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Oak Tree Meadow

Posted Sep 07 2009 10:43pm
Approximately halfway through my routine 6-mile neighborhood run, I circle the perimeter of a local meadow. It’s about two acres in size, and I’ve probably run around it about 500 times without giving much thought to spending any length of time there.

That was before I had a 5-year-old daughter.

One day last spring, our family took a walk through the meadow, and our youngest daughter discovered her own little nirvana: a lonely rope swing hanging from a branch of the largest oak tree. The meadow is now one of her favorite destinations whenever we have free time, and one of my favorite spots to take her when she needs some independent attention away from her brother and sister.

When I’m there with her, I find myself considering the meadow through a 5-year-old’s eyes, and feel a profound appreciation for this little Carmel Valley oasis.

The oak which holds the swing is enormous, and looks like something straight out of a storybook. It’s somewhere between 200 and 300 years old; it’s undoubtedly had thousands of kids climbing its branches over the decades.

Its trunk is thicker than any oak tree I’ve seen in the valley, with twisting and curving branches that surpass the size of many independent trees in the area. The base of the tree is so sheltered and quiet, it’s exactly the kind of spot where someone like Rip van Winkle could fall asleep for about 20 years.

One medium-sized branch holds the rope swing, but there’s usually a bit of tree climbing to be done before my daughter takes to the swing.

Some of the branches reach more than 40 feet horizontally from the trunk, but somehow manage to keep their mass above ground. However, they slope down low enough that an ambitious kid can pull herself aboard – as you’ll notice my daughter demonstrating with her legs sticking out on the left of this picture.

Thankfully, the branch is still strong enough to support an ambitious grown-up tree climber as well.

Several dirt paths meander through the meadow, which have become my daughter’s favorite trails to practice her bike riding. I’ve also found them a somewhat convenient place to practice barefoot running, but that’s for a separate post someday.

On this particular afternoon, after watching me take pictures for a while, my daughter commandeered the camera to snap some photos of her own, so the rest of the post is thanks to her.

She kind of surprised me, in that she actually has a decent eye for framing a photo; I like the artsy way she caught her bike in the shadow of the tree trunk here.

The inevitable “Now YOU get on the swing, Daddy!” picture. Pretty hard to say no to that one.

The next picture deserves some setup, which will be explained by the following conversation we had just beforehand:

Her: Dad … why do you take pictures of your feet so much?

Me: I’ve been telling some people about running barefoot, and sometimes I put pictures of my feet on the computer to show them I’m really doing it.

Her: I want to take a picture of my foot with yours, too.

Me: OK, go ahead.

So there you go.

I’ve decided that it’s kind of cool to see pictures from the eyes of a child; even better is to see the whole world – whether it’s an oak tree, a sunny meadow, a simple rope swing, or anything else we encounter - from that perspective as well. Outings like this always make me wish that my daughter and I can do this sort of thing more often.

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