we started this morning with more safety talk and description of what it would be like to ”walk by the river.” We did some math, putting kids on the spot, and insisting that everyone around the circle listen to the answer given before them. A great, quick math conversation.
soon enough, we started to tell fishing stories. What struck me in listening was the eyes of the youngest kids in the room. The little ones with something to prove. Never underestimate them! They are powerful🤣.
I told a recent favorite by setting the scene at the kids fishing pond in basalt. I had a group of 12 there last October and remember running around getting lures unstuck and retying flies. Fishing with groups of younger kids is always a challenge, but it's also so rewarding. so while I'm hustling around the bank facilitating, I'm catching my breath and smiling. If we want to see and preserve a "sense of wonder" in our kids, and I most certainly do, I think fishing is the place to do it. they all want their moment in the sun and they typically show more persistence at this than a lot else we do with them. the biology that follows fits right in because there's nothing like mucous membranes, pink and purple lateral lines, red gills, and the release back into the water to merge two worlds into one.
back to that story...
suddenly I heard a huge splash and wondered if someone had thrown a twenty pound cobblestone in. I scanned my eyes around the perimeter of the pond and walked back up the trail to look behind the willow tree. Ethan was there, wrestling a giant rainbow. kids dropped their rods all around the pond and sprinted towards the action.
"oh my gosh that thing is huge!!"
"get the net! get the net!!"
"it's splashing us!!"
"just jump in to get it. your shoes are already wet!!"
The excitement is bursting and the teamwork is all there. He is so proud of his colorful trout and so happily surprised that his quiet walk and focus willed this moment into being. When this goes so well, everyone else believes it's possible and the rest of the day is like a dream. little hands are steady. little eyes are watching the water without blinking. little people are fully in the moment.
He says he’s happiest playing video games, but when I picture that smile and that thrill, I’m pretty sure he’s wrong.
every kid loves the thought and the anticipation and the chance to catch a fish. They have heard stories like this one. They have seen their sisters and their brothers in these golden moments.
we had these moments again and again today. And then we had the hard work.
We had lunch, we cleaned the beach up to a higher standard than we saw when we arrived. We held hands and calmed shakey kids moving across slippery rocks in ankle deep water. We slowly clambered along the cobbles and angular sandstone blocks along the bank. We realized this was very difficult for a couple of kids. We listened to the rushing water and commented on the time warp that most certainly happens along the river. We collected the kids for snacks and water and discussed turning back or pressing on for half a mile.
we decided that the difficulties for these little ones was mostly psychological and that we should support them, but push them to finish. it would be a long summer, we said, if we gave in. A mini-Odyssey for sure.
walking back up the stone stairway to the grass and wildflowers and concrete path, James yelled out, “Hey Daddy I ate some bell peppers and I liked em!”
Jacob laughed when I started fishing again. I was sweeping and Shane was leading.
we sat in the grass when we got back to the park. Plenty of shade under the Maple. We read books about Jim Bowie and Johnny Appleseed.
Kyle and Matty were still talking about Kyle’s beauty Brown Trout. Everyone was high-fiving Mia, who was positively beaming. Lilah looked at me acknowledging the long walk and the hot sun. Rosie carried her own fly rod out after casting all morning. It was easy and natural for her after years of floating and fishing with her parents. Pierce was clearly proud of himself and then began to change the subject, asking questions and skipping ahead.
I'm amazed by the different worlds we find ourselves in. this secret location is right in our backyards, but it is a universe to itself. i love seeing a line of kids bouncing through the willows, their hair shining in the sun. i love watching them file up the riprap steps to the world above. we can only save the wild and beautiful places by experiencing them, i think. it's an oxymoron, but it's true. these kids are seeing something special, and hopefully they will know how and when to speak up and take right actions when it comes to preserving what sustains us. Access to wild places is so important. Clean, oxygenated water is so important. A new adventure with friends is so important.
They see all of this every Summer.