Monday, June 13, 2011

If you go down to the woods today...

Woke up this morning, looked out the window and could not believe it was June in Israel. Thick grey overcast clouds blotted out the sun and a brisk breeze had trees and flags dancing a samba.

If I didn't know it was June I would have been expecting rain. And you know how much I adore a good rain storm. Well any rain actually. Only rain+June+Israel = incredibly remote possibility. Remote, but not completely impossible.

As of 15:00 this afternoon though there is no sign of rain - one can but yearn. It has been an absolutely gorgeous day for being out in the woods - cool, cloudy, breezy - what an unexpected gift during the usually searing month of June.

I've come to relish these regular get-togethers under the trees. Not that my hometown isn't pleasant enough, but it is so invigorating to have a regular escape from cookie cutter concrete and asphalt.

It's lovely for the kids to have the chance to just play in and with nature, climbing trees, digging in the sandy soil with sticks and carobs, building with stones, collecting seeds and leaves and the odd snail shell. There's a good bunch of folks who come too and it creates a pleasant and safe environment in which to allow the young kids some freedom to wander and explore a bit.

Contrary to popular opinion though (you know who you are) I'm not all starry eyed earth mother about these days out. There are no loos out in the woods. No running water. I often come home sporting the odd bug bite. The sandy soil, leaf litter and pine needles do seem to get everywhere, falling out of  the darndest of places when I get the kids (and sometimes myself) changed into PJs come evening.

So yes, a day out in nature does come with some organisational challenges for the parent of small kids. Certain trees do seem to get well irrigated even in the dry season. It feels as though we schlep with enough food and water for an army and enough toys for a few neighbourhood preschools. Many of the other families just bring with huge witch's cauldrons and cook fresh food over the fire while the kids play. Brings a whole new meaning to outdoor kitchen.

Then there is the usual fight over sunhats. Big girl is by now a well drilled Israeli child. Outdoors means hat, water and comfortable walking shoes. Baby is still coming to terms with the hat part. Sometimes also the shoe part.

Trees do offer shade but it isn't total and on a more typical June day you can fry while taking a midday walk on the path down to the spring or sitting for too long on the swing at the playground where the tree canopy parts just enough to let the strong sun in. So the rule is sunhats or be sorry.

Today was overcast though and Baby was having none of it. At least until he was sitting in the dirt happily minding his own business rooting around for interesting leaves when something small and hard bopped him on the head. A few minutes later the same thing happened to me, only instead of jumping up with a yelp, I calmly noticed that it didn't actually hit my head but landed safely in the brim of my wide Australian bush hat.

We were sitting in the shade of a eucalyptus tree and the wind was blowing in great gusts. Bop, bop, bop went the tree, jettisoning its version of acorns on us. Baby reached for my hat and smiled as it caught the offending pods. Wish I could say the same for his sunhat. Boy has a big head for a toddler but it is still nowhere near adult size and it was pretty useless perched on my head like a book at a finishing school. Bop, bop, bop went the tree on my head. Bop, bop, bop.

So the lesson of the day is this - Australian bush hats are way more useful than just as a sunshade (its usual purpose). They come in really handy for catching the "rain" of eucalyptus seed pod thingies that came flying off the trees and bashing unsuspecting folks on the head. So useful that one should really own at least one per family member, regardless of age. Need an Australian hat to protect against an Australian hazard, right?

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