Thing One here, wondering if one of the people Thing Two is trying to make life easier for is me. "What were you thinking?!?!?!!!!" is actually a question I'd prefer to erase from my repertoire of questions asked of anyone, at least with the punctuation of disbelief and annoyance represented above. I do agree that humour can work, at the same time I recommend to anyone attempting to use humour to diffuse a tense situation, that it is important to read your audience carefully.
Thing Two got mighty glum yesterday when some of what she was trying to accomplish with the wonderful camp she is building in the maple grove just seemed to be more trouble than satisfaction. It was towards the end of a long sunny day and she had worked hard scouring the area of softwood beyond the maple grove for dead wood to create a lean-to and dragging it back. I spent a lot of time as a kid making little structures in a swampy area behind our house, in among the skunk cabbage, in what I now realize must have been little clumps of alders. I remember how satisfying it is, the excitement: there are trees and you want a shelter, and with your hands, and your strength and most importantly, your imagination, you do it!
A dead alder is easy prey, but spruce are a lot tougher to persuade to break than alders. When she invited me over to view her work I was impressed with the sticks she had managed to wrest from the woods. They were pretty rough though. Dead spruce has lots of little sticky out stubs of old branches, waiting to poke someone in the head or eye. I suggested using the hammer to wallop off the eye pokers. While I was worrying about sticks and eyes, she was looking for materials to cover her framework.
There's a spruce I'm planning to cut because it is crowding the Jerusalem artichokes, and therefore fair game for boughs, so I offered the clippers to her to harvest the boughs. When she began weaving those into her framework, everything started to slide. She tried tying the poles together. She tried angry language. In the garden raking, I felt the magic slipping. Soon Thing Two stomped out, muttering angrily. The whole idea was going bust. Snack time, I thought, followed by, we had lunch, didn't we and what time is it anyway? She was not stopping to chat, in fact she might as well have been wearing a big sticker on her forehead "I don't want to talk about it or fix it or even do it anymore."
Since I had suggested earlier that we go up to the alder thicket and do some trail maintenance to liberate alder poles for her construction, but had gotten absorbed in raking weeds in the garden and mulching paths, I was sad to see her abandon the lean-to project without having invited me to go trail clearing with her in the first place. Thing Two is so often busy in the woods, I hadn't really recognized that she was ready for poles until she had called me to admire what she had accomplished. Now, as I saw the look on her face I was sad. I wished I had done the inviting and that we had gone off to the alder thicket sooner.
It is a delicate balancing act I find, between offering help and taking over a project. I'm trying hard to make sure Thing Two gets to be in charge of her projects. We had had a conversation about parallel play while I raked and she cut boughs. Sometimes, I told her, I think that's the stage I got stuck at. I like being around other people and working independently, but I really need to learn more team skills. Now, lighting my sadness was a little light bulb, shining on the many times when I had abandoned something I wanted to do, when just a little help might have made a difference. So, off I went, little bowsaw in hand, to get a pile of alders ready to haul back.
At the same time, I searched for some Y shaped alders strong enough to make a second support for the lean-to as the angle of the poles Thing Two had already put in place seemed to make the space created really smaller than a camp should be. Once I had dragged them back and started setting them up I came in the house to find Thing Two. She was a lump on the kitchen lounge, entirely under a quilt, iPod tuned to Wizards of Waverly Place. I nattered about the alders I had cut and asked her to come and see what we could set up.
After checking that all she had to do was walk as far as the camp, she came out without enthusiasm, in fact the pout was pretty impressive. I said, unsure of whether this was old crone magic think or something with a bit of research to back it up, that if she smiled, she'd feel better. Now that I see she is passing the suggestion along I've checked for my source, and yes, there is supporting research in this July 1989 New York Times article. No doubt there's new and different research now, but for the minute I'll go with this on the grounds that if we believe smiling makes us feel better we're likely to improve!
Today our patch of glorious sunny weather is slowly clouding over, so there's a few things to rush off and do, like a major haul from the alder thicket of standing dead sticks to use as fire starter for the rest of the week. Incredibly Thing Two's boxes of fire starters from October have only just run out. Pretty impressive. Having those wonderful boxes of tinder and kindling ready under the bench made the winter easy. A pile of potential fire starter for next winter is growing in the maple grove as Thing Two makes her camp. I'm sure that it is camp gold, with a little work every day, she will have plenty of goods to barter for provisions when camping season is in full swing.
This morning when I dashed out to put up the hammock, I had one of those sense memory moments where your whole being briefly visits another time. My time travel took me to just such a spring like morning 50 years ago, when I must have been heading for the side of the road to wait for the school bus and regretting all the hours of outdoor time I was about to give up. While I'm sure there were compensations in being around other kids, I don't think that I ever fully felt that school time, despite the things I enjoyed, was a good enough reason for going indoors on a spring day. Now, I'm off to enjoy the next few hours outdoors and see how well I can manage myself on the work expedition to the alder thicket.
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