Down and Dirty

Fern and I have fallen in love.

With each other, yes. (Her morning wake-up routine now includes tackling me with baby kisses. FTW!). But also with San Bruno Mountain and The Bog Trail.

Fern isn't saying words yet, but she is the queen of onomatopoeia. Her favorite sound effect right now is from We're Going on a Bear Hunt. "Oh no mud! Thick oozy mud! We can't go over it. We can't go under it! OH NO, we've got to go through it! SQUELCH, SQUERCH, SQUELCH, SQUERCH."

Note that she is eating mud off the end of a stick. Now, before you freak out (Mother!), there is growing evidence and research that our overly hygienic modern conditions are actually making us sick. We all need contact with the harmless organisms found everywhere in nature…they make our immune systems stronger and they also nourish brain health. Mice kept in germ free environments not only had immune system failures, they also exhibited high anxiety. So I’m getting off my soap box (literally) and encouraging you to get out there and get dirty! (See links for more info and ideas).

She was in heaven with all the mud and tiny little streams. When we left this part of the trail, she turned around and wistfully said, "Dai dai. Dai dai." (Fern-ese for Bye bye.)

Beyond being the number one fan of dirt, Fern is also a hiking pro. At 18 months, we wandered this trail for over an hour, and she was ecstatic. For the first 14 months of her life, I carried her everywhere we went. And that everywhere included some kind of stroll through a park or little hike in the woods, everyday. Is that why she is so at home on our walks, why she seems to “get it”? I don’t know, but I like to think so.

"You love me. You love me not. You love me not?!? Off with your head!"

San Bruno is one of the best places to see wildflowers in the immediate Bay Area. Fern was my scout, keeping her eye out for blooms. She came across this little gathering of asters, and after bending down to smell them, she took her seat right in the middle of the trail. And then she proceeded to behead them with great relish, until I intervened with (yet another) talk about being gentle with plants because “they are alive too, just like Leo.”

Lake Elfea

She is super excited about her new galoshes. They are a size too big and often trip her up, but she L.O.V.E.S. them. This was her second time in this great big puddle. Watching her traverse it is a thing of beauty and also a tutorial on how to be “in the moment.” Every step she takes is mindful. Every bubble, every up-swirl of mud, every floating stick is worth her attention. Making her way across takes at least ten minutes, not counting enthusiastic splooshing time at the end.

All is right with the world

My checklist for a successful outing.

1. Baby is covered in 2/3 mud. Check!

2. Baby is happy and tired and doesn’t really want to leave but doesn’t protest either. Check!

3. A change of clothes is necessary due to total soaking from the waist down. Check!

4. Shivery baby gets cozy in the car seat with the heat on full blast and a blankey wrapped around icy toes. Check!

5. Happy baby sings and coos all the way home. Check!

We arrived back to a warm kitchen with a loving Dada waiting for us, fresh rye bread that we had put in the oven before we left ready with butter for our hungry adventurer tummies, and a peaceful evening unfolding after our epic afternoon.

I’d like to make more of our days like this. We have committed to at least one visit to San Bruno every Monday afternoon, and I personally am looking into volunteering there. Beyond the fresh air, the dirt, the opportunity for play…the time we have spent there lately is so good for the soul. A world in crisis doesn’t loom quite as large when we are appreciating glowing lichen and miniature wild strawberry flowers. An hour worth of SQUELCH SQUERCH is good medicine for what ails ya.


4 thoughts on “Down and Dirty

  1. i love SB Mountain. So far not able to hike there because of school schedule this year. But i took a monkeyflower clipping last year and now i have one growing in my yard, so happy about that!

    1. so awesome on the MF clipping! i was thinking of doing that with some of the elderberry there, but i actually have never done that (propagated from a clipping).

  2. that sounds lovely! (also, when i was a kid and my parents were building their house, i used to sit in the piles of wet clay and stuff my face with it. mmm, clay!)

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