What might be taken for a precocious genius is the genius of childhood . . . Pablo Picasso
If one cannot enjoy a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all. Oscar Wilde
I’m not sure where I felt it — perhaps it was in my throat or behind my eyes or maybe it was in my heart — this sensation that startled me with its intensity. I had just walked off the early morning plane from Lewiston, Idaho and was finding my way to the terminal in Salt Lake City’s airport where my next plane was parked when it nearly took my breath away. Was it sadness? Or a fullness beyond what I’d experienced before? An up-welling of love? It didn’t matter exactly what the feeling was; I knew what it was about. I had said my goodbyes the night before and it was bedtime and we were all tired and it didn’t hit me then as I drove to my motel by the airport, it didn’t hit me as I fell into bed after a day of hardcore play. But now here it was on this second day of October, the inner uprising of emotion; I was missing the little guy.
And how could I not be missing him? When I arrived in Idaho a week earlier and climbed up those steep townhouse steps, there he was in his mama’s arms waiting for me. And when she placed him on the carpeted floor, my fourteen-and-a-half-month-old grandson Viren smiled his wide whole-face smile and he, who wasn’t a proficient runner when I had last seen him in mid-August, raced like a track star in tip-top shape into my grandma arms, and for a half-an-hour — a half-an-hour!!! — he couldn’t keep his little running feet still. He skittered a cartoonish skitter-dance with those toddler-sturdy legs of his, this way and that, showing me wind-up toys, a pile of books, a balloon on the fly. He danced in place and wore his excitement like a color-filled cloak of joy, no holding it back, no taming it down. And that was just the beginning, the prologue to a week in which I followed his dancing lead, no holding it back, no taming it down.
There is much that I could report on after a trip to a new place, much that satisfied my seemingly insatiable desire for adventure. The trees in Idaho’s panhandle are huge; they rise up on either side of the road as you drive northeast from the college town of Moscow where your kids are now living and the road is windy and it makes your eyes, your eyes that are used to the forests of the northeast and the upper midwest, a bit dizzy as you sit in the backseat beside your grandson who has waked up from his afternoon nap and is playing with your pile of post-its. And it’s worth the reporting to say that the town of Elk River, with its population of 125, seems to be plopped in the wilds of these tall trees, trees that now are shrouded with a foggy mist on this particular Sunday afternoon, and the cedar grove, the one that you have been searching for, that you and your son and daughter-in-law had thought would be a tourist trap along side this windy road, is much harder to find than you had expected. I enjoy this kind of reporting, to share an adventure like this, one that takes you out of your comfort zone, that takes you out of Elk River where you’ve just bought a huckleberry pie and down a two-track road for eleven miles as the rain picks up and the trees seem to grow even taller, an adventure that finally lands you in a parking lot in the middle of nowhere that really is somewhere and to a path and to the moistness in the air and to the smell of cedar and to the most magical grove of the largest fattest trees you’ve ever seen and to the king of them all, a cedar over three thousand years old. It doesn’t take much effort for my legs to skitter-dance when I’m walking down a path embraced by giant cedars. It doesn’t take much effort for my legs to skitter-dance on another day either when climbing a mesa with my family and looking over the fields and farmlands and native grasses of the Palouse Valley or while walking along the banks of the mighty Snake River as it winds its way to the mouth of the Hell’s Gate Canyon.
I’m a skitter-dancer for new adventures. I’m enthusiastic and bold and my spirit loves those tall trees of the Inland Northwest and the power of a river that can cut through a canyon and the rolling hills of a valley that hosts grasses and albino earth worms found nowhere else. So hooray that I danced with the cedars and along that river and on top of the valley. But I wouldn’t be stopped in my tracks, swept over by an emotion as mighty as the Snake, as tall as those trees, if it wasn’t for my dance partner and our sweet skitter-times. This little guy breaks my heart wide open. And when my index finger holds his little hand and we venture forth on our own adventures, I remember how vast a trip around the city block can be, how exciting it is to bend down to the sidewalk and scoop up the acorns, to look up and realize that they fall from the tree, to greet the pumpkins in the neighbors’ front-yard patch with the wave of your hand, and a newly learned, “Hi!”, and then to wave that same little hand, “Bye-bye!” Who needs the fancy restaurant that Mama and Daddy head off to when there’s a Co-op with a deli and an old man sitting at the table next to you who waves and smiles and doesn’t judge your table manners?!? Who needs table manners when the food tastes so good and then it doesn’t anymore and it’s much more fun to toss it on the floor?!? Who needs big trees when there are post-its to play with?!? A city park with a slide that you can climb up all by yourself and a swing that sets you flying — what could be better than that?!? And what could be better for a gal like me who loves adventures than soaking this in, this bundle of living breathing enthusiasm who I hold in my arms, who I squeeze close to me, who stays in my heart as I dance my own cartoonish skitter-dance of excitement?!?