posts tagged with 'adventure'

two Monday outings

Lijah swinging high in the baby swing, brothers heading up a hill behind him

spring adventure in winter

To let Leah start the week off with some solid hours of paying work, the boys and I are doing Monday morning outings these days. It's wonderful for all concerned, especially since our Sundays now feature a lot of stressful child-care for Mama and a lot of stressful church management for me; we're quite happy to reverse the picture (and subtract the stress!) on Mondays.

Last week I took the boys out to Jam Time in Maynard, an indoor play space for kids one through six that features lots of great toys and climbing things. And a ball pit.

Lijah in a sunbeam in a ball pit

sunny ball boy

Everybody had a great time (though I was needed so little I wished I had brought a book along). The play structures were lots of fun for the bigger two—Harvey got some solid practice in on the monkey bars, Zion learned how to slide down the fire pole, and they both enjoyed the super-quick smooth wood slides. Lijah spent an hour or two playing with a fireman and some plastic horses, with a few breaks for more active pursuits. It was all wonderful but for two things: we were exposed to some strong gender-normativism from some of the other kids there, and it set me back $30.

Today it was back to free adventures. With the weather bizarrely warm—practically summery—there was no reason not to go to a real, outdoor playground, and since we also wanted to visit the Arlington library we picked Robbins Park in Arlington. Though its main attraction, the giant slides, were closed for winter, there was still plenty to do. While the school kids in their playground across the street packed what fun they could into their 15-minute recesses, we ignored the bells and whistles as we ran and climbed and swung (and had a picnic). The boys even made some friends, who in true boyish fashion started out as enemies—or attackers, at least. Not that it was so crowded we couldn't escape other people when we wanted to.

Lijah running down a big hill towards the playground

room to run

After a while it was on to the library for some quiet time, and then a toy store for some desiring time. We stopped in to see Grandma and Grandpa on the way home, a delightful end to a fine adventure (especially since they always give out snacks). All that, and we still got home mid afternoon, in time to do plenty of housework before dinner. A successful Monday all around.

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almost ice skating

Harvey and Zion running on the outdoor ice rink

on the ice

Lexington is making a laudable commitment to improving public spaces—following up on the giant street-side checker game over the summer (beloved by the boys even if not blogged by me) they put in a free, open-to-the-public ice rink on the piece of land that hosts the Farmers Market in more temperate weather. The infrastructure was in place some time ago, but with the weather lately more temperate than you expect this time of year the ice took longer than expected to develop; and the boys, knowing that the rink was there, asked almost daily when we could go visit it. Yesterday was the day!

In order to make sure to get enough exercise if they wouldn't let us on the ice without skates, we parked a ways away and walked over on the bike path. The bigger boys ran ahead while I took things at a relaxed pace with Lijah. He was very excited to be walking, except when he wasn't.

Lijah sitting down in the middle of the bike path

"I can't!"

It's not like I was forcing him to walk: I had the stroller, and would have been delighted to plop him in it and catch up with his brothers, who were about a quarter mile ahead of us. But he was having none of it; when I walked back towards him to make the offer he hopped right up, calling, "I did it!"

As laborious and earth-bound as the walk may have been, all three boys were transported with delight to be on the ice, where just walking seemed like flying.

Lijah walking on the ice, looking like he's in the sky

like floating above clouds

There were no restrictions we knew about so the boys ran wildly around the ice surface, racing and spinning to their heart's content. The running was possible because the temperature—just above freezing—and the light snow that had fallen the day before combined to make the ice a little sticky. It was kind of disappointing, given that we had come all that way for ice—but on the other hand it was nice that none of the kids slipped and broke their heads open.

Not to say there were no falls. Harvey cut his face doing a comedic face-plant over the low rail, and then there was a moment when the bigger boys were taking a quiet sit down in between races.

Harvey and Zion sitting on the edge of the rink

a breather

Lijah came along, but instead of just finding his own spot to sit, he gave Zion a shove.

the boys as before, with Lijah pushing Zion

his role in the family

Turns out Zion's perch was somewhat precarious.

Harvey still sitting, Zion's feet poking over the rink edge where Lijah pushed him off

oof

No injury resulted though, and when Zion grudgingly forgave us for laughing everyone was alright again.

