The chestnut oak acorns were sprouting bright red roots as of December 21. The roots are well sunk in the soil less than a month later. Try to pick up this acorn, and you will have to pull it. I revisit it with each walk. There is such life and vigor in a seed.
I've taken six walks on the new ground lately, two of them accompanied by Phoebe and Liam. They love walking, and they never complain. Liam may do some broad, falling-down slapstick about how tired he is, but he plays it for attention and laughs, and loves leading us the whole way.
On Saturday, as he watched me ease down a particularly steep, muddy slope sideways, he said,
"No offense, Mommy. No offense. But you look like an old grandma going down this hill. And aren't you just a little too old to do those awesome moves that you're doing? No offense."
"Well, if I'm such an old grandma, how come I have to keep stopping and waiting for you to catch up?"
That made him laugh. I have to say that walking three or four miles over rough and uneven ground several days a week feels great. It's not running a marathon, and it's not fast or flashy, but the sights are so fine, and it makes me feel strong and sane. Come late spring, when the fields get too high to wade through, I'll get my exercise mowing, raking, gardening, checking bluebird boxes and hanging out laundry, and my sights will narrow to what's around the yard and meadows. I love covering ground in winter. It's good to have a reason to appreciate winter.
Crossing a little stream, Liam spotted something in the water. He came running back to us, all afire, his eyes like saucers. "You have got to come with me RIGHT NOW becauseIthinkIfoundaDINOSAURFOSSIL!!!
He's been reading enough paleontological lore that he knows that streambeds are a good place to find fossils. And there it lay, glimmering in the rushing water. Liam's first dinosaur fossil.
The Science Chimp in me leapt up, screaming happily, and was just as quickly muzzled. Suddenly, I wasn't so sure just what kind of creature might have once used this jawbone.
Liam examined the teeth, and decided it must have been a plant-eater. Check. The Chimp agreed.
He studied it and studied it.
He smiled a secret smile, whispering, "My first dinosaur fossil."
He turned to me, saying, "Smell it, Mommy! It takes you all the way back to prehistory, and you can tell what kind of dinosaur it came from, tyrannosaur or a felociraptor or maybe a longneck!" And it did have a wild, earthy scent, the smell of mystery and uncertainty, of moss and soil and creekwater. This picture makes me weep.
For a shining week, that jawbone went everywhere with Liam. I had a flutter of misgiving when he took it to school for show-and-tell the following Friday. This Monday morning, he's home with me, suffering once again from a stomach virus. (This time, I was pathetically grateful to find he had only anointed his bed at 2:13 AM Saturday, instead of the hall carpet. Beds I can wash. Carpet thus soiled makes me beat my breast and tear my hair.)
In the course of conversation in the studio this morning, Liam said, "When I took my fossil on the bus, Jeremy and Chase said it was a deer jaw."
"And Sue (the bus driver) said she thought it might be, too, but only a little bit."
(Sue is very kind. The two boys tend not to be.) "Who's Chase?" I asked.
"Oh, he's this tricky, kinda not-nice kid. I know he's older than me, I think. Are you imagining him as a boy? Because he is."
"Yes, I had him imagined as a boy. So what do you think that jaw bone is?"
"I still think it's a dinosaur. What do you think it is?"
"I'm just not sure. I still think maybe it's from a dinosaur."
"Thank you for understanding my feelings. I think Chase is kind of a liar.
He said, 'Thet bone raht thar is a DEER JAW.' And he always tricks me."
Thus, we learn. But hope stays alive, and flutters in the breast.
Labels: faith-based paleontology, Fossil hunting, Liam, mystery jawbone, prehistory