We bundle up and I hand each daughter a Ziploc bag, "for your natural treasures." I say. I hand the only working flashlight I can find to my three year old and out we go. There is a burst of air as we step out onto the front steps. "Smell the rain!" I shout. OK yes, I'm a little excited, but it really did smell amazing. My girls take a deep breath and smile. We walk out onto the lawn and see rivulets of water rushing and pooling in the dusky light. "Where are the ants?" says my little one. Ah, the teacher in me smiles, there is a great question for investigation. "What do you think?" I answer and she begins to look around intently shining the flashlight here and there. "I think they are hiding, it's too cold for them out here," chimes in my six year old. We keep searching for ants and discover some Pansies drooped over in the flower bed. These become our first natural treasures and are carefully placed in the bags. There is so much to see, in our own front yard! I know it is such a cliche but also so true. We look at the lichen on the bark of a tree, pick up some spiky leaves, and some wood chips. I suddenly remember the standing magnifying glass I bought a year ago, bingo, we'll set up a little table to display and observe our collections when we get inside.
We head to the sidewalk and find a great puddle near the mailbox. "Let's jump," I suggest and we splash and stomp with glee. Why did I put the waterproof spray on the boots if we're never going to get them wet, right? Just then my six year old turns and points to something caught in the gutter. I pick up a soggy box from a brownie mix we made days ago. "Hey, those are our brownies!" exclaims my little one. "This must have escaped from the recycling box yesterday and blown into the street," I explain. "We should throw it away," says my older daughter. Again, my little teacher heart pitter patters, a whole investigation of trash and recycling starts to form in my mind. "Where are the ants?" says my little one again with more intensity. "I think they are snuggled in their dens underground right now, it is too cold and wet for them to be out," I say thinking, but not to wet and cold for us!!!
I feel tingly, I feel energized, I feel like we have been out here in a magical world for hours. Nope, about 12 minutes. And at that moment I am hooked. This is going to be GREAT!
We stomp in a few more puddles, discuss how we could dam the water sheeting down the driveway, and scoop some wood chips away from the corner of a puddle and watch the water run free.
"Let's go inside," says my ant lover and we head in. Coats off, boots off, warm up our hands and we rush to find the magnifying glass. I quickly throw a dish towel over a side table and there is our new Natural Treasures Museum.
Happy Happy New Year I think to myself.