"Come on, my pokey little puppy," I say.
"Mama I NOT a puppy!" he complains. Step after determined step, he hikes along. How many two-year-olds can hike for three miles? This one can.
Daddy and the older children are far ahead. He stops to inspect a leaf, a flower, a patch of moss. I feel the familiar tension... do we conquer the path and catch up with the others? Or do we take small steps, savor, and wonder?
When do I not feel this tension?
We cross a dry creek bed and the bank is steep so I offer my hand.
"No mama, I do it," he insists, and I lean back with a smirk to watch his attempt. I have band-aids in my pocket.
He steps and slips, but he keeps his head down, determined. He made it up.
"See, mama? I big."
He walks ahead of me, and I linger, marveling. My baby-- he is big.
I begin to sing, and his echo comes, small and sweet. I want to stop singing so I can listen to his voice alone in the woods, but he still needs me to guide him.
This is the day that the Lord has made.
We will rejoice and be glad in it.
I use his slowness as an excuse to be slow, to savor. I lap up drops of beauty and store them in my camera. They will not taste the same when I see them on a computer screen, but they will help me remember these moments on the trail. We see a red flower, but we do not know its name. We see dandelions and daisies and I think of my grandmother, and the hikes we took, and the way she taught me to name the flowers. “Daisy,” I say, my small boys repeat, “Daisy.”
I point to the tree tops that cover us, and I ask questions that have no answer. “Does God have to think about every single one of these leaves to make them all? Can you imagine how many leaves He has made today?” It all seems so extravagant, the scene God has constructed for our lives today. We see more flowers, and I take another picture. “Why did God put this little pink rose way out here in the woods? Why does God put some of his best artwork where people rarely go?”
We see another daisy, and another one. The boys are happy to use the name they just learned, over and over. Daisies grow like weeds, and I wonder who decides what flowers are loved and which are called weeds. I marvel at the decorations God has placed on our path. He does not save his art for special occasions. How many beautiful flowers did will live and die quietly, never seen by a single human eye? Small boys have no answers, so I do not ask the question. I pick a daisy, and my son smiles. “We see this one, don’t we? I’m sure God won’t mind if I pick it for you.”
His cheeks are red and sweaty, but his smile shows deep, happy dimples. I hoist him on my shoulders, and he does not let go of the daisy.