“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
~Henry David Thoreau
When Malcolm was born on a grey April day, my neighbor, upon first meeting him, remarked on the intensity of his gaze. “He is really wide awake, already; tuned in and alive to this world,” he said. Indeed, Malcolm seemed to drink up the world around him from that very first day: the spring leaves emerging from the birch and maple trees, the perennial flowers just coming into bloom, the slobbery greeting of each and every dog–he delighted in all of it as soon as he could smile.
As much as I would like to take credit, the reality is that he was born into this wildness, our boy. He craves nature, and finds solace and comfort in the great outdoors. In the face of disconcerting news, he storms out the front door and up into a tree. He rarely chooses my lap for comfort, unlike his little brother. He insists on walks in the Ravenna woods every day, often at the unreasonable hour of “past bedtime” and frankly, I sometimes feel as if we’ve done his soul a disservice, making our home here in the heart of Seattle.
This summer, Malcolm is quite possibly in his happiest of places. We are 92% unscheduled, mostly shying away from the camps that most city parents seem to find obligatory. Each day is a blank slate, and I never thought I’d be as happy as I am about that fact. (And yes, I get that this is a privilege of being a full-time mama.) We spend our days exploring beaches and forests, mountaintops and alpine lakes. We are cut from the same cloth, Malcolm and I, and neither one of us could possibly be any happier under the summer clouds (ahem, Seattle) this year.
Last week, after dropping the less-enthusiastic Oliver off at puppet camp (indoors, with plenty of crafting under dim artificial light), Malcolm and I set out for what I thought might be an overly ambitious hike: seven miles with nearly 1800 feet of elevation gain in the Cascade mountains. I’m not sure why I am surprised: that 56 pound boy, all eight years of him, hiked up that mountainside fueled only by a half a peanut butter sandwich and four cherries, without uttering one single complaint. Instead, he pointed out nurse logs, fed berries to our dog (“she needs to fuel up too!”), collected roughly ten pounds of rocks (the majority of which I discreetly unloaded in the parking lot), and delighted out loud, repeatedly, over the fact that he was such a “trooper” when it came to adventures in the woods. When we got to the ridge, where I figured we should turn around, he insisted that we descend to the lake so he could truly experience the beauty. I lie: in reality, he just wanted to see Zoe-dog dip into the icy waters, but still. He is a remarkable soul.
“Mommy, I could just stay here forever. Wouldn’t it be great if this was what school was like?” he suggested as we headed back home. I couldn’t agree more. John Muir once said that wildness is a necessity. I wish more humans understood this, but I’m really happy to be raising children who do.
Zoe+ alpine lake = retriever heaven.
*The obligatory selfie, in which Malcolm actually smiled.
(This fine photo of me was taken by the eight year old, who was instructed to take a photo of me and Zoe by the pond. Obviously, that worked out.)