When cousins get together there are memories to be made and we adults should sometimes get out of the way. Timo lives a long car ride away from his cousin Parker, so when he comes to visit, the first thing he asks is if Parker is available for some cousin time. Park lives only a mile away from here, and I'm always grateful when his parents are willing to accommodate.
Parks and Timo are at an age where you no longer have to suggest playtime ideas. They come up with their own. If the weather is merciful they will almost always ask if they can go play in the rain forest.
Through the back gate, down the hill , past the back porch, is the area I affectionately call the lower forty. It's basically a small wooded hollow of mostly scrub oak trees behind our house. A little patch of trees to a young boy is a forest, and I think they visited it early on when it was sprinkling, so they like to call it the rain forest. For their birthdays last year we gave both of them their own sets of binoculars for their outdoor adventures. Timo is finally old enough to have received his own Swiss Army knife from his parents. The boys strap on their gear, making sure they have plenty of water and maybe some fruit snacks, then make off for their forest adventures. I will sometimes stand at the window and peek out at them, watching them in the semi-distance, exploring that mulchy space. I almost always whisper a prayer that they will never fear adventure in safe places, and that they will remember always that they once gave their whole selves without reservation to exploring the earth side by side.
The other day Parker came over to help me make Sour Cream Conference cake, a semi-annual tradition in our family. As we mixed and measured we had the little TV in the kitchen playing the Sunday inspirational broadcast of Music and the Spoken Word. As the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sang, the screen displayed scenes of nature; mountain lakes and beautiful rivers, meadows of early spring daffodils and rocky landscapes from the sides of majestic mountains. Parker asked why they were showing those pictures. I answered that it was probably because they wanted us to know, while the choir sang of God's beautiful earth, that we often find God in nature.
"Oh, yeah, " he said, "my dad told us that. One day when Timo and Dad and I were hiking up the mountainside we stopped at the top and just sat and looked. We could see all the way out past the Great Salt Lake. My dad told us that before there were temples for people to pray in, there were mountains. Did you know, Gummy, that Adam built an altar out of rocks? "
"We said a prayer on the mountain." he continued, telling me about the warm feelings he had in nature, and how he could feel God in the forest and the mountains. He scooped two teaspoons of cinnamon into the brown sugar and inhaled the scent. "Don't you just love good smells? I love the smell of the rain forest, and the mountains, and cinnamon."
Yes, Parker, yes I do. I smell God in the woods and the hilltops and my kitchen. And I see Him in your eyes when you talk to me. I feel him in the image of my son, kneeling on a rocky ridge with his own son and his impressionable nephew, showing our boys where God can be found.
I thank the Lord for the goodness in the hearts of my children, and in their children. I know from whence all goodness springs, growing lush in the hearts of little boys and in budding, woody forests.