I recently received an unexpected, and magical, gift. A fully scheduled day became unscheduled. It could have been disappointing — a day of travel and soccer with my son who will soon be leaving for the next chapter in his life was canceled at the very last minute. I had taken the day off from work. Should I go in now that I was available? Persuade Josh to do something else with me? Or? As I pivoted to think about all the things I could do with this suddenly empty day, I chose to see if the river was low enough to cross over into the Avoca Prairie, one of my most beloved spots in the river valley.
Everything about the day felt magical — a gift of time. Nothing I had to do, the day had already been claimed. Now it was just time. Empty time. A blank slate: I took a detour, I explored a backwater, I watched swans … when my journey reached the crossing into the prairie I was enthralled to see that it was open! I crossed over and entered. Maybe it is the awareness that it isn’t always possible. Maybe it is the open space away from human sounds. Maybe it is all the memories I have of other gifted times there. Whatever the reason, being deep in the prairie is restorative for me.
When I reached the river, I sat against a prone tree trunk, no doubt deposited by previous high waters, my back to the river. I could hear the occasional fish jump, the calls of geese, ducks and Sandhill cranes. In front of me the rustle of the remaining dry grasses whispered. I listened for the answer to why it is so restorative for me … .
The only human sound was the far-away whistle of a train as it passed over the river miles upstream. The view is long at the prairie. It pulls my focus into the distance. The outline of trees on the top of the far ancient riverbank are barely discernible. But they are there, marking space and time beyond my small life. I can watch the eagles play in the air stream. The sun and the breeze alternately caress me. I don’t matter very much out there. The worries and demands of work, home, parenting fall away in that wide open space. If I let them. If I take the gift of time and let it be. If I look up from my book, or my phone, or even my time with friends and strangers, and truly focus on the horizon, on the outline of faraway trees, just to see them, to feel their presence and their history. The demands of my everyday world seem to quiet when I am listening to the chorus of the spring peepers finishing another season, or the splashes of fish in their watery world. And when I let nature caress me, I feel soothed and calm.
Now to remember to take the time to experience that restoration, to claim it regularly, not just when it is a gift, to find it even in my backyard … . I hope that, in this space, I have been able to share with you the magic that I found, and the peace it brought to me.
Jennifer Moore-Kerr is a mom, a free spirit and a barefoot dancer living in Spring Green where she can walk to the river and commune with friends. She can often be found welcoming locals and visitors alike to the Spring Green General Store where she tends the register most days. She is delighted to share her thoughts on kids, time and nature on a rotating basis with other columnists focused on creativity, education and kids.