After a good long time on the ice surface proper we explored a little further and found that the frozen overflow from the rink was much slipperier than the rink itself. So we played there for a while.

Harvey and Zion sliding on the overflow off to the side of the rink

the real slippery stuff

And then some more on the rink (the boys had to get across it to get to the gate...), then a trip to the toy store, and the Lexington library... it was a full day. But Zion confirms, the (almost) skating was the undeniable highlight. Now to find some real ice skates for us all before we run out of winter...

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Concord in the cold

Lijah leading the other boys over the Old North Bridge

over the bridge

Yesterday morning we took an outing to Concord. I wanted to do some walking around outside, but given the sudden drop in temperature—after a warm rainy day that melted what snow we had the cold was a shock—I wasn't sure we could make it. But when I suggested the river there was a clamor of approval, so we gave it a shot.

Lijah's face in profile, bundled in the hood of his down coat

braving the wind

It was quite cold. The water and the exposure makes that bridge particularly chilly in winter, and yesterday was no exception. For at least 15 minutes, though, Lijah was good for it, enjoying the sight of the geese and a swan and charging over the bridge to see the "knight? knight? knight?" (actually the Minuteman statue).

a fledgeling swan in the shallows by the opposite bank

also enjoying the day

We saw one other person there the whole time. With the place to themselves Harvey and Zion played and played; I think they would have been happy to stay out lots longer.

Harvey and Zion playing a little way down the bank

boys at play

It's fun to watch what they get up to. Here they asked me if they could roll down the hill—of course I told them to go right ahead!

Zion and Harvey rolling down a short steep hill above the river

just not too far!

When Lijah reached his freezing point he let us know it, so we hurriedly decamped to the car (where he was mollified and refreshed with apple slices) and then to the Concord library, where we spent a pleasant hour or so playing with their legos and looking at books.

It was a good time all around, though all the cold and excitement took a lot out of the littlest one: it's not a long drive home but it was enough for him to drop off to sleep—and the car wasn't exactly quiet!—and he didn't stir at all when I brought him inside and tossed him onto the bed.

Lijah sleeping on his back in the bed, still wearing boots and coat

tuckered out for a winter nap

That's how every outing should end!

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latest discoveries

Yesterday the boys and I spent an afternoon at the Discovery Museum in Acton. It wasn't only that we needed more chicken supplies from the feed store down the street; I really want to expand their brains with the power of well-designed play!

Lijah and Harvey working in the life-sized play kitchen

play work

Last time I went was just with the two younger boys, who could spend all day in the "Children's" part of the museum. Harvey has other interests, and with him leading the charge we soon headed over to the other building for some Science Discovery. Happily, even Lijah likes science too: he was entranced by the heat camera, and watched his own rainbow form on the screen with delight.

Lijah looking at himself in the heat camera screen

"movie? movie?"

While I couldn't interest the older boys in a truly scientific investigation of what the camera revealed—like the fact that Harvey's hair is vastly more insulative than Zion's—they were amused to notice that their skin is in fact hot all over, and their clothes keep the heat in.

Harvey on the heat camera screen lifting his shirt to show his red belly

hot belly

There were also opportunities for personal growth. Harvey was brave enough to approach the woman running the pendulum-table spirograph to ask for a turn (and he wanted to make one as a present for Mama!). Zion got lost a whole level away from us and didn't scream or cry. And Lijah overcame a new-found fear of humidifier steam ("no smoke! no smoke!") to be able to spend a good half-hour in a room with a seven-foot-high water vapor tornado. Good times all around!

Plus, we picked up the chicken feed on the way home.

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November

bare trees and gray sky behind the Old North Bridge

gray light

I had a project to post something every weekday in October, and I did. Then I thought I could take a break in November. We've also been pretty tired out and some of us sick. But that hasn't prevented us from enjoying the November weather.

Zion's face poking up from a leaf pile

big pile

You'd never guess that iconic-type of fall image was actually taken on the sidewalk of a busy street. All the leaves fell at once this year, so there's pretty much a pile under every tree.

the three boys playing in a leaf pile on the sidewalk of a busy road

roadside entertainment

After that moment of fun and a short trip through Wilson Farm (ask Lijah about the llama...) we went down to Arlington to walk around the Reservoir. Around, and in some cases over: it's very shallow this fall. Still enough water for swans.

