It's ok, we're all going to die anyway.

There was a brief reprieve from the intense cold that gripped the northeast recently, and I leapt at the opportunity to get out into the woods. It took the regular yet absurd amount of cajoling, but I actually got my children out the door for a hike- boots, gloves, hats and everything!

We trekked down the trails and felt the crisp air smack our faces in a wonderfully refreshing way. Late Fall in New England reveals so many pleasures to those who are hardy enough to seek them out. We ran and skipped down the trails, our lungs coming alive again thanks to the glorious fresh cold air. For a moment, I considered all the places and seasons that one might die, and wondered if maybe in the woods in the snow would be somewhat preferable, relatively.

By the time we were a good ways in from the road, the silence was everywhere, filling in the spaces between our teeth and folds of our brains, cleaning out the dust. The thick silence was broken only by the crunching of our boots in the leaves and ice, the soft paddling of a large beaver in waters of the lake... and the intermittent bickering between my children. They actively seek out things to inspire a pissy debate, so their arguing has become the sour white noise of my life lately.

I pushed ahead, refusing to let their bullshit dampen my joy at breathing deeply among my dear old friends the trees. We rounded a twist in the trail and came upon a group of long haired teenagers in dark cloaks. We had definitely interrupted their quiet group, as a few peered at us with shy defensive eyes, their cloaks swinging down from the branches where they were perched. A few of them were holding bows and arrows, and one was weaving a little something with pine needles, their long delicate fingers moving carefully, their legs solidly wrapped around a branch a few feet off the ground.

Although I knew for sure he was totally intrigued, I dared not look at Arlo’s face, lest I chase away what very well what might have been a pivotal moment for him. I wished to say, "There’s lots of ways to be a human on earth: here’s one cool example!"

If those words left my mouth, even well after the encounter, I ran the risk of shining a light on a nascent little moment in my child's consciousness, causing it to shrivel and hide. Better to allow the possibilities to bloom slowly on their own time, under the cover a child's own heart.

I continued walking, keeping real casual and saying a quiet hello to the group as we passed. My kids followed behind me slowly, maintaining a curious and impressed silence as they passed by the group. We hiked along the edge of the mostly frozen lake, stopping at a wide inlet to allow our eyes to be dazzled by the huge expanse of ice spread out in front of us. My kids crouched in the frozen mud, and as is their religious custom, immediately located the nearest and biggest rocks and sticks for their elaborate woodland ritual of hucking, bashing, whacking, and sometimes screaming.

I bore silent and respectful witness to the rituals for a few moments, until they were clearly so deep in their trance, that my presence was not only not required, but perhaps distracting, inappropriate even.

With utmost reverence, I backed away slowly, employing own special silent ritual of praying that they won't notice my rapidly declining fake interest and immediately call me back into service. I figured I had a minute or two of actual peace in the woods while they played, and as I am never one to decline a sudden gift of time, I frantically tried to figure out how to best enjoy my sudden (semi) alone time.

Should I do lunges right here and strengthen my glutes and quads?!

Should I jog up the trail and back a bit?

Maybe some woods yoga?!

The excitement of the possibilities left me somewhat paralyzed, so I stared at a big patch of lichen on a nearby tree, trying to really SEE it and be totally present in the actual moment right then and there and breathe and revel in the fact that no one was monologuing at me about star wars lego characters or any other longwinded pre-school topic.

My thoughts wandered as I admired the finer folds of the light green lichen, and my ears perked up as heard Reuben and Arlo laughing together. Not just little giggles, but deep hearty belly laughs. They were bashing the ice up into chunky 'meatballs', and 'serving' them to the 'customers' by chucking them across the lake. They had settled into a joyful and hilarious play flow together, and lucky me, my little woodland reprieve was being extended! I had been granted some time for uninterrupted thoughts in the woods, and I might be wrong, but I think that's pretty much one of the main ingredients for sanity, right?

So I could have done lunges or squats and jogged around like a goober, but not too far from the meatball factory, there was newly fallen tree that beckoned to me. If one of my young meatball chefs got suddenly cracked in the face with a stick (a very common yet unfortunate ice restaurant injury, I'm told), then I could be there in a flash. I was right nearby yet so very far away as I laid my body down along the length of the trunk. I opened my eyes to the sight that truly never gets old; looking up in the forest. The circle of bare trees standing over me, calmly and gently swaying a bit in the wind, forced me to remember that humans are tiny, silly, and so very impermanent. I laid on the big beautiful corpse of one of their tree siblings or tree elders and remembered yet again, "oh right! I am a micro speck in the universe and I'm going to die one day!" 

What a relief to be reminded, lest I continue to take everything so damn seriously all the time. I heard more meatballs skid across the ice, followed by outrageous peals of kid laughter. I fell in love with my kids all over again, despite the fact that they are often horribly annoying. Or maybe I even decided to love them extra because of that fact. With the trees as my witnesses, I think I fell in love with myself again, life mistakes, fat folds, big teeth and all, because really, it's just too exhausting and time consuming to keep up the critiques. I stared up at the trees, the sky and clouds above the branches dazzling my eyeballs, resisting the urge to admit that I was getting cold. If I got to choose, dying in the woods in the snow might actually be my first choice, but definitely not today, I thought.

I heard the crunching of many boots coming along the trail nearby, the kids in cloaks were on the move, going deeper into the forest together. They moved gently and quietly, seemingly practicing light footfalls on the earth, literally and figuratively. I know they spotted me, as I heard one kid whisper, "Oh my god, look at that mom!"

I could have called out from my trunk where I was still blissfully supine, "There’s lots of ways to be a parent on earth, and here’s one cool example!", but I took my cues from the trees and stayed silent.

I'd like to think that we all had a little non-verbal human exchange that day, Arlo witnessing a handful of non-binary kids relaxing in the woods, and those same kids witnessing a mother having a few unabashed moments of exquisite solitude and silence... Or Arlo immediately forgot about all of them, and they went farther along the trail and laughed about that pathetic mom who was so beaten down by her children that she had to lay her tired ass down in the woods on a sunny afternoon.

Either way is fine though, because we are tiny, and completely silly, and we really are just going to die one day.