By Lynne Dardanell

Like many of you, our family experienced the ups and downs of a holiday weekend caused by rain showers, constant teasing by the sun, more rain showers, then storms, then a glimpse of dry weather – only to be fooled again by more rain. No sooner did we wipe the water from our deck furniture in preparation for the evening’s activities on July 4th then the weather gods played a cruel trick on us and unleashed another deluge of rain. At one point when the sun came out, I almost felt it worthy of a Facebook post, or rather, plea … “Quick, go outside, grill a burger, set off a firework” … but I didn’t want to waste precious seconds doing so.

Needless to say, I was continually and pleasantly surprised how little nuggets from nature carried us through the day. My girls, ages 5 and 8, scurried outside numerous times – as soon as the rain would stop, for fear it would soon start again – which it always did.Treasures found included baby birds sprouting fuzzy feathers as they nest in a hanging fern, a greyish colored frog with an orange underbelly that gave us quite a chase, a green spiky caterpillar that we unanimously identified as “inchworm!” and deposited into our garden, tadpoles in street puddles and ponds, and of course slugs, snails and worms. These various creatures brought moments of joy to a day that would otherwise have been lost to disappointment. It’s hard to console the little people when they exclaim “The 4th of July is ruined!”, but just watch their mood light up when they see baby bird eyes opening, or use a butterfly net to catch a frog, or closely examine a snail (which by the way, we named “Humphrey” and carried around with us for the rest of the day).

The constant reminders from Mother Nature that there is always a bright side (and it may not be the sun) brought back memories of my own childhood – when we found things to do outside despite the weather, and other occasions when my own children have done the same.

Just a year or so ago, when my youngest daughter was turning four, we had planned an elaborate and fun-filled birthday party at our home involving a woodland hike, outdoor games, and nature-themed party favors. For two days straight leading up to the party we planned and prepared, while it poured buckets of rain outside. The day of the party, my daughter’s spirit would not be dampened (indulge me on the pun), she wanted to romp in the rain that very morning, still in her pj’s. Would you believe we found an abandoned birds’ nest that had remained fairly dry in the shelter of a tree? Once again, nature saved our day, at least to a small extent. As it turned out we couldn’t have our party outside (more rain, very wet conditions), but a fun time was had by all – it doesn’t take much to entertain a group of energetic four-year-olds. And they still went home with nature-themed goody bags, which hopefully encouraged future outdoor expeditions.

We’re learning, slowly but surely, not to depend on Mother Nature to always play nice with us, but at least to play, or to provide play, in some manner. If we just look around, go outside and get a little wet, bend down to the ground and examine our surroundings, we’re liable to find a treasure. It just takes a little slowing down like the snails, opening our eyes like the baby birds, and chasing the moment like a spirited frog.

Lynne Dardanell lives in Summerfield, NC with her husband and two daughters. She works part time for Piedmont Land Conservancy planning membership and outreach programs, including monthly nature outings for families.