I get seriously bad cabin fever. I only have to get stuck inside for several days while one of the boys is sick and I’m climbing the walls.
You’d think that was something to do with having had an outdoorsy childhood or having always been a country girl. Like a deep ingrained habit. Actually it’s the opposite. My childhood was town-based and indoorsy. And I think I crave the outdoors because I worked up such a huge thirst for it!
Last week was one of those weeks where I got stuck in the house for most it, nursing one of my little loves. It was fine for the first couple of days. I was too busy with him to notice anyway. But by the time he was better and it was the weekend I was feeling the full force of the cabin fever. I told my husband (in a slightly deranged way while I, no doubt, twitched) that we HAD to spend the whole weekend out in the wild somewhere. I didn’t care where or what or how, but we HAD to. Nobody argues with a wife looking as crazed as I’m sure I did right then.
As luck would have it, we had a birthday party on the Saturday for a little school friend and – joy of joys! – it was in the woods. I could not get there fast enough. Not only was it in the woods but it involved something in a cook pot bubbling away over a fire. The sun was shining. It could hardly get any better. And then I saw the colossal amount of cake my fabulous friend had baked and when I asked if there was anything I could do to help she handed me a long length of rainbow bunting to string up in the trees. Perfection. The children roamed, explored and played. We stayed for hours.
Sunday morning dawned grey and damp. The big and little boys seemed to be settling in for a day of slobbing in their pjs. And if I hadn’t have felt that my sanity was at stake (I really meant it when I said I needed the whole weekend outside!) I would have happily joined them. But lovely as the day before had been, I was acutely aware that I was only half re-wilded. Only half-grounded. Only half full-up. I didn’t want to be bossy or anything but surely they know by now that everything is better with a mother with a full cup? They’ve known me long enough.
I gave them choices and they were ALL outside. I looked at the sky and insisted it was not going to rain (it definitely was) and I said words that I knew would spark their interest – ‘blossom’, ‘picnic’, ‘soup’, ‘explore’, ‘wild flowers’, ‘a new path we haven’t been on before’! It worked.
So off we went to the woods – a different one this time – where we saw millions of wild flowers, only half of which we could identify (must pack the field guide next time). Where we heard birdsong and spotted ladybirds. Ate bread and drank (roasted carrot and chickpea) soup in the inevitable rain. Explored paths we hadn’t noticed before. Had encounters with ‘doggy-woof-woofs’ and muddy cyclists. Found a rope swing and an enormous hole to stand in. Climbed a steep bank we didn’t think we could manage and nestled into fallen down tree-roots. Watched fluffy bunny tails scattering as we approached. Gave piggy-backs to tired legs. Where we all felt a little more peaceful. And where this mummy found her centre. Again.
‘Mummy, why are we eating soup in the rain?’ my eldest asked in a not-very-surprised voice as a large raindrop sploshed into the enamel mug I was holding, sending flecks of soup all over my waterproof coat. ‘Because it’s lunchtime and it’s lovely here,’ I told him, as I wiped the flecks off and smiled.
What will they remember, I wonder, about these days as they grow? The bonkers dogged way I sometimes pursue these outdoor adventures? Or the magic of a warm flask of something while all around its damp and earthy? The wrenching ourselves away from a warm cosy home or the spontaneous song that one of us (usually our three-year-old) breaks into as we adventure along a new path before heading back to the warm?
I hope it’s the magic and the adventure. And the happy hearts.