Thursday, October 04, 2018

The Hallmarks Of A Day Well Lived

We set ourselves a goal. We were going to the Woodland Park Rose Garden, a place many of us had never been even though it's adjacent to the zoo, a place we've all been. The weather has recently turned toward fall, but the last of the roses are still there for the smelling. Not only that, but the park's department has recently added a sensory garden to the the 2.5 acres which includes a small playground and we thought we'd like to check that out.

But first there was the hike to the bus stop, uphill along Fremont Avenue, to the BF Day Elementary School where some of the kids know their older siblings attend. Along the way we spied yellow, orange, red, and purple leaves. Some of us tasted licorice-flavored sprigs from a towering wild fennel plant. Others discussed the grisly prospect of being run over by a car.

At the bus stop, we designated a "calm" zone (next to the road) and a "go crazy" zone (away from the road). A couple kids attempted to climb the cracked and bulging concrete retaining wall that helps hold the soil under the more than a century old school building. One of them succeeded, standing above us, declaring himself "the tallest one here!"

We knew we were waiting for the number 5, a number of significance given that most of us are anticipating our fifth birthday. Riding the bus is usually the highlight of every excursion; sometimes we just go out with no goal other than to ride mass transit. When the bus finally arrived, we filed down the aisle, rushing to find seats near a window or next to our friend or in the "bendy part" (preschool slang for the pivoting section of articulated buses). We were loud with our collective excitement. I imagine we annoyed some of our fellow passengers, but others smiled at us, some even happily giving up their seats, but the children were oblivious either way, up on their knees, pressing their noses to the windows, enjoying the freedom of not being strapped into car seats, some even experimenting with standing as the bus moved.

As we passed familiar sites, children called out, "I've been there before!" or "This is close to my house!" or "That's where my friend Sophia lives!" It's familiar turf for most of the children, made new by the experience of seeing it from the expansive windows of the bus in the company of everyone. As we disembarked at the southwest corner of the zoo park grounds, several children enthused, "I've been here before!"

We knew we were not far from the south entrance to the zoo and our momentum carried us through the grassy, still greenly shady park, in that direction. Arriving at the zoo gates our group broke into two with half the children stopping to play in the leaves that had collected under the large oak that stands there, while the others made a beeline for the brass baboon statues, upon which they clambered. It was a gusty day and we threw leaves, creating small tornados in the swirling wind. Before long we were one big group again as almost all the kids opted for throwing leaves. Then, after some time, we moved on.

The rose garden is a "formal" place as rose gardens tend to be, featuring tidy, well-labeled beds, a gazebo, a couple of fountains, lawns, and maze-like walkways. My idea was for the adults to spread themselves out so that the kids would have the freedom to explore on their own, but the children had other ideas, opting instead to flock mostly together, first to the smell roses (where one boy learned the lesson of roses by breaking off a thorn in his forearm), then to the gazebo, then to each of the fountains, then to the sensory playground. A parent had brought along blueberries and apples from her parents' trees.

The playground became a kind of base of operations, then, with children adventuring off into the wider garden in groups of threes and fours, wandering the walkways, getting "lost" behind hedges. I found two girls meditating upon a woman who was meditating. We talked to gardeners who were weeding the beds. Some of us met the dogs that another patron was walking. We tried out the quirky musical instruments that have recently been installed. We played there, smelling the roses both literally and figuratively until we were ready to go.

We returned the way we had come because we had seen several climbing trees we wanted to try out. We stopped to wonder about the war dead memorial statue that serves as the bullseye to this part of Woodland Park. We then made our way to our bus which took us to the stop at the top of the Troll's Knoll community garden where we ran and rolled wildly up and down the native plant covered hill nestled up against Highway 99.

Finally then, we made our way back to school to find the parents who had not come with us waiting. It was a perfect day of smelling roses. We went home tired, happy, and with stories to tell, which are the hallmarks of a day well lived.

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