Sometime within the last couple weeks Ava decided that when she grows up she will be an 'animal doctor'. Though the word sounds more like 'vegetarian' in her toddler lingo, if her love for and connection with animals is any indication, I do believe she would be an amazing veterinarian. This girl, who at times seems more comfortable with animals than she does with humans, whose imaginary friends are four baby ospreys, two cardinals and one caribou (because she can only carry one), whose very favorite toys have been (for over a year now) five miniature farm animals that accompany us on many of our adventures, who opts for bird field guides as bedtime stories, who interacts with and manipulates our feisty calico in a way that Lola would never tolerate from another human, this girl is innately a lover and nurturer of animals.
Who knows how long she will hold onto this dream. We all remember (or recall stories retold to us by our elders) our early ideas of what we wanted to be when we grew up. Perhaps they were passing dreams, improbable dreams (as in, "I want to be a superhero"), dreams fulfilled, or dreams we are still pursuing. I don't know how many of these childhood dreams manifest in reality, though I do know Ava's ideas tend to have staying power. She is decisive and unwavering. Alarmingly so, actually, to this mama who often wavers back and forth between options in my mind for extended periods before making a decision. I find I must hold myself back from questioning her immediate decisiveness with an 'are you sure you want this over that?' I see how easy it is to pass down our own insecurities and neuroses in these daily moments of life. But I sense that this girl, who decides with finality months in advance who she will be for Halloween, may very well follow through on this idea of hers as well.
All summer we had been meaning to head out to Two Pony Gardens, where we visited once before last year. Fresh baked pizza, good people, flowers, tomatoes, chickens and two erroneously named 'ponies' who will take you for a carriage ride through the surrounding trails in the woods. With warm, glowing sun, and fall colors blazing around us, we finally made true on our intentions and headed out there this weekend. Getting there a bit earlier, both in the season and in the evening, afforded us the opportunity to explore the farm a bit while it was still light out.
We strolled through the maze-like dahlia garden with flowers topping out over our heads and children making waves of plant limbs as they raced through the narrow garden paths. We walked through the woods among rich colors of fall to the tucked-away yurt, visited with chickens, peeked at the farm store and chatted with others who were spread out among picnic blankets dotting the land around the farmhouse.
The highlight of the evening (particularly for our future 'vegetarian') was undoubtedly the carriage ride. Two stunning Shire horses - really I can't emphasize how impressively BIG these creatures are - appeared from the dirt road in the woods pulling a beautiful carriage and waited for us humans to hop on. This 20 minute ride through the woods with Mickey and Pete has fueled Ava's imagination and play since, it being the very first thing she talked about upon waking the morning after.
I am amazed by how deeply our children feel these experiences, how they integrate them into all aspects of their minds and activities. All they experience literally shapes them through their senses and stays vivid with them, becoming more elaborate over time, for days, weeks, months and longer. When Ava responds so strongly and deeply like this I am reminded of how important it is to be mindful of what she is exposed to. Not that I wish to or think it would be beneficial to shelter her entirely, no no. But I am reminded that she and all children, I believe, are not small adults, nor do they understand and process reality as we do. They are literally soaking up what is around them with their entire being and forming an understanding of themselves and the world with it. They are becoming, in some sense, what they see, what they hear, what they eat, what they feel.
After the ride, we shared our pizza and cider as the sun was setting, giving rise to a gloriously bright Harvest Moon. The air grew cooler and it was nearing time to return home.