Two nights ago the kids and I slept out in the yard.
Under the stars.
It seemed like a great idea at the time, and indeed I think it was. But by 3 AM I had watched the moon's entire journey across the sky as well as the procession of night music from spring peepers to the great horned owl to coyotes, whippoorwill, snipe, and... well, you get the idea.
There was more nature observation happening than sleep that night.
And then Lupine, damp and cold with dew and night air, climbed into my mummy bag along with our barn cat and I could no longer move my arms. At all. We were pretty much wedged tight until we wiggled out and dashed to the house for hot tea beneath cozy blankets at 5 AM.
It was a magical - but sleepless - night.
And no, I didn't regret a thing, but yes, I did drink most of a pot of coffee to make it through the following day.
So the next night I decided the kids (okay, really I) would need to get to bed early. Really early. Because we were exhausted.
That evening, just before dinner, the phone rang. It was our neighbor who has been passionately restoring his prairie for years.
And Lupine, still dressed in a sparkly dress from a birthday party in town that afternoon begged, "Oh, mama! Dan is burning the prairie again. Can we go? Please? Please, can we?!?!"
(Puppy dog eyes.)
And I want you to know that I did not say, "But I'm exhausted and it's already 6:30 and we haven't had dinner and did I mention that I'm exhausted?"
Instead I said, "Yes."
And she squealed and leaped into the air and went upstairs to change into something more practical and I heard Sage cheer in the next room.
And then we ate venison steak for dinner. And nothing else. Because we could take steak with us in our grubby little hands and walk next door to watch the fire and the sweet potatoes were too messy for eating while walking.
Off we went, in the direction of the smoke.
The truth is, I can't imagine having missed this day.
It was amazing.
We talked about the importance of fire and the ecology of prairies and forests and invasive species and evolution. We walked through thick smoke and explored the expanses burned just a week before, already greening up with new life.
After an hour Lupine was tired and ready to go home, but Sage was just getting started.
So at the time we normally would have been tucking in I kissed him goodnight and left him with Pete and Neighbor Dan on the hill, a butane torch in his ten-year old hands.
And he burned the prairie, with Dan as his teacher and Pete looking on. And what an experience that was for the still smallness that longs for bigness that is ten.
I was asleep next to Lupine in her bed when they came home, long after dark. Sage woke me, soot on his cheeks and smelling of smoke, his eyes radiant. "I got to use the torch, Mama! I burned a ton of that Prairie with Dan."
And the confidence and pride in the air was palpable.
He did it.
He helped push back invasives and enrich the soil for natives.
He felt the trust from the adults along side him as he stepped into the role of worker, not mere observer.
He did that.
And I wonder - how often do our kids get to step up and do the important work that lets them know they matter? How often can we silence the voice that says, "Be careful! That's dangerous! Don't do that!" and let them be and explore and truly live.
I say the more we do that the better. Because this kid was on fire (pardon the expression) with the work he had done.
It changed him.
And I'm so glad.