Zion and Harvey looking at a pair of swans on a pond

bird watching

The next day I took the boys to Concord. We stopped at the Old North Bridge—pictured at the top of this post—and generally got into things. Like trees.

all three boys up in a tree

trees make us smile

Zion was very excited to find a shiny button.

Zion showing off his brass button

see?

We thought it might be off a redcoat's jacket. There was one talking to tourists not far away, but when we looked at his uniform we saw it wasn't a match. Disappointing, but at least it meant Zion got to keep it!

As well as the bridge and its surrounds, we also explored the boathouse. I'd never been in before—I didn't know one even could saw that he could open the latch he didn't hesitate to invite the rest of us in. We had fun playing in the semi-darkness.

Lijah in the dim light of the boat house, by the just-cracked door

gloomy fun

The dock was fun too.

the boys at the end of the dock, looking into the murkey water

don't fall in

And at home, we even managed to enjoy—briefly—a fire out in the yard. It was Lijah who encouraged me—commanded me—to start it, and the two of us spent a lovely 15 minutes appreciating the warmth and light.

a fire in the grill, seen past Lijah's shoulder

toasty

November at its finest.

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Thompson Island report: phoning it in

A little more about our church retreat on Thompson Island. Whatever the challenges of getting there, and eating and sleeping while there, it was lovely to be in a place where even the view out the bathroom window is worth photographing.

the view out a bathroom window: lawn, ocean, boats

relaxing sights for handwashing

Unfortunately, though I brought my camera along (of course) various other concerns kept me from remembering to have it with me most of the time. So most of the photos here are from my substandard phone camera; but they're sufficient at least to illustrate this over-long account that's probably only of interest to me and Harvey. You've been warned!

My adventure started at 3:30, when Leah and the boys picked me up at work.We drove to Cambridge, where we left the car at church and walked to the Red Line at Porter Square. That was a leisurely stroll, but by the time we detrained at Downtown Crossing I was feeling the press of time and I led the family on a desperate march over the hill and down to Long Wharf. We got there five minutes before we were supposed to and joined the happy—though chilly—throng milling about. Then onto the boat, where we admired the sunset as we waited for departure.

Harvey looking aft towards the pink sky over Logan Airport

sailor's delight

The voyage was Harvey's favorite part of the whole thing, and he's supposed to be working on a story about it, so I'll leave that to him; I do want to point out how wonderful it was, given Zion's love for the ball moon, that for most of the outward track that moon was leading us on.

Harvey and a friend looking forward as we steam towards the moon

moonward bound

When we got to the island we packed into the dining hall for a hasty dinner, then got set up in our little dorm room and went to bed. There were activities we could have joined—oh, there were activities!—but after 9:00 we turn into pumpkins, so we turned in instead. It was lovely to be inside on a very chilly night, and having three twin beds for the five of us made it extra warm and cozy—especially when the heater came on and blasted dry heat at us most of the night.

In the morning when Harvey and Zion woke up I took them and Lijah—who Leah had already been watching for some time—down to the shore while we waited for breakfast to open.

the boys on the gravel beach

early exploration

While the weekend was a retreat for most of the adults, many of the adults came with kids and those kids had to be entertained. I volunteered to help out, so after breakfast I found myself leading a group of eleven of them—including Harvey and Zion—on a series of outdoor adventure stations. Usually with those church kids I'm the one doing all the planning work, so it was nice to be able to follow someone else's directions; especially when the directions were basically, "go to these locations and have fun". Our first spot was the beach, where the kids threw stones.

Zion throwing a rock into the water

it's pretty much what you do

They also started building a bridge across the stream draining the salt pond, which was flowing high and fast; only two of them got their feet wet.

Next we moved to a "make-your-own obstacle course", where the kids used planks and various other found objects to enhance a small existing adventure play area.

kids moving a 2x8 plank into position

all hands working together

As well as challenging themselves with feats of balance and daring—"you can do the whole obstacle course? How about hopping on one foot?!"—they were also delighted to be able to smash up some (already slightly broken) chairs they found lying around. Lijah joined us for the fun; he couldn't smash, but he could climb!

Lijah climbing up a board on our home-made obstacle course

rising to the challenge

For our last stop the kids were supposed to pair up and take turns either blindfolded or serving as a guide dog. Tiring, not all of them were into it; somewhat surprisingly, Harvey was one of the more enthusiastic participants.

