Wednesday night I tagged along with my husband and Sean on their hike. Usually twice a week or more, my husband takes Sean over to Tryon Park -- a state park located in Southwest Portland. It was raining (unusual for August in Portland) and the trees and ferns were damp and the trail had turned muddy. Sean set off -- running and then stopping suddenly to climb into the arms of a tree. Sean knows each of these trees as he has hiked this area numerous times. He pulls himself up against the slick tangle of branches, careful not to crush the giant sticky slugs that are parked all over the trunk and arms, and he finds a sturdy bough. He climbs onto it and affectionately hugs it, his body one with the tree, camouflaged in moss and wet leaves, tickled by raindrops that make their way through the forest ceiling.
It is tender to see this. A boy happy with nothing else but the dependable muscle of a tree, embracing it like an old friend, his cheeks wet and dirty and a smile peeling across his face. I have to stop myself from wiping his face, pulling his wet, damp shorts up, tying his shoes or shouting after, “Careful, watch out for the tree roots!” I think he could navigate this forest in the dark, alone. There is a connection between him and this lush secret garden, a force pulling him through, the familiarity of the trees and the paths -- he feels more at home here than in the rest of the busy world.
He finds the little trails that bring him down to the creek, branches slapping after him. He immediately jumps into the water, a baptism of sorts, his gym shoes filling with the creek, and bends his head down to swirl his hair, his head soaking wet and water running into his eyes and smile. My husband watches him closely; he and Sean have done this probably a hundred or more times. This is their place.
“Daddy take me but you can come.” he said to me when we left. I’m a visitor by invitation only. I am grateful to have come along.
When we come home I scoop him up in my arms, burying my face into his tummy, cautiously, like the belly of a kitten. He is mine. He commands me to dance. “Dance mommy.” he says laughing, twirling in hypnotic circles, his arms open wide. I twirl with him, letting go of the day, just me and my boy, laughing and spinning.
Sam Smiles Project
1 month ago