A few Sunday evenings per month, our family packs up some water, snacks, and sturdy shoes and jackets for an evening walk or hike. We love to get out into nature, and it has a calming effect on everyone. Not only that, but walking around a park or going on a hike is a great way to find your own entertainment and it's free. Free is often our budget requirement. Now that all of us have our nexus cards, hopping between borders to see the sights is so easy since we don't have a border wait. We literally have two countries at arm's length to discover and explore. Often we like to go to Langley's Campbell Valley, which are more nature walks than hikes, yet great training for future treks with the kids. Each time we're there we do between 2.5 and 4 mile walks with them. They're practically running the whole time.
A month ago or so, our Campbell Valley hike gave us an unsuspecting find. About twenty tiny nuthatches (see below) were crowding around this tree stump the kids wanted to climb, continually picking up seeds someone must have left in the nooks and crannies of the wood. At first, we just noticed them picking up the seeds near where the kids were sitting, and they'd fly away. Pretty soon, they allowed the kids to get a bit closer to them without being scared and flying off. They'd let the two be within about 1-2 feet of this little feeding frenzy, and it was so fun to watch.
After a few minutes, Stefan picked up some seeds, stood a bit further from the trunk, and conducted a little experiment-to see if these birds would come to him with the seeds. Not too long after he had birds flitting from his hand, twenty a minute, at least! It was incredible to watch. We weren't going to just let him have all the fun, so we set the kids up a little birdseed in their hand and told them to be quiet and very, very still. I set up shop a few feet away from them, and their light, finicky claws surprised me each time they landed on me. The feeling of their bodies landing for under a second on your hand, and seeing them zoom from one hand, to the next, then off to the woods, bird after bird, was magical.
After about 10 or 15 minutes of us standing stock still in silence, a family came along and we tried to help their elementary-aged boys with seeds in their hand, though no birds came to them during the time. I think they were a bit too fidgety and they also had a dog, so they didn't experience the feeling a landed bird on their hand, but our interaction with their family left an impression on me. The parents were a little bit restless and didn't allow almost any time for their boys to handle a wild bird. They also seemed to want to get going--whether they didn't care so much about it-- or they just wanted to get done with their walk, they weren't interested in hanging around long enough to find out. The boys were fidgety, too, like all boys, but there was something else. They seemed almost embarrassed to be trying this out. I couldn't get that out of my mind.
After the family left the spot, we hung around for a few more minutes, each of the kids smiling every time a bird softly landed on their hands, and once they were out of seed, refilled a bit more. Throughout the walk, though, I kept thinking about the interaction we'd just had, and I wondered about different family lifestyles, and why we've chosen ours. We have specific values, and we continually work towards them. Sometimes, the ordinary, daily choices we make lead us to our goals after years, and sometimes we make large decisions - sacrificial, at times - forward for our values at forks in the road. I noticed a hurried family, and ours with plenty of time to spare; taking the time to enjoy wildlife in it's environment and learning about it (the type, the area, what they were eating, etc.).
I also noticed that while these little nuthatches perched on our hands from moment-to-moment, we were showing our kids the wonder and awe of the natural environment. This family didn't take the time to experience this, and even when the kids tried, they were pulled away before entering into it fully. They were barely given a chance before being pulled in another direction. Movement is sometimes a much easier option than stillness. I felt sorry that these kids didn't get to feel the mass of the tiny bird bodies in their hands, because I had never experienced anything like that before in the wild. Who knows when that opportunity will arise again? I felt thankful that our lifestyle allows for time stretches that are afforded that awe and that wonder. We have chosen that value, and we actively work toward it.
Everyone has choices in the way they live their life. Different values matter to some and are completely off the radar for others. I get that. What I was mulling over was simply how much I love the goals we work towards, the values we have chosen, and how we spend our time - our life - living this way. Maybe this family was in a hurry to get to a hockey game (hey, we were in Canada!) where they all loved the sport, ate and laughed together, and bonded through that. Maybe they were in a hurry to have a big meal with family, where the cousins play together and the grandparents hold the littlest one on their lap. One never knows.
I write this because this is our chosen lifestyle, and I couldn't be more pleased with what it's shape is, even when it changes year to year. My kids have time at their disposal. They have time to be kids. Time to wonder and awe at the natural world. Time and ability to use their bodies to move around in nature. Time to play with the neighbor kids. They have time to be present to try new things under the stability and within a primary relationship -us- without feeling embarrassed or less than for 'not getting it right the first time'.
When people ask what we do all day, I don't know how to answer that because realistically, we do the same thing they do, only our way : we live our life the way we want to. We try to live it to the fullest, but to us, that means pursuing our interests and our values on our own terms, without a set schedule (unless we impose it for our benefit), without time constraints, with resources we choose, and with the freedom to tweak, jump ship, or continue on further as we see fit. We are thankful for the opportunity to awe.