Immediately across the river sits a robust second-growth forest complete with shady trail and a beautiful concrete pond which is many decades old. As a bonus it satisfied the requirement of proximity; next year they will both be old enough to travel in our car with seat belts but until then, shank's pony will have to do.
Walking across the footbridge, Younger confessed to a desire to drop objects from heights and then sensibly handed me his prized walking stick, a gift from Uncle Jon, in order to save it from a sure watery grave. I suppose he couldn't have known that I share that urge, but we made it across without incident, because I immediately changed the subject.
A need for poison ivy identification arose; there is lots of it in the old field community leading to the woods. I didn't have the heart to tell the boys that global warming is setting up perfect growing conditions for this plant and that we can expect to see a great deal more of it in the future. On the plus side, Elder spotted the tiny Deptford pinks among the grasses. I explained that they are in the carnation family and he said "What's a carnation?" So I changed the subject.
Sitting high above the river, the woods were cool. When Younger wandered too close to the cliff edge for my comfort, I asked him to take my hand because heights make me nervous (and want to throw things). Instantly, he donned the mantle of solicitous care-giver, firmly holding my hand and releasing it only to direct me to the far side of the path whenever a tree divided it, while frequently assuring me that my "braveness" would grow if I copied his. If he caught me glancing down I was immediately chided and encouraged to be braver. He might have a future as a personal trainer.
The pond made everybody happy. I have always loved it because it is filled with waterlilies, and reflects the graceful arc of a stone bridge; its enchanted loveliness has been on my "must paint" list for years. The boys loved it because the pond was absolutely filled with tadpoles. In a world of threatened and disappearing herps (amphibians), this mass of hundreds, if not thousands,of squirming black bodies was an exciting sight indeed. We all crouched at the shallow edge and feasted our eyes until our knees gave out. To their credit, neither of them fell in. Astonishingly, neither did I.
On the way back I recognized the spot where the shot for this painting had been taken. Then I made the fatal error of remarking that Uncle Jon and I had been walking these trails for a third of a century. The boys valiantly tried to digest this alarming factoid but it was pretty obvious that it was frying their brains. So I changed the subject.
I had identified a number of plants by then. Younger, while firmly powering me back along the cliff, casually mentioned that he didn't mean to be rude but it was okay if I stopped. Apparently, the local field station had games which did the job much less painfully. Butterflies were okay, though. I changed the subject to flying insects.
Aside from a brief stop in a freshly-cut area to throw grass clippings at one another, we headed straight home for ice cream. We all agreed that it was a perfectly satisfactory adventure; they were kind enough not to mention my conversational deficits.