When Wil said, “Walk to the river, Mom,” I left my phone on the countertop, took off my watch and grabbed our mud boots. With the constant tug of a virtually agenda-driven world, I was more than ready to leave behind the volitional tools that bound me to it. Woody, our yellow lab, perked up his ears at the word “walk” and was quickly on our heels as we hurdled out the door.
It was late April and the temps had recently warmed so the bugs were sparse. We reached the tree-cover and squished through mud over imprinted deer tracks. Deep puddles and fresh, bright green undergrowth lined the path. We could now hear the river and it sounded cold. Woody ran ahead and plunged in as if it were a hot summer day. He plodded around the shoreline looking for water bugs that weren’t yet existent, then swam out to the center of the river. He paddled against the current like he was on a treadmill; running hard but getting nowhere. He eventually grew tired of the grind and veered off to the other side of the river and played along that bank.
Wil slid down a muddy embankment and stretched his legs into the river. His muck boots filled with water. “It’s cold, Mom!” He got his footing and waded out until the water reached the bottom edge of his shorts. Then he reached down into the river and pulled out a smooth, black rock. He held the rock up to admire its sheen, then threw it in the air. “Catch Woody!”
Woody swam back across the river, even as the rock sank to the bottom; his loyalty to Wil’s call. Wil reached down for another rock, again admired its smooth surface, and tossed it. “Go get it, Woody!” Wil found a few more smooth rocks, taking a moment to admire each one, tossed them, and Woody swam toward each splash. Wil moved on to tossing sticks, which were retrievable for Woody, but watching the two play this game, I saw that winning was not about retrieval. The win for both was in the play.
A red-headed woodpecker flew across the river, landed on the side of a tall tree, turned his head toward us and called out. He then silently stared at us for a moment, decided we were not a threat, hopped up the tree and went on with his business.
I sat down on a low, flat rock and breathed in the earthy smell. Green buds popped out on branches all around me. The scene was picture-perfect; and yet I was thankful I had no means of taking a picture as it would steal the nature of the moment.
Thank you Wil, for leading me on this winding, earthy, budding, flowing, green and boundless path, where there is always something found to admire and the win is in the play. Your true nature always circles me home to mine.