Up until this summer, my 3-year-old daughter, Madeleine, was very happy to alternate between cruising around in a stroller and being carried by yours truly. So, when my husband, Christophe, suggested that it was time to take her for her first hike in late September, I was a little leery. We hadn’t gone hiking since before I was pregnant and the prospect of having to scale a hill with a 40lb. passenger was a little daunting. Even as we pulled into the parking lot at the Middlesex Fells, I was thinking about how much Madeleine loves curling up with her blanket and milk, how she had been choosing to stay indoors more lately, and how the first drops of rain I was feeling might make this the worst idea EVER. But, this is one of the things I appreciate about my husband: he doesn’t sweat this kind of stuff as much as I do. So, we rolled out of the car and found the main path.
Within minutes, she was scrambling up the rocky trail like a squirrel. Thank god she was wearing her Star Wars light up sneakers so I could keep track of my little Padawan Learner. Christophe was able to keep up with her better since his legs are longer than mine (he’s 6’6” tall, I’m 5’). So, I took the opportunity to hang back and take in our surroundings. I hadn’t done much hiking since I was a member of the Appalachian Mountain Club a decade ago. I had forgotten how much I loved the smell of moss; the sight of trails created by scores of footsteps. The main path was like an enormous welcome mat alive with colorful leaves and scurrying animals. And the rain that I had been so concerned about barely touched us since the tree cover was so thick. I felt embraced by it all, protected from the craziness that floods my newsfeeds every day. It felt good to take a deep drag of fresh air through my nostrils and push out the stagnation of pent up anxiety and worry. As I watched Madeleine climb toward the top of the hill, I could tell that somewhere in that fluffy little cloud of hair her brain was saying, “Rocks: good. Chipmunks: good. Cool air: good.” It made me happy to see all those little impressions settling into her psyche. It made me happy to see her curiosity carry her distances I didn’t know she could handle yet. And it made me happy to have taken a little something back for myself, rediscovering the healing power of nature.
We’ve hiked every weekend since this trip – in the forest, along the ocean. Images of Madeleine leaping from rock-to-rock and playing hide-and-go-seek with her father now join my mental library of the things I love about Fall. The colder weather we experienced on Saturday threatens to put the kibosh on all our frolicking. But, for now, I’m gonna push the envelope outdoors, repeating my silent mantra:
Breathing: good. Relaxing: good. Smiling: good.