Everyone’s ready for school to start again. Each morning for the last week, about 6 am, Jaden gets right in my sleeping face and says hopefully, “school today?” Shayla is also sick of us, ready to see her friends.

I thought I’d clear the cobwebs in my own head by sorting out the garage and getting some stuff to the recycling center, but as I dug through the piles my spirits sank. So much generosity and love and kindness, but the detritus of Christmas, and life generally, is a sad sight. Will I ever tent camp again, or figure out how to use those pipes to make a Halloween spider? Do I really need tile-laying tools? My old stuff taunts me with the things I used to do and may never do again.

Shayla agreed to go to the recycling center because she likes little trips, and she got to help smash up the boxes first. The recycling center really is a treat. In part this is because I have such fond memories of trips to the dump with my mom as a kid. She and dad had a phase of fixing up old houses, so there was plenty to discard, and my mom always saw it as an adventure. Also the new El Cerrito recycling center is this ultra-organized circle where you can bring styrofoam blocks, cardboard, old electronics, batteries, books, three kinds of metal and 4 kinds of plastic. It’s awesome.

On the way we passed a hiking trail that goes up into the hills. I mentioned as we drove by that some time we ought to go up the trail and see the amazing view of the bay. I’m not sure why I bothered. Suggesting a hike to 6-year-old Shayla is not unlike asking most people if they’d like to set themselves on fire; there’s very low likelihood of a yes.

Our recycling adventure was very satisfying, with the Goodwill lady helpfully suggesting a few places we could put some stuff that I hadn’t thought of. My mood was picking up. Then, incredibly, on the way home Shayla said “I want to go on that walk up the hill right now!” I was stunned, but am smart enough to grab a good offer when I get one.

We hiked up a steep, rocky path into the El Cerrito hills. The views of the bay are stunning: Golden Gate bridge, Bay Bridge, far north bay. I couldn’t believe how much we were climbing, and I kept telling her she got to pick when we’d turn around. I was starting to fear I might have to say it’s time to turn back when she found a spot to dig for¬†dinosaur bones. She was very dedicated, for a couple of minutes, but satisfied there were none immediately available, she was ready to head down the hill.

What a surprising, lovely gift, getting out in a bit of nature as the bookend to the winter holiday. It’s my favorite way to relax. It gives me such joy, and fills back up my hope for all life. And today, the suggestion coming from Shayla, reminded me that I have no idea what these kids will or won’t do over time. I may never lay tile, but who knows, I may need the tent and lots of the other crap in the garage as their interests expand. What a nice feeling to head into 2104 with.