has forced me to seek, daily, the solace of a play ground or, when I’m feeling particularly selfish, a city or state park with hiking trails.
Today we ended up at a park we’ve never visited before. It abuts another park that has farm animals and wooded trails. This new park had a community garden and a disc golf field, and a trail linking to the other park. We meandered through the community garden; it was beautiful. So many vegetables, pumpkins, squash, kale, sunflowers bowing their heads, soggy from the damp cold setting in. The children oohed and ahhed at every turn. Finding treasure in the tilth. Then we hit the trail.
After many minutes of gazing at the trees, old cedar towering above, the tiny branches poking out from the trunk like a ladder, I felt a weight lift. I was breathing deeply, inhaling the wet, cool air. Caressing the moss with my fingertips. It is so soft, have you ever felt it? At that moment I was reveling in the open space, the freedom to pick up rocks and hold them in my hand. To pick up leaves blown from the branches in preparation for winter, the letting go of life. There were no books to read, no math to teach, no small rooms to clean and laundry to sort. We were on land that was not our own, but belonged to no one and everyone. A beautiful collective. We were stretching our wings, honing our senses. What do you see? A wood peckers latest project, the fine dust of cedar spilling down from the hole. The sprinkling of newly spouted mushrooms tucked under clover. The last of the red huckleberry, only one or two fruit left.
The four of us headed back the way we came. Passed the community garden, ready to head home. I lingered, listening to the creek crash by. I spotted a trail carved in the blackberry bramble. I followed and called the kids to do the same. We came to the edge of the creek, or perhaps it would be considered a river. My daughter exclaimed, “Salmon!” We had entered into our own private nature show…the salmon, both bright pink and greenish brown, fighting their way upstream. Back to the place from where they came.
I looked at them longingly, in awe. Smiled, and knew I would do the same.