Oops, my foot almost slips away. I quickly take a big step to regain my balance. It’s tricky with Y. dangling between my outstretched hands. He is suspended above a pool of mud that reaches my ankles. The backpack on his back doesn’t make it any easier. It was his idea to bring it with him, so we put rice cakes and water in it. Thus equipped we set off for a little woodland, only a 5 minute bike ride from our house.
The path solidifies again and Y. walks ahead of me, looking for the sheep. “Come sheep!” and sure enough, the sheep saunters our way. Y. is 2 years old and it is quite normal for him to greet plants, animals and objects. After a conversation with the sheep, he runs on to the edge of the woodland.
It’s not surprising that he always has more energy than I do; he has just taken a nap while I was answering urgent emails. I’ve been tired for a few weeks now, especially in the weekends. Being busy is part of the deal when you have a job and a child, plus tasks within the eco-village. But sometimes it seems to grow over my head.
The cow parsley at the edge of the wood has not yet grown over my head. It’s the last challenge we have to overcome. Together we wade through the explosion of green and white into the wood. The wood! There is so much to see and do. For a moment we sit on the path to listen to the trees. Y. has a stick with mud and makes a drawing on my face. We run on again. We balance on a felled tree and look at the woodlice. I sit on a side branch and Y. provides the picnic. He opens the bag himself. “Like a drink?”
I am still tired, but for the first time today I feel it in my body. The thoughts running around my head all day are choked by the tangle of nettles, brambles, rotting wood, mushrooms and buzzing insects. The frustration about slow processes, the stress about a deadline, the things I should actually be doing — the wind whispering in the trees blows it out of my mind.
I have landed in the real world, in the midst of the annual outbreak of boundless optimism. The life force flows from the earth and pushes the delicate green leaves out of the dark wood. A Pentecostal power. Y. is part of it without thinking about it. It is wonderful to see him going about independently, fully in touch with everything around him. When we cycle away, covered in mud, his last greeting is for the nettles: “Sleep tight, nettles”. I have had another masterclass in playing outside.