“It would be too soon for us to say: Let the children be free; encourage them; let them run outside when it is raining; let them remove their shoes when they find a puddle of water; and, when the grass of the meadows is damp with dew, let them run on it and trample it with their bare feet; let them rest peacefully when a tree invites them to sleep beneath its shade; let them shout and laugh when the sun wakes them in the morning as it wakes every living creature that divides its day between waking and sleeping. But, instead of this, we anxiously ask ourselves how we can make a child sleep after the sun has risen, and how we can teach him not to take off his shoes or wander over the meadows. Where, as the result of such restraints, a child degenerates, and, becomes irked with his prison, kills insects or small harmless animals, we look on this as something natural and do not notice that his soul has already become estranged from nature. We simply ask our children to adapt themselves to their prison without causing us any trouble.” (Maria Montessori writes in The Discovery of the Child).
I push her in the stroller along our narrow neighborhood lanes, while Penny pulls, pees, sniffs and rolls. After awhile, we go home where I leave the carriage and the dog so that I can take baby back outside, just her and me. In a week, she'll be one. Yesterday, she walked a bit on her own and today, I want to take her to the wooded path beside our house for her first hike. She's wearing a pair of sparkly sneakers with Velcro straps, white socks, striped pants and a tank top. Not quite the attire of a Jane Goodall, Rachel Carson or Gertrude Bell, but we won't be going very far. She holds two of my fingers as we trample up and down the slight slope of golden pine needles, brown leaves and dirt. She falls and sits and crawls and finds sticks to sneak in between her teeth. She looks up and around and smiles and babbles and points. Tree. I say. Tree. Tree. I show her five tiny pinecones. Pinecone. I say. Pinecone. Pinecone. I draw in the dirt with a small Stick Stick Stick. She copies me, holding it between her fingers and carving lines into ant tunnels and worm trenches. Ohhh wind, Amelia! Wind. Wind. Feel the Wind? She wobbles as she walks, but she's fearless even after she falls and flops onto her back. Her cheeks pink as she pants from this work of walking, squatting, sitting, and standing. She pauses, plops down in the middle of the path and pinches a yellow Leaf Leaf Leaf between her fingers before tearing it to pieces. My little explorer's eyes are bright with curiosity.
Before I birthed her, I feared Time would trick me with distortion. I worried my seconds would be swallowed by sleep or sleepy wakefulness. Worried my minutes might speed up like a Buster Keaton comedy with my beloved bloopers snipped and left to dust and boot scuffs on the cutting room floor. I worried the hours, days, weeks, and months might simply go missing as if stolen by the stars, sun and this rapidly spinning earth. But this still feels like a sober speed, clear and unaltered. It feels like a year since I sat at home waiting for my body to shudder and quake, to split open and push her out. It feels like a year since I introduced her to air, since the nurse propped her warm fuzzy head beneath my breast so that she could drink milk from me for the first time. A year since I bled between my legs and wept and pleaded to a room full of doctors: Why won't she come out? after her heart rate slowed and they threatened me with emergency surgery. It feels like a year of gradually lengthening limbs and the rounding of cheeks, thighs and tummy; a year of singing silly songs our sweet Lead Belly lullaby; a year of smiling, worrying, cooing and dancing. It feels like a true year. From her first social smile to belly laughs. From wet pink gums to eight white teeth. From banana bits to blueberries, yogurt smoothies, sunny side up eggs and bread. From her first roll to sitting straight, to crawling, to standing and now to walking. This feels like an honest year because I am excited (not woeful or weepy) for her to speak syllables, words, sentences and stories; to play games with other children; to run, climb, and jump, and to sit on my lap while I read an entire stack of picture books....but I'm in no hurry. Nature leads her and I follow. It leads her up our steep staircases; leads her to crawl laps around the coffee table, and to pull tissues out of tissue boxes and clothing out of laundry baskets and balls out of her toy box. She is absorbing her environment as Maria Montessori said she would, absorbing it like the Dirt Dirt Dirt absorbs the Rain Rain Rain.