I open the door to the mudroom with vacuum in hand, ready to clean the rug. Sayla, following close behind, sneaks past me heading straight for the storm door. Arms stretched out from her sides, the slight arch in her low back as her belly leads her onward, tiny bottom protruding behind. She’s not wearing shoes and there’s a light drizzle. She pushes open the door and carefully steps over the door frame. Free at last.
Water pools on planks of wood that have withered and bowed. Her puffy bare feet patter across the porch in delight, and I stand beneath the awning and watch. As her hair dampens it begins to look strawberry blonde. Who does she get that from? Maybe it’s just the light.
She walks over to the steps and holds out her hand, reaching for help. I hesitate momentarily because neither of us are wearing shoes, and it’s raining, but I concede and assist her down the stairs, walking hand in hand until she finds a section of dirt to play with. She takes a seat and begins filtering the earth through her delicate fingers, grabbing at sticks and pawing the ground, mesmerized by the brown granules.
Soon she quietly fusses and extends both her hands. This time I pick her up, resting her on my left hip as always, and take her to where the ground is soft and leafy, away from rocks and twigs, where the earth will gently meet her feet.
The oak trees are tall and slender, leaning in, budding bright green leaves, summer’s canopy slowly building. The air soft and fresh. I pause and take note of this moment—its purity, the fullness.
This is something I would not ordinarily do, to step outside barefoot in the rain, to get dirty midday so that I have to change clothes or wash up. But these things are no matter for Sayla; to clean up a mess is the least of her concerns. She’s teaching me to care less about it too—cleanliness—and to be more curious.
Funny how something so simple as dirt between toes and raindrops on the face can make your soul feel alive. That caring less about keeping things tidy can make life more full. That being outdoors, soaking in nature, can nourish the heart. Dear Sayla is showing me how to live more fully, more simply, and more present.
So whether or not you have a toddler in tow, standing at the door, waiting to go outside, make room for something a little messy in your life today, preferably outdoors. Walk to the mailbox with barefeet; dig through the garden or plant some flowers; lie on your picnic table at night and gaze at the stars. And when you do, breathe deep and slow, taking note of the moment, pure and full.