The playground was bitterly cold in the mid-March wind, but down in our swamp and out of the wind, the sun shone, the thermometer showed ten degrees warmer, and kids were actually shedding their coats.
C. and I enjoy joking about selling swamp muck masks for beauty treatments. Who knows? Maybe it would work? People will buy anything! Crouching down to look into the freshly melted pools she reached down and her finger came up with dripping slime lit by the sun and glowing green. We wondered about it. Was it algae? We giggled over the idea of swamp boogers. One of the many elements I enjoy about elementary aged kids is their grossed out enjoyment of things like boogers and poop. In fact, portions of the swamp sort of smelled like poop as we explored it. The kids were laughing and holding their noses while talking about it.
R. noticed a rainbowy sheen of oil on top of the water in a few places. He had heard of oil spills and made the connection, and though I wasn’t 100% sure, I reassured him that I thought that swamps and marshes often contain natural oils given off by the breakdown of plant matter. When I returned home I read a little bit more about it and found this interesting piece that explains it briefly, here.
I didn’t see K. for a while until she came to invite me to see her secret land that she discovered. As I followed her over fern hummocks and under branches I recalled how last year she was the one in our first grade class who most loved being a little bit alone out there. Like me, she seems to relish the magical and cozy feeling of finding a little space that is all her own in the wild. Happily, she took me on a tour of her land, showing me places she could lie down, logs on which she could practice her balance, neighboring islands for having company, a small tree she could climb, and finally, a little river flowing through. I realized that the little, “river,” was the place where melting snow run-off from the playground eventually enters the swamp. Weeks ago when J. and D. and I built dams for that run-off, we had wondered where it would go when it reached the swamp. I look forward to showing it to them when they return!
J once again entertained himself by getting as wet and mucky as possible, but by the time we reached the front of the school at the end, his feet were uncomfortably cold and the water had soaked through to his socks. He sat on the dry sidewalk and took off his socks to dry his feet in the sun while we waited for their mom. I gave a lot of credit to his mom when she arrived for her equanimity in the face of mucky snow pants and blackened, wet socks. In fact, I quite admire all of the moms and dads who transfer wet and mucky children into their cars with only an amused comment or two. They demonstrate an understanding and acceptance of the creative messiness of childhood, and the prioritizing of play, fun, and discovery over the supposed virtues of cleanliness and order, (at least temporarily). They know that dirt washes off and that childhood is brief. These parents know that there is a time and a place for muck.