The kids and I jumped back into our homeschooling routine again today. Much remains the same in terms of our rhythms and methods, but of course this year we’ll all dive into new subjects and topics as they grow older. It also marks the end of our official summer break, which is always a poignant moment for me, marking the turning of the years almost more than New Year’s does. As the kids hold their first-day-of-school slates for the annual picture, I can feel the time flying by. It’s so good and so bittersweet and hopeful all at once.
This summer has been more complicated than many before. The pandemic cancelled much that we normally associate with this season: the outdoor theater and concerts; extra time to play with friends; swim lessons; farm school; making music with friends; family trips; summer camp; picnics with extended family … we really stripped it down this year, as we have taken a conservative approach to our potential COVID exposure. We’ve all felt the difference. While it has been a good summer, as always — the sparkle felt diminished.
But, one aspect of our summer stayed here for us — the beautiful Willamette River that flows around our farm, making Grand Island an actual island. We’ve gone down to the banks of the river as much as ever this summer. Just as each new school year brings new skills to the kids, each new summer brings growth in their ability to be on the water. It’s been several years now that they’ve each had their own little kayak, and they have become pros at maneuvering their way through the familiar currents and eddies of the river we visit regularly. They also know where the shallow places are and spend plenty of time wading, looking for agates in the tumbling rocks at their feet. They come home with loaded pockets from every visit. Our little rock tumbler will never catch up with the always-growing supply of genuinely cool rocks they find!
Just last week we added a new form of fun to the mix as we bought a paddle board — it’s mostly intended for me to use, but everyone has been taking turns and getting a new view of the river from the standing position. A physical shift in perspective can really change the way everything looks!
As always, we’ve had a ton of fun exploring, moving our bodies, cooling ourselves in the flowing water, watching herons and kingfishers hunt. The river always offers a beautiful respite from the dust and the heat, but this year it’s been so much more — more than ever, we’ve appreciated how quiet our stretch of the Willamette feels. Within just a few minutes of putting in our kayaks, we can reach sections of the river where we see no signs of other people. And in that span of time that we float and paddle past the willows beneath the osprey, we can temporarily forget about the stress of daily life in this very intense year. We forget about masks and testing and the building pressure of a presidential election. For a time, we are just us — our family, together on the river, floating in the timeless eternity of the present moment.
Even though summer break is over, we’ll keep retreating to the river to breathe, play, refresh ourselves. Eventually the weather will turn and we’ll put up our paddles for the season, but we’ll put that off as long as we can. In a year that’s been a trial to all — including to these dear young ones growing older amidst this uncertainty — we’ll cherish all the sources of joy we can find. May you find them too.
Enjoy this week’s vegetables!
Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla
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