Natalie and I recently celebrated Wunderkind’s first birthday. She’s walking — almost running now — getting more expressive, and has an awareness about the natural things around us that has reignited something in me too.
Her mother and I love to be outdoors and we’ve seen other kids just a little older than our Wunderkind (pronounced with a German “v” sound, by the way) react quite negatively to being placed on the grass. It seems the affection for nature is either innate or it isn’t. (Grass, by the way, is a great surrogate babysitter for our little girl. Natalie and I have managed several important business discussions in the grassy parks by the Potomac.)
I recently started carrying her in a child carrier backpack, which resembles the old fashioned external framepacks — like the one my Uncle Tom, the original Suburban Mountaineer, swore by. She loves the vantage point of being high up, nearly as high as if she were riding my shoulders. When we went blueberry picking last month, she was able to reach the branches from the carrier and pick (then squish) her own. The juice has pleasantly marked the carrier.
I’ve been trying to take her around in her child carrier backpack more often, like on our evening walks to get she and I ready for when the three of us will hit the trail for some brief day hikes on our upcoming vacation from Peaklessburg (less a vacation from work than the city).
On a recent Sunday morning I “packed” her up and we went for a short nature walk in a local woods (maybe only six or seven acres) in between the homes in our neighborhood. She brought her favorite stuffed friend and I used my compass mirror to check on her. She babbled periodically as babies do, but more so when we got to the woods, as if identifying every “exotic” plant that doesn’t exist in her room or condo. I picked up a stick to point to things but that was hardly necessary; she reached for leaves and noticed the birds on her own. The expressions on her face were… not sure how to characterize them… But they were better than expected.
Our Wunderkind was clearly benefiting from all of this and so was I. I am normally focused on big mountains and big ideas associated them. I make things complex, or at least I seek complications and mysteries to unravel. It’s stimulating, but it has its limits. Sometimes I forget to smell the flowers on the approach or appreciate the birds, so to speak. I’ve found that taking my daughter outdoors helps me separate from the hectic qualities of everything in life.
As she looks at a leaf, branch or insect for the first time, I feel like I am too. Or rather, her wonder in such little things ignites the feeling that these little things are not so little. The most interesting result is that I feel alive and alert to our world at a level that seems almost spiritual.
It sounds cliche, but I get what people mean by the idea of looking at the world “through the wonder of a child’s eyes” in a new way. While it’s not the high mountains, this experience compliments them.