Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Nature Walk

After nearly a month of frigid temperatures, it finally got to be above 40 last Thursday.  Now, I'm a Florida girl - so you know that it has been really cold when I go out in 45 degree weather in just a long sleeve t-shirt and seriously contemplate a picnic.  I decided it was probably too cold for a picnic, but by gosh those kids were getting outside for some much needed airing out.

Elisabeth's preschool class had gone on a "nature walk" earlier in the week where they took bags and picked up little things like pine cones and acorns and brought them home to mommy so that everyone can have just a little bit more junk in their house.  Elisabeth just loved the nature walk.  She has grand plans of constructing a pine cone lantern.  I don't want to know the specifics.

Our neighborhood is surrounded by a flood plain that about half of the houses, including ours, back up to.  It is a bunch of woods and fields with two decent sized streams.  We often take walks down there, when it isn't 18 degrees with gale force winds.  Thursday seemed like a perfect day for an adventure, so off we went on our own 'Nature Walk.'  I gave each girl a shopping bag, put on our mud boots, and off we went in search of nature.

About half way in, Elisabeth realized that there weren't many pine cones or acorns.  We collected some spiny spherical things that fell from some kind of spiny-sphere producing tree (I should really consider a career as a science teacher, with my fancy undergrad degree in microbiology...).  We tried to find some deer bones or snake skins but came up empty handed.  We did find some grass covered in fox spray, but I vetoed that entering my house.

We ended up down at the stream where we skimmed stones for about 20 minutes.  Charlotte "plunked" stones (appropriately called "plunkers").  Elisabeth found "skimmers" and managed to get a three hopper.  I threw sticks for the insane lab puppy to fetch in the water.  It was glorious.

As we walked home, Elisabeth began to lament our lack of "nature finding."  We stopped to look around and saw a flock of eastern bluebirds in the field across the stream from where we stood.  Male bluebirds are one of my favorite animals - they are so blue and so pretty.  As an aside, they are also perhaps one of the dumbest animals I've ever observed - they continually build nests in our bluebird boxes but don't sit on them and then the wrens move in and kick them out.  Anyway, the girls and I watched the bluebirds for awhile as I explained that the male bluebirds get more brightly colored as we approach spring.  It was all very serene and calming.

Until a hawk came flying in low, right over Elisabeth's head, and attacked a male bluebird right before our very eyes.  Grabbed it out of mid-air.  I'm pretty sure that my girlish shriek scared the hawk, who did not end up killing the bird.  My girlish shriek also scared the living bejeezus out of the kids, far more than the hawk had.

So I said to Elisabeth - "you wanted a nature walk?  That was a bona fide nature walk."  The entire walk home, the girls grilled me with questions about hawks.  Did the bird die?  Why do hawks eat birds?  What else do hawks eat?  Will the hawk eat Ginny (the puppy)?  Do hawks eat fish?  Can hawks swim like ducks?Do people eat hawks?  And my favorite, from Charlotte, as she looked up at me with huge brown eyes, "Hawk eat me, mommy?"

"Only if you misbehave, kid."