"I am having a great day!" she shouts. "I am such a good hiker."
And she is, indeed, a good hiker. Or rather, she is a good explorer. A good wanderer. A good little wood sprite, for she zigzags to and fro, up and over and around, with little regard to trail markers and such. If she had room enough in her pockets for every acorn in the forest, she would bring them all home. She stops and lingers, pokes and prods and gathers, and a two-hour hike turns into a whole afternoon adventure.
She reminds us to slow down and look around. That there is no real goal beyond the moment. That throwing rocks into a river is enough accomplishment for one day. That, when your "footies are tired", it is perfectly fine to sit right down in a pile of leaves and have a rest.
One early evening last week, we took a trip to a local pumpkin patch. As heavy rain clouds piled up behind us, Owen grabbed fistfuls of hay, Juni flounced through mazes and prickly pumpkin vines, gathering up bits of corn and straw for the nature table.
I love this time of year, when the days are shrinking and the wind arrives in short, intoxicating gusts. "Wind!" she shouts, and dances around in a circle, arms outstretched. Though our days are still warm, the trees have started to blush and shed. "That's because it's Fall," she tells me, "Look, the leaves are running around on the ground."
A year ago, I was nine months pregnant, heavy and tired and anxious to meet our little boy. Now that little boy is nearly one - walking across the room, saying words and phrases, making his sweet presence felt in our family. To say that the time has gone by fast is so ponderous and boring and so utterly true. In this season that I love, I can already feel the earth tipping towards winter. I tell myself to gather up these moments like acorns beneath a tree, to enjoy him as he is now, strong and tentative, loving and smiley and full of words and song, to enjoy the sound of her voice, her certainty and delight, the way she moves and scrunches her nose and always looks at the sky. "Look, the moon is missing some pieces," she says, "It will be different tomorrow night, though. Yup, it will."