I often find myself as an observer of my son’s life these days. Before, when he was little I would be involved in every step, rarely viewing his life much further than a few feet away from him. As a new parent it is often fear that keeps us really close, hovering over them at the thought of all kinds of impending dangers.
Now, because he’s older, and I’m more resilient, I’d like to think I hover less. I'm more inclined to watch over him from afar, often from behind the lens of my camera.
My son is an only child, but we have gathered an army of small boys over the years. They have engulfed our lives with their energy, hijinks and adventures. There is not a single girl in the mix, our closest friends have all had boys.
It is on one of those insanely beautiful Nova Scotia summer mornings that I find myself watching from afar.
The colors are a mesmerizing blue, the ocean and sky broken only by a mass of bright yellow Goldenrods that flank both sides of the small path that leads down to Beach Meadows beach from our friends beach cottage. I am standing on the sidelines of the lives of five boys ranging in ages from 9 to 11, exploring the rocky headlands.
My warnings of don’t run on the rocks, don’t pretend to push one another off the edges, don’t stand too close to the crashing waves, keep your caps on and apply more sunscreen, are given the obligatory three second nod, barely acknowledged and they’re off.
Running in single file over the rocks, quietly and concentrating at first, then shrieking and high fiving as they all manage to leap from one giant bolder to the next without falling into freezing ocean below them.
Complex disputes arise over how best to extract the strawberry colored starfish, in the crystal clear rock pools that lie between the deep crevices in the rocks. A plan is hatched and they arrive at some perceived fairness as to who will straddle the rocks and who will hold onto the straddlers to keep them from slipping down the sides.
In the ensuing agreed upon plan, I have the space to worry about them getting their limbs caught between the crevices, slipping down the sides of the slippery rocks or giant waves knocking them off rocks and sweeping them out to sea.
I voice my concerns from behind my camera and tell them maybe they should come down from off the rocks and look for Starfish on the beach. But a new plan is already underway - two of them are hanging down head first, while the others hold their legs and lower them down, successfully having figured out a way to make things more dangerous than they need to be.
The starfish are successfully retrieved and given appropriate names like “Star” and “Fishy” - the boys elated that their plan has worked. A new larger rock pool is envisioned for the star creatures.
This would be their playground for three days straight from sunrise to sunset.
The rest of the weekend from behind my camera lens I will watch them climb up and down those slippery rocks a hundred times. Committing to memory the topography – when to leap, where to climb, where the best footholds for their small hands are.
They would at intervals also strip down naked and run into the icy waters of the North Atlantic; refine their make shift aquarium in the rocks; eat thick, crusty potato bread club sandwiches on the rocks overlooking the ocean; build a beach fire and roast marshmellows recounting the days adventures.
I will learn, sitting around the fire with them, that Mountain Dew is unanimously the best drink; Nike Superfly Magista’s the best soccer boot; that when they grow up there will be an...oceanographic...oceanog... oceansomethingperson, a zoologist, a sailor and a soccer player amongst them; that their friendship will last forever and one day when they’re 'like' twenty three, they will get an apartment together, possibly in Barcelona.
But tomorrow, they are coming back to the rocks as soon as they wake.
They are growing up so fast.
In their world of digital everything and instant connection, there is still total wonder in outdoor play, small creatures, the ocean, and friendship.
This is what summer is supposed to be, a simple recipe really...unharnessed energy, freedom to run outdoors, overlooking an ocean, surrounded by friends.
I love that we are able to find these moments and I'm holding on tight to childhood these days.