“Let’s hit the road,” I call out as I head toward the door dragging the hiking backpack, the stroller, and my daughter’s favorite stuffed bear. We are taking a walk. It’s going to be our moment of quiet, our time of slow observance. We will stroll the countryside, moo at the cows, and watch the sun dip low in the sky.  As we walk, we will talk about the wind and about flying. We will listen for small sounds, sounds that no one else would hear. We will match fallen leaves to their trees and make up stories for the crickets.

I have it all planned out.

I took this same walk yesterday without my daughter. The whole time I imagined her with me; the two of us out in nature, enjoying the scenery, taking it all in. I imagined her telling someone about the walk ten, maybe even twenty, years later. “My mother used to take me out in nature. That really is what gave me such an appreciation for life. There was this one walk we took…it was just so perfect, and somehow it made me realize that the world was full of wonder. And I carried that with me forever and ever and ever and that’s why I’m such a great person and am President of The United States.”

As we drive off in the car, towards our destination, I can almost hear music playing in the distance. It’s a quiet song, but very emotional, and truly inspired. I cannot wait to begin our journey.

“Okay, honey,” I say as I set the backpack on the ground, “hop in.” She takes one look and shakes her head.

“No mommy. I want to walk.”

“Sounds good,” I agree, not wanting to argue with her desire to frolic freely. I stuff the pack back into the trunk.

“Off we go!”

We take eight, maybe nine steps.

“I think I want the stroller,” my daughter squeaks.

I carry her back to the car, unload the stroller, and buckle her in.

“But Mommy. I need to do the buckles.” She corrects me.

I undo the buckles and wait as she spends the next five minutes securing herself in the stroller.

I begin to get frustrated. I take a deep breath and think of the walk. This really is going to be great.

When she’s finally satisfied with the straps we begin to stroll down the road. I don’t waste any time. I jump right in and start pointing out the beauty. I have this one short walk to introduce my daughter to all the wonders of the world and I’ve already lost at least twenty minutes to the backpack/stroller ordeal.

“Look! The sky!” I say as I wildly gesture up towards the heavens. “What if you could fly like a bird?”

“Oh, Oh,” she says pointing down to a rock that has been sprayed orange by a road crew.  “What if I could touch that orange rock?”

I take her out of the stroller. She touches the rock. I quickly put her back in the stroller. She notices a bottle cap cast to the side of the road. “But Mommy, there’s that!”

“But Sage there’s trees and flowers.”

“AND THAT” she insists, jumping out of the stroller and running to the cap like it’s precious and rare.

I can feel the walk of my dreams slipping away…

Suddenly I realize the magic word that will get us back on track.

“Cow” I shriek, like I’m alerting people to a burning building.

My plan works.

My daughter giggles in delight at the prospect of livestock. She runs back to the stroller and…

…spends five more minutes strapping herself in.

I take many deep breaths. “Isn’t this lovely,” I say.

When she’s finally secured we trot off to the cows. “This is where it will all turn around,” I think to myself. “She’ll watch them graze, notice the grass and the way that the wind bends all living things ever so slightly. It will be profound” But when we get to the pasture, there are no cows in sight. “NO COWS!” my daughter states as if in total shock and disbelief. I know her subtext is, “OH MOMMY, HOW YOU LIE!!”

I frantically begin making up a story about how the cows must be sleeping or having a meeting with Old McDonald, I’ve just got to turn this around.

But then out of nowhere Sage spots a stick that is just her size. The missing cows are forgotten. Our nature walk is back on!

“This will be my very best walking stick,” she says as she brandishes it about, nearly taking out my eye. “Oh and that one too… and one more…that one over there.”

I quickly gather her sticks and place them on her lap, now this is starting to become what I imagined. We are foraging. We are two explorers out on the road.

“Onwards!” I cry and attempt to move us forward, to the maple trees that are just around the corner, to the glistening spider webs and the rock pile where just yesterday I spotted a fox.

But her three sticks have gotten caught in the wheels and the stroller spins and catches and nearly tips over.

“No more walking sticks.” I say, now losing my temper.

“But they are my best,” she begins to cry.

And because I dreamed of walking silently by her side, down the dirt path, and through the meadows, I agree to hold the three walking sticks as I push the stroller.  I nest one under my chin and one under each armpit and trudge on.

Now I’m really starting to feel like a chump. I’m disappointed. I’m tired. I’m done walking!

I can no longer point out the setting sun or the sound of the crickets or the wind on the maple leaves. If I talk, the damn stick will fall from beneath my chin. “Fuck it,” I think to myself. “This walk sucks!”

But then out of nowhere Sage begins to shout, “Stop mommy. Stop. Look right there.”

And she points to something off to the side, just beyond my view.

I sigh.

I put down the sticks.

I unbuckle the straps.

I lift her out of the stroller.

I sigh again.

I follow her to a spot in the grass.

She kneels down.

I kneel beside her.

She extends one tiny finger and shows me a small speck of light that is shining on an even smaller flower. It is absolutely perfect.

We never do manage to spot the fox, or the cows, or achieve enough stillness to really feel the wind or the leaves beneath our feet. But I’m pretty sure I can hear that music playing in the distance as we walk back to the car.

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