We woke up Monday morning and went upstairs to have breakfast with our new friends before setting off in search of an adventure.
It’s one of our favorite places.
After a short drive and lunch at the trailhead, we strapped the little ones on backs and set off down a very warm, sunny, and overgrown path. The shade of the forest trees was a welcome respite. A flooded creek washed over the path, and Husband set off upstream – with a few small boys stomping after him in rubber boots. They turned over rocks and inspected brush.
Man Cub squirmed in his sling.
The mamas took some of the littles down the path in search of our ultimate destination, and as we tromped through the muddy, flooded trail the temperature dropped and the sound of crashing water rolled up the valley. Climbing down the small stone embankment was like stepping back into the air-conditioned house. In a word: glorious.
The sleepy Kentucky river was being ambushed just around one of its own bends by a small waterfall stolen directly from a story book. Where the rock bed rose above the shallow water, it was blanketed in a patchwork of mosses. The water carved smaller accent waterfalls where ever it could.
Trees hung over the small canyon, the creek wound through limestone walls, and somewhere off-stage a crew must have been working with painstaking focus to pump in just the right amount of delicate fog – nearly imperceptible, but still captivating.
With Man Cub still snug in the sling, I waded over to the base of the waterfall and let the spray cool our faces. He squeezed my arm and shoulder even as he closed his eyes toward the rock face. It was loud.
After a moment he was ready to get down. He held my hand most of the time, and as he walked around – from one level of rock to another, one mossy patch to the next – I tried to show him things.
Look at the waterfall. Look at the moss over here. Look at the way it filters water in a wall of steady drips over there. Look at the flowers, the butterflies, the fog. Sometimes he looked. Sometimes he didn’t. Mostly, he watched the water and stomped around. Up and down. Back and forth. This little stream to the next, and then back to the first.
Our friends wandered a few yards downstream and discovered another small tributary stumbling down a stone staircase into our creek. Come and see!
I waved and goaded, and finally picked up my little explorer to take him over. He oohed and pointed, but when I put him down so he could climb it with me, he grunted, jerked his hand away from me, and went back to where he’d been for the last 20 to 30 minutes.
You guys go ahead.
Because I’ve learned – or I’m learning – to let him explore at his own pace. (Later, when he got back around to the beautiful and amazing scene I’d tried to show him, he gasped and oohed and pointed like it was the most amazing thing. Because he’d discovered it himself.)
I like sweeping landscapes and picturesque scenes. Detail is nice, but I especially appreciate it for it’s contribution to the whole.
And I want him to see everything because I don’t want him to miss anything. I want him to experience as much as he can. I want him to see and know everything that I can show him.
But is that really experiencing it?
We went back to the same rocks, the same moss, the same drips and currents that we’d been walking back and forth through, and he squatted down to stick his hand in a small fountain. And then the next. And then both at the same time. He walked gingerly between the soft moss clumps and splashed the water that dripped against the wall.
And I started to notice how clear the water really was. And how many different shades of green it could produce. I started to see the red leaves and the spiral texture of the moss and the small fish that darted through it. I felt the cold water and listened to the silence inside its thundering falls and I started to wonder what was the use of seeing everything – of doing or knowing everything – if we never really experience anything?
Am I missing out if I don’t get to the vista around the next bend, or if I I never put my hands in the water? Is it more important to see the end of the trail, or the spectrum of greens in one frame?
Both have their virtues, and I wouldn’t say I’m converted from panos to macros, but I am learning that there is a balance to exposing him to new things and letting him explore at his own pace – however slow that may be. He’s thorough, and I think maybe it’s been me – not him – at the greatest danger of missing something.