Take a deep breath. Stop whatever you are doing, even if you think it cannot wait. Even if there is a deadline attached to it, and maybe especially then. Close out facebook, email, twitter. Close your computer. Close your eyes and take another breath and look to the window where the miraculous sky meets the horizon. Maybe it will rain. Do not let this deter you.
Take your little one by the hand and let the whole process of putting on shoes and finding sweatshirts be moments at the center of the rippling circles of your life; moments that are still with presence. Open the door and feel the air on your face: sweet with early autumn and cool.
Watch your little one take the steps down from the door confidently, carefully, the height still a challenge. Watch him run then, gleeful towards the grass.
Pull your mind back to this: to the gravel on the road; to the clovers in the grass; to the sky above, spread with gathering clouds. Watch for birds. Watch for unexpected delight. Find a wild apple tree and shake it until the small hard apples rain down. Pick one, the pinkest one, and rub it on your shirt until it gleams. Take a bite. Sweet, tart, fragrant. Offer it to your little one who will be reaching for it eagerly. Watch his delight.
Go to where the road forks and look both ways. Follow your feet. Go wherever. Go slowly. Instead of feeling impatient, look for four leaf clovers. Look for yellow leaves. Look for birds on wires. Look for flags, wind, wires, wings.
The point isn’t about going far; or about exercise; or about anything except this: you, outdoors, with your little one. Offer to hold hands. He might take your hand in his, grabbing two fingers at a time, or he might dash ahead, curls flying in the wind. Either choice is the most joyous thing in the world. Follow the road. Follow your your heart, there, ahead of you in blue pants and a red shirt and little sneakers. Watch him discover what it means to run. Watch how he stops, starts, stops, and finds wonder in everything.
Stop to listen. There is wind. Maybe you will hear the sound of traffic, airplanes, windmills, woods, plastic bags rustling; kids calling; horns; quiet. Listen for the quiet. Hear it between the moments of sound. Wait for it. Wait until you’ve heard it enough to make your heart feel full.
Stop for pebbles. See how many colors you can find. Watch his delight as he finds one, just right, white, the size of his small fist. Watch as he squats down and picks it up.
Here, this one is for you.
Discover just how fun it is to put rocks into your pockets. Go ahead. Try it. Find one. Put it in your pocket. Let your fingers become accustomed to its surface and edge.
Look for beauty. Keep looking. Find it everywhere.
Mud is okay. So is dirty. Let both be. If you’re feeling brave, get dirty too. Squat down. Get on eye level with the ground. What do you see?
Greet the trees. This makes little ones laugh. Say “Hello tree!” This might make the trees laugh too. You can never tell. It most certainly will make you laugh to watch your little one follow gleefully in your lead. “Hi tree! Hi!”
Find a big stick. Resist the urge to worry. Kids are better with sticks than we give them credit for. Watch the stick become everything at once.
A sword, a lamp post, a magic wand.
Pick up a stick for yourself and draw in the dirt, or scratch marks along the sidewalk, or let it bounce along after you and feel the vibration from the sidewalk or the road travel up through it into your fingers, your bones. Stalk your shadows. Contort into awkward positions. Take photos. Make shadow faces and shadow giraffes. Giggle. Walk home. Maybe carry your little one piggy back, or play tag, or sit and wait. Don’t rush, even though you will want to rush. The world will wait.
And when you get back, sink into the couch for a moment. Breath. Kiss your little one. Smell his hair: the scent of autumn air and chocolate graham crackers and dirt. Inhale.
Go back to whatever it was you were doing.