Breathe in Spring
Spring is a time of cleansing, growth, dreaming, and goal-setting. At once, it summons your courage and passion to move forward and seize the joy of the season, and sparks the recessed memories and giddiness of childhood.
As the weather starts to catch up with the much-anticipated spring and Washingtonians everywhere cautiously emerge like skeptical groundhogs, I am filled with a sense of excitement. This time of year is the best; We get the vitaminD-filled happiness of the Sun, enough warmth to escape the confines of our houses and frumpy sweatshirts, and the crisp, sweet smell of freshly cut grass in the breeze.
It’s days like these that take me back to playing in what felt like limitless acres of orchards and forests, swinging on the apple tree until dusk, following my grandma around the yard as she planted that year’s flowers, and being towed around in a wagon by my sister.
Given the idyllic backdrop I grew up in, many of my favorite memories involve exploring the woods and glimpsing the wildlife we shared our neighborhood with. One of the sweetest memories I have is of my favorite kitty Nanny Cat touching noses with a young deer in the front yard. Nanny Cat loved playing in the blackberry bushes where all of the fawns stopped for a snack. I wish I would have had my disposable camera on me to capture the cuteness!
The critter adventures didn’t stop there. Over the years, my family had raised Red pig, rehabilitated sick ducklings, and raised a Rex rabbit named Bunny Foo Foo. I was also fortunate enough to grow up with a childhood best friend who raised all manner of animals on her own family’s farm. Over the years she had a goat named Pixie who used to follow me as I walked home, two sheep, a couple of cows, a totally Eeyore-like donkey, chickens, and a series of absolutely beautiful horses. She was an equestrian expert and taught me how to ride and barrel race at the helm of truly magnificent creatures. This was a huge upgrade from the hours I spent climbing the apple trees and pretending the large limbs were my horses.
My family spent a lot of time outside with me as well. We took many trips down to the Porter Creek to play in the water, fish, and catch teeny tiny crawdads. I loved splashing around in the freezing cold water on hot summer days as I watched my Florida-native father fish from the warm comfort of the riverbank. For as much as I loved playing in the Porter Creek and swimming in Lake Sylvia in Montesano, I preferred being up in the mountains picking wild berries. Partly because I really enjoyed our family outings, and partly because I loved pretending I was Briar Rose, aka Sleeping Beauty, (I was around 5 or 6 at the time) as I wandered around with my little berry bucket. Nothing compares to carrying around buckets of blackberries while noshing on handfuls of salmon berries along the way.
When we weren’t out traipsing around the woods finding vittles, we were growing everything under the sun in Grandpa’s garden. Add to that the fact that my grandparents, who lived on the plot of land next to us, also had an orchard (of sorts) full of cherry, apple, and yellow and cherry plum trees, and you’ll understand how none of the grandkids ever went without a smile and their daily fruits and veg. A bonus awaited any of the grandkids brave enough to push past the garden fencing and orchards. Although the older cousins tried for many years to keep their discovery a secret, the younger generation eventually reached the mysterious fort, making us all officially cool kids… we thought.
I would be remiss if I didn’t end my outdoor adventures by acknowledging the well-loved Big Wheel. Despite a decade divide between the OG cousins and my cohort of cousins, we all shared summers, tears, wounds, and laughs on that tiny plastic tricycle. I don’t think anyone could ever total the number of skinned knees, squashed noses, road-burnt elbows, and peroxide tears we accumulated by taking turns riding the miraculous Big Wheel down our steep hill.
It was by far the best money anyone had ever spent.
As I get older and hear how other children grew up, I feel truly lucky to have had the ability and opportunity to run wild and free. I explored all over the hillside and woods during the day and spent my mornings and evenings tucked up inside where my mom encouraged me to keep my imagination going. For those who don’t know, my mother is an artist and a creative soul. She invented what we call the “Doodle Game,” wherein players randomly scribble lines or crazy shapes on a piece of paper and then pass it to the other person to see what they can envision and create. My mom and I still play this game from time to time and it never gets old.
Not many people can say that they had a mom as cool as mine. She was so patient and encouraging — I mean she let me paint on my bedroom walls as a little girl! If she was painting my room bubblegum pink, my short little six-year-old arms were following behind her painting flowers as tall as I could reach. My Barbie garden wouldn’t be the end of the amazing personalized bedroom themes — or the rest of the house for that matter.
By the time I was about 10 or 11, my mom had decided that my years of playing the doodle game had primed me to take on the main living room mural wall. This wall was front and center as soon as you came through the main entrance and had been almost every color you can imagine. My favorite mural was a giant silver tree my mother had painted so that we could hang our photos on a literal family tree. By the time we moved out of our house, each wall must have been ten layers thick with paint and chock full of love.
All in all, I can say that I had an amazing childhood. The memories leading up to my teenage years were full of exploration, excitement, and imagination, and carried me — as they still do — through the heat of summer, the start of school, the dead of winter, and right back into the jungle of tall, sweet spring grass.