Harvey, blindfolded, being led by a friend

leading the blind

The non-participating kids played around on the pair of former Outward Bound boats set up on the lawn; before long the rest of the group joined them.

kids chilling on one of the grounded boats

high and dry

When things evolved into a shooting war (well, apple throwing anyways) between boys and girls I called a halt, and we headed up to the dining hall for lunch.

Parents were meant to pick the kids up from there, but most of them were having awesome spiritual and/or community-building experiences and didn't want to rush back too quickly. Recognizing that the dining hall might not survive the active energy of 35 kids once they were done eating, I brought my group out to make leaf piles to jump in. Everyone else soon followed, and somehow the bigger kids located a half-dozen rakes, so it was real.

Lijah watching the big kids make a leaf pile

it's fun because they don't have to do it

Next up on the day's agenda was a concert. Kids were welcome, but I couldn't bear to miss any outdoor time, and the boys felt the same. So did some of the other kids, and we put together an expedition back to the beach. The tide was lower, and between that and the work the other two groups put in after us the bridge was passable, with care. That opened up delightful new areas for exploration!

Zion gingerly crossing the bridge of rocks accross the stream on the beach

carefully now..

Harvey, Zion, and their friends found all sorts of treasures: shells, rusted metal bits, bricks, glass; even some crab traps, something else to throw.

Harvey throwing a crab trap into the salt pond

traps away

Free of the tyranny of a schedule, we hung out at the beach for quite some time, until dinner called us back to the buildings (I'll take that kind of tyranny any day!). After dinner the kids wrestled outside on the dark lawn for a bit before we all went in together for a final worship and prayer session. It was a little loud and distracted back in the family section, but with everyone starting to hit extreme tiredness the kids finally settled down a little bit, still happy to be together.

in the dark: Harvey chatting with a friend, Zion looking sleepy

the cool kids

Then we all rolled on down the path to the dock and back onto the boat. The return trip felt much quicker than the voyage out, and before long we were walking back to the Red Line; this time, happily, with friends who were going the same way. It's good that we had them along, because otherwise we might not have made it. Also the stroller was essential.

Zion asleep, leaning to the side in the umbrella stroller

wiped out

Ferry, walk, train, walk, car... we finally made it back home at 10:30. It was a good time for most of us—Leah will share her own feelings a little later, I believe—but we're in no hurry to do it again soon. Adventures closer to home for the next couple weeks, please!

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weekend away

We went to Boston Friday only to leave it again, by sea.

the South End skyline viewed from the ferry

the journey out

We spent a lovely and challenging 26 hours on Thompson Island with a bunch of folks from church.

Lijah exploring the hallway in the dorm

exploring the dormitory

Most of the time I didn't have my real camera with me, which was too bad, since there were some delightful sights.

Harvey on the gravel beach of Thompson Island around sunrise

the beach, first thing

We made it home safely late yesterday evening. We're still recovering.

on the subway platrform: Zion in the stroller, Harvey watching for a train

homeward bound late

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weekend long ride

On Saturday Luke finally got me out to do a long ride with him. He started the day off by riding up here from West Roxbury, so he already had a lot of time in the saddle by the time I joined up; but with plans to go almost 50 more miles I wasn't sure if I was going to make it! We were headed out to the Haystack Observatory out in Westford, which meant plenty of fine fall riding along quiet rural roads.

Luke riding down a country lane

he knows the way

After 25 miles or so (and only one major wrong turn) we made it to the base of Haystack Hill and, eventually, to the top. It turns out they like to put observatories up high.

Luke riding towards a towering white ball

I think we found it

It being a Saturday the place was closed to automotive visitors, but there was a sign pointing to a pedestrian cut-through around the gate. We thought that could go for cyclists too.

