Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Slimy Feet, Happy Hearts

Nothing a little soap won't fix
My boys recently spent a week at camp.  I sent them each with a bar of soap, and when I returned to fetch them home, one boy’s was still sealed shut.  Five days later.  Draw your own conclusions as to the cleanliness of their camping agenda.  Mothering boys is an adventure in many things.  Today, as I attempt to find a moment’s peace to write, it is an adventure in patience.  But on that last day of camp, the adventure was germ management, and the unopened soapbox was simply a preview of coming attractions.

Near the bottom of the triple-decker pancake of camping gear, I uncovered a water bottle filled with murky liquid.  Either Aquafina had lowered their standards considerably, or someone had meddled with the contents.  A closer look revealed that I held in my hands a makeshift aquarium and floating within was a small, unhappy fish. 

Now, how can one tell if a fish is unhappy?  Aside from the unmistakable belly float, it’s hard to say.  Fish wear no discernable signs of emotion, at least to my untrained eye.  I studied him, but saw no furrowed brow, nor a burrowed frown.  I was forced to diagnose his unhappy countenance with my own deductive reasoning: who could be pleased living in 16.9 fluid ounces, when they had previously enjoyed a fresh, bubbling current, lively interaction with kin, and above all, an unlimited expanse to explore?  Luckily (or unluckily) for him, one of those enjoyments was to be reinstated.  By the time I had all the sleeping bags, fishing poles, and unopened soap boxes loaded into the Honda, my adolescent fisherman had added two more fishy residents to the confines of the Aquafina aquarium. 

Once home, we headed to the creek and stocked up on some aqua naturale, (i.e. slimy creek water).  Our guinea pig, Brownie, happily donated her old aquarium as the new creek habitat.  She recently upgraded to an extra spacious, deluxe wire cage, complete with a small, blue plastic igloo in which she huddles 21 hours a day.  Glad we invested in the expanded real estate. 

We awoke the next morning to find our aquarium population decreased by one.  The third fish, a shrimpy slip of a minnow, had disappeared.  Three noses pressed to the glass, six eyes searched diligently, but there was no sign of him (or her, who can tell?).  I was forced to deduce that he/she had fallen prey to the appetite of one of the larger fish.  Maybe ‘lively interaction with kin’ was overrated.  I examined them to see if either bore a guilty smile, but found instead, two expressionless fish-faces.  What a stoic bunch, these gill-breathers be.

Three days later, both remaining fish had either suppressed or survived any additional cannibalistic urges.  However, it didn’t seem wise to test the waters any further.  It was time to return them to their native habitat.  Surprisingly, that was fine with my mini-Uftrings.  They had already loaded their bikes with a bucket, net, and even a rake for our trip to the creek.  Clearly, they had no intention of coming back empty-handed.  I was relegated to fish transfer both to and fro.  Within minutes of reaching our destination, an assortment of fish, snails and one tadpole swished around behind the Chocolate Swirl Ice Cream label of our repurposed ‘transport’ gallon.  As I balanced the sloshing water on my bike’s handlebars, I realized that this bucket was now a two-fold source of happiness: First, the cool, creamy dairy joy, and then the slimy, fishy, creeky joy.  I’d be hard pressed to say which my kids liked more. 

What is it about running water that draws humans like moths to a flame?  Dr. Sullivan, my landscape design professor, taught that adding a water feature to any landscape increased the client’s long-term satisfaction with the final product significantly.  Whether it is the soothing sound of bubbling water, or the implication that a pool of cool retreat is nearby, ponds, waterfalls and fountains abound in many landscapes.  I wish one would abound in mine, but for now, it’s not to be.  Thankfully, the creek is just a bike ride away.
Creeking Treasure

Creeking is a cheap kick for kids.  I invested $2 in dime store flip-flops, but bare feet certainly suffice.  For those dedicated to germ management (and horrified by my sealed soapbox), a bottle of hand sanitizer and a towel may be advised.  Otherwise, there are no tickets to purchase, no apps to download, no batteries to replace, and best of all, no screens at which to stare.  Each trip holds fresh discoveries and makes new memories.   With Rock Creek and the Kankakee River winding right through our fine county, unplugged entertainment is just a splish-splash away.  

1 comment:

Casa Mariposa said...

I wish all kids had access to such a wonderful summer. Your kids are luckier than they realize. :o)

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