It’s raining frogs and toads during our visit to Nova Scotia’s Kejimkujik National Park. They are everywhere – carpeting the forest floor and playing hide and seek in the shallow water along the lake shore. Some are getting an up close and personal experience with our kids. The ministrations of love and affection are sweet to hear but undoubtedly terrifying for the amphibian class (do they have ears our kids want to know?).
We’re far from the city with nothing but flimsy nylon fabric between us and a heavenly night sky. The stars spill across the dark, a swirl of light, a timeless dance of now.
One of the many beauties here is that the days are unhurried and filled with simple pleasures. For the kids it’s pretty much eat, sleep, play, explore. And, at almost each and every step, there is so much to discover – acorns, leaves, chipmunks, pine cones, new camping friends. There are playgrounds too strategically positioned throughout the camping areas.
Something happens to the temporal fabric here. There is a fluidity to the play – time continuum. Nothing empirical that I can put my finger on but I think we’ve all felt it. Our time perception behaves unexpectedly – a blurring, bending, compression and expansion.
Rustling leaves share secrets on the whispering breeze. Each moment is eternal. The adult clock is on a time out, a suspension of schedules, of punctuality, of linear progression. In its place, rippling concentric circles, a slipstream of possibilities.
Then it dawns on me, this glimpse of unhurried, this gift of deep and light, of seconds falling uncounted is much more like the treacly time that sticks to kids when they are engrossed in play. What a great place to be. I reach back to childhood moments reveling in the impossible wonder of nature at Bruce’s Mills, Algonquin Park, Mile 91. They were rich times. Thanks to my folks who took us hand in hand to discover life off the beaten trail.
Walt Whitman nailed it way back when – before we plugged in, before ultra-urbanism, before the atomic clock.
THERE was a child went forth every day;
And the first object he look’d upon, that object he became;
And that object became part of him for the day, or a certain part of the day, or for many years, or stretching cycles of years.
The early lilacs became part of this child,
And grass, and white and red morning-glories, and white and red clover, and the song of the phoebe-bird,
And the Third-month lambs, and the sow’s pink-faint litter, and the mare’s foal, and the cow’s calf,
And the noisy brood of the barn-yard, or by the mire of the pond-side,
And the fish suspending themselves so curiously below there—and the beautiful curious liquid,
And the water-plants with their graceful flat heads—all became part of him.
Our youngest Lila-Jeanne is desperate for the tiniest of frogs that she cups in her hands to migrate to Halifax. She is planning on how she will care for this little life. Nothing that we say dissuades her. Finally big sister Nellie-Rose weighs in and gets her on side with leaving the frog behind. She closes her argument with one simple statement. “Lila,” she says, “it’s because they want to live in nature.”
We wrap up the trip early but there’s still time left for a little back country teeter-tottering before we hit the road for the city. Bumped up on top it’s a whole different world.
As we leave Kejimkujik a white tailed deer breaks through the trees. The doe stops in her tracks and looks at us – timeless.
I want to give a shout out tonight to a writer who has shared a ton of stories on outdoor play – Bethe Almeras, The Grass Stain Guru. Thanks Bethe for all your great words and ideas, keep ’em coming.