Tuesday, June 17, 2014


A person, object or event that is considered to be of a very high standard.
from Urban Dictionary, my favorite place for unique definitions, 
often quite inappropriate, but sometimes just right for our days.

Today started early.  For a summer vacation day.  But with Nicholas and Julia headed to camp and therefore, argh, lunches to pack, and with an ambitious plan developed by Elliott the day before --while he was being dragged on a few too many errands with me, it needed to start a bit earlier in order for it all to happen.  Elliott's ideas and plans get more elaborate, complicated, and impossible in direct correlation to just how exasperated he becomes with my need to have food in the house, or to clean the coop, or to brush my teeth.  His plans indeed are of a very high standard.

Before the kids were up, and before Jonathan headed to work, he and I headed down the hill to the spot where we store our kayaks during the winter months.

It's that time of the summer here when the plants are taking off with their growth and the kids have not yet been tromping around the yard enough to have worn their summer paths through the bramble.  And so, the easiest way through the thickening blackberries and phlox and other scrub I can't identify is to carry it skinny -- a phrase immortalized by Nicholas' guitar teacher to remind those children who carry their guitars horizontally through his impeccably clean white hallway to please do so vertically.  Here in our yard carry it skinny means bare arms up.  To avoid scratches.

Believe it or not, in this field of grass lie two Fedco willow trees, and three kayaks.  

Oh yes.  And a bench.  Which, with its lovely view out onto the river, clearly needs to be used more.

Down here, beyond the meadow/survival of the fittest experiment, are the stairs built by the previous owners of our house which descend the steep bank down to the river where we launch our kayaks.  

These stairs have been mended and repaired a great deal.   

But given that they are built over a very wet and drippy drainage route down the bank, they buckle and rise and dance throughout the cold months and sway and rot and collapse during the warm months.  And therefore, this summer, they are being replaced.  By some lovely skilled people (and therefore, blessedly, not us) who will begin work in a month or so.  

The work will include a dock-ish type thing at the bottom of the bank to replace the one that tore away and floated off just before we moved here, apparently, during a flood.  Because this little mud patch and rock are a bit challenging to use gracefully as a means to get in and out of kayaks.

Its a lovely spot down there, and was even more beautiful this morning in the early light and quiet.  Where the green runs even wilder than at the top of the hill near the bench.

Jonathan and I retrieved one kayak from the slupping mud, and brought it up toward the house. Having had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad experience with getting in a kayak that had not yet been cleaned after its winter storage, and having had a fist-sized spider crawl out and up my trapped leg.  And another time, having found a snake in there, before Nicholas climbed in thank goodness, a hearty spraying and clean out is now mandatory before the first use each year.  So we left the kayak there within hose's reach, to go in to get everyone off to their places for the day.

Once Nicholas and Julia were at camp, Elliott and I had one last errand.  It was part of his scheme for the day.  We were looking for a butterfly net.  And the one we found?  It is quite a net indeed.  An extreme adventure net.  A perfect-for-today's-plan net.  A net so good that I have since returned to the store and bought another.  Because I do believe this Deluxe Net is so fabulous that I might just be able to use it for swarm catching as well.

It is sturdier, for creatures more solid than fluttery.

And?  It has a telescoping handle.  

We do so love our Deluxe Net.  Get yourselves one.  It will change your life.  I am embarrassed to repeat the name of the store that provided this Deluxiousness.  But I paid $8.00 for it.  So I can hardly complain.

Elliott prepped a tank for his netted treasures...as you can see his plan was not necessarily for butterflies and bugs.

And so began the washing of the kayak.

It was slow work, because Elliott was a bit distractible, despite his skipping, giggling, I am getting to do exactly what I want to do enthusiasm.  During the short stroll from spigot to kayak, we had to stop when he found the perfect rock for the tank.

And when he spied spots of red in the strawberry patch.

But we did, eventually, get our chariot cleaned up a bit.

And then we undertook to execute the most challenging part of his plan: getting the cleaner kayak, partially filled with water, down the steep bank using the aforementioned stairs.  Yes, those stairs.  The ones that seem to breathe and sway as though they are alive.  By myself.  Well.  With the help of Elliott.

I tried carrying it.  But it was too heavy and tippy on the uneven ground.  And so, with some head scratching, I decided to take advantage of all the dewy slippery smoothish grass growing in abundance on the bank.  I lifted the stern of the kayak and pushed.  And the bow actually slid along quite nicely.  With Elliott steering.  If he wasn't chasing grasshoppers.  Or butterflies.  Or bugs.

I do believe the kayak/plow and I cut a fairly decent initial path through the scrub to the river for the summer.  Just call me Pa Ingalls. Though I think I actually might be the ox in this scenario.  Hmmm...

There were some tense moments.  Like when I almost decided to smoosh Elliott's hopes and dreams of joy and call it quits.  When the kayak got stuck on the posts of the stairs.  And tipped them further over.

But we did it.  We slid that kayak, washing water still sloshing inside it, down the bank, beside the stairs.

And got it in the river.  I was ready for a nap.  But for Elliott, it was finally happening.  A quick run up the hill for the net, and oops, the forgotten paddles.

By the way, did you know that you can actually do something that will destroy your indestructible Keens?  I found out how today.  It involves mud, and sliding and getting your foot caught on a root while your body hurtles forward as you clutch a sliding kayak.

And we went back down.  Again.

And we were off.  

Once in the kayak, it was all worth it.  Quiet and peaceful and familiar as it is down there for Elliott and I.

Our amazing sledding hill, the one that ends on the bank and shoots you across the frozen river, looks quite different in the summer.

So, too, does the tree that sticks up out of the ice in winter, the tree we skate circles around as if it were the bones of an ancient dinosaur.

We tootled around a bit.  And then we got serious.  We headed upriver.

Past the waterflower patch.

To turtle brook.

We have learned many things from these adventures.  Frogs are fun to catch, and not so fun to contain.  With their muscular jumping and all in a kayak.  It can create some panic.  And some tipping.

But turtles?  They are fun to put in the tank for just a few minutes.  So you can get a good look at them.  And have enough time decide on names for them. 

These two were gifted the distinct honor of being named for Elliott's teachers, two people I think he might be missing quite a bit, before they were safely returned to their river.

It's a tradition for Elliott and I.  This turtling we do on the rare days when it is just he and me at home in the summer.  And of all the beauty down there, there is one view that is my favorite.  It is this one.  Elliott, close and just in front of me.  Smelling of bug spray and sunscreen.  With his flop of summer hair.  Taking it all in.

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