Little Seals

It was a day off for all of us. A day off from school, our weekend visitors had finally dissipated, and graduate courses had not yet begun. My house was a mess, but I wasn’t of a mind to deal with it just then. No, we all needed to be outside.

As if we were going to spend the afternoon at the beach, I grabbed an old quilt and a book and ushered the children outside (though, we all had considerably more clothes on than for a beach trip). You cannot walk in our yard right now, because you’ll either slip on the icy crusts of snow, or you make crackling dents just deep enough to trip you up as you try to walk along. This leaves you with one choice: to slide.

We all did it. I threw my book and phone into my sweatshirt’s front pocket an lay flat on quilt. The kids quickly skimmed down our hilly yard in their sleek and shiny winter coats and snowpants, glistening like little seals hurrying to where the ice meets the sea. But instead of water, they were met with our little rock wall that separates a few miles of forest from our yard. They quickly hopped over and continued to slide down on their bellies.

I found my usual spot, a fallen tree, thick and sturdy and now covered in icy snow. I spread my quilt over it and sat criss-cross, invoking the Lorax as I straightened my spine and spread my collar bones apart, feeling my spirit’s roots sink into the frozen earth. The children were out of sight now, though I could still hear their shrieks of glee that are brought forth when one feels as though what they are doing must be quite like flying. It took them several minutes to climb together back up the slippery hills, and I could see them grasping onto trees and branches, hauling themselves up and crawling, stopping periodically to wait if the other one fell behind.

Though it takes a long time and hard work to clamber back to the top, they were eager to fly down again…and again and again. Each time was as thrilling as the last. I could tell because their voices thrust me back into my own childhood, cold afternoons spent sledding in a neighbor’s back yard or at my grandfather’s house, gliding on that crust of icy snow down little hills into little dips and pushing myself forward again. I remember the joy of propelling forward with such ease and speed, racing friends down or cuddled with them in the same shared sled. Of the wistful and rich loneliness that is the woods in January in Maine.

 

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