Besides a pair of giant white orbs (the Haystack Radio Telescope proper, pictured above, and the Westford Radio Telescope) and one smaller orb (Haystack Auxiliary Radar; only a 40-foot dish) the site is also home to a couple of much more visually interesting exposed metal antennas.

the Millstone Hill Steerable Antenna and the Zenith Antenna, seen from across the parking lot

I'm sure they all do something

We deemed the Millstone Hill Steerable Antenna as the most photogenic for the purpose of our official posed bike shots; though I was challenged to get both bicycle and antenna in the frame.

my bike leaning against the fence in front of the Millstone Hill Steerable Antenna; with Luke and warning sign

proving I biked there

Because we kind of had to sneak in we were the only visitors, but the site seems like it would be at least moderately welcoming to visitors during work hours. Outside one of the buildings they had a pair of parabolic dishes with platforms in front of them; standing on one platform you could hear a whisper from the other, 30 yards away (just like the one at the Discovery Museum only bigger and better!).

They also had an apple tree, and, as is always the case, I couldn't resist trying one. I had some thought it might give me super-powers—you know, the radiation and all—but no luck. It was pleasantly sweet but soft and mealy, so I didn't finish it (the only disappointment of the whole outing).

me holding a red apple in front of the Haystack Radio Telescope

symmetry

Then it was time to head home. We chose a more southerly route in order to make a loop, and it took us through picturesque Concord.

a red barn (or garage) amidst fields and stone walls

well-kept rural landscape

We crossed the Concord River by way of the Old North Bridge, which merited another stop for a photo.

my bike leaning against the rail of the Old North Bridge

almost home

Then home, for a total (for me) of about 45 miles. There were definitely moments along the way when I thought I wouldn't be able to make it up the next hill, but after finishing up with three flat miles on the dirt of the Reformatory Branch Trail I was feeling good and would have been happy to keep going even further. And I didn't even get sore afterwards! So... 75 miles next time?

Thanks, Luke, for getting me out there!

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downtown by bicycle

I had a little extra time today between finishing up work in Cambridge and meeting Leah and the boys to hang out with friends in Arlington, so I hopped on my bike for a little extra ride. I thought maybe I could head downtown and go all the way to the ocean. That may not have sounded like a reasonable plan to Harvey ("there's an ocean in Boston?!" he asked incredulously, as I described the adventure afterwards) but, judging by distance alone, it was entirely reasonable—just like five miles away! Never having biked into the city, though, I overlooked one crucial point: it's a terrible experience!

Well, maybe not entirely terrible. But doing it as I was on a whim and without a well-planned route I exposed myself to all sorts of things that made for a not-so-fun ride. Things were fine as I started out from Rindge Ave down Sherman into Harvard Square. But east of Harvard—I ended up on Mass Ave, because, you know, you do—I was faced with a series of red lights that made me start doubting the whole enterprise. Over the river I was into Back Bay, which wasn't my original plan; I meant to cross the Longfellow Bridge, which is much closer to the ocean! Avoiding Comm Ave, I headed down Marlborough St, where four-way-stops every block—not to mention countless double-parked trucks—kept me from building up any momentum. And things got even worse when I hit Berkeley St, where, apparently, Marlborough's one-way traffic reverses! It was only with difficulty that I found a legal way around that didn't lead me onto Storrow Drive.

So there were navigation challenges; there's also the insanity of city drivers who, wherever the road allows, accelerate to maybe 30 miles an hour over a short block. That's tricky on, say, Arlington by the Public Garden, where I was trying to cross four lanes of traffic to make a left. Up Beacon Street I went to the State House, where I looked at the time... and made the decision to give up my quest. Caught in the crazy tangle of Old Boston streets, I was needing to look at the map on my phone at almost every corner, and I wasn't sure I'd be able to get anywhere in the time I had available—never mind getting back! So with many more map checks I made my way back down to the river and across the bridge by the Science Museum; if I was going to turn back before my objective, at least I'd make a good loop of it!

Across the river conditions improved right away—well, as soon as I got myself on the right side of the street. The cycling was fine on Cambridge St and I finally got into a rhythm and felt like I was on a bike ride rather than a mad orienteering expedition. Then I turned onto Beacon, where the paving is exceptionally bad. But Beacon took me up to Somerville Ave into Porter Square, where the green-painted bike lanes are a thing of beauty: a true paradise after the desperate struggle I'd endured. Too bad I could only enjoy them for a quarter of a mile before I turned onto Rindge and finished the loop (in an hour and ten minutes; I had plenty of time to spare).

I really ought to have taken some pictures along the way; there were many fine sights, and this is like the fourth pictureless post in a row here. But frankly I was too terrified and/or confused most of the time to be thinking about aesthetic concerns. The biggest problem was with navigation, and obviously if I knew the city better—or at all—I would have done much better there. But even if I'd been totally certain of my route, I'm still not sure it would have been a really pleasant experience. There are lots and lots of cars downtown—I can't imagine why—and when they aren't playing drag race on multi-lane roads they're stopped in traffic, so close to parked cars that you can't find a way to squeeze through. Add in the stop lights and the pedestrians (who are the smart ones—that's the way to get around the city!) and you start to question the sanity of the whole endeavor.

It was so bad that I need to try again one time to see if I can do it better.

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a wide range of Saturday outings

We were talking with friends of ours last week about what it would be like to move out to the western part of the state to have more land and freedom to farm, but our two outings today show that there are some pretty sweet advantages to living where we do. In the morning, we headed half-an-hour west, to show Mama the beauties of Old Frog Pond Farm that she missed out on last week.

Leah and the boys checking out the porcupine egg

fun for the whole family

It was even more beautiful in the sunshine, and after a picnic lunch the boys were delighted to be there (there was some absence of delight before the food was served).

the family checking out art on the banks of the Old Frog Pond

the beauty of art and nature

And no, Leah's not checking Facebook in that picture... she's looking at the photos she just took herself. While she loves having a new smartphone, she's still totally present for her family.

With the sunshine and drier weather we noticed some things we had missed out on the first time, like a seat carved from granite.

Zion sitting on a stone chair sculpture

this, he likes

We also enjoyed seeing old favorites from last week. The boys were excited to see if Mama could spot the white leaves (Zion was so excited he let the secret out early), and to share the Adam and Eve piece—particularly pointing out how Adam's penis is made from a spring.

Then after a bit of a rest at home the boys and I headed out again to the big city to catch some of the Honk Festival performances (Leah stayed home; she doesn't do cities). We can't do the parade this year—a birthday party takes priority—but we didn't want to miss the anarchistic brass band fun! Looking to avoid parking problems and too much walking, we left the car at church in Cambridge and biked over to the festival. There was music everywhere.

Lijah up close behind the stage watching the band

the Rude Mechanical Orchestra

We stayed for about two hours and listened to four bands up close. Lijah enjoyed dancing to the Rude Mechanical Orchestra, and he loved that the crowd was passing a couple beach balls around (despite Harvey's hopes and thoughtful maneuverings, we never got to bat them ourselves).

the Ten Man Brass Band, from behind

still pretty loud from behind

Next we got right up close behind the Ten Man Brass Band, and even though the horns were facing the other direction it was seriously loud. They played two Youngblood Brass Band songs while we were there, so Lijah was thrilled (he still digs the band); while he was a little too overwhelmed by the crowd to get down and dance, he totally got into the music from the safety of my arms.

Lijah with his hand in the air

waving like he just don't care

Not the best picture, since I was holding him and trying to selfie him with the phone, but let me assure you he was absolutely feeling the beat!

After that we headed over to check out the New Creation Brass Band set, which was even more crowded. The older boys were tiring a bit, and were happy to sit at the back of the throng and enjoy some dinner. You don't get Mama-style bento boxes on an outing with Dada, but at least there's plenty of food.

the boys on the sidewalk with their tupperware supper

music dinner

Ten Man and New Creation were the bands I most wanted to see, so when the latter wrapped up their set I figured it was time to show the boys some fun. Happily there was another band playing by a playground right around the corner. As soon as Harvey and Zion got through the gate they were off, and I only saw them from a distance for the next 20 minutes or so.

Harvey and Zion, seen from above, running on the playground

running wild

The structure was a little to tall for Lijah, so he and I watched the band play on in the gathering twilight.

the Leftist Marching Band playing in the gathering dark

Leftists at dusk

Our two outings were very different, but they did have one thing in common: they're both full of so much artistic vitality that it's hard to leave them to go back to regular life. It doesn't seem fair that Honk is just one weekend; we could use more of that wild anarchist joy (and good music!) spread over the other seasons too! And while Old Frog Pond Farm is open weekends all fall, it can be pretty easy to forget its spirit of quietly surprising creativity during the week—to say nothing of over the winter.

But we'll see what we can do to hold onto them: in between church and the party tomorrow we'll be playing music and adding to the world of adventure we're creating in the woods behind the house. Come over Monday and join in the fun!

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