It was messy and it was fabulous.
We were lucky enough to get some off-season inspiration from a reader, who urged us to head down to the nature center at Island Beach State Park the next time we were hit with some winter wanderlust.
This morning, citing a 45 degree forecast as sufficient reason for playing hooky from church, we went to the place that we love in the summer but have never explored in the winter.
It is always the simple things that grab the fancy of the young, and the boys could have played ‘hopscotch’ all day from painted sea creature to painted sea creature. They jumped from animal to animal naming each one in unison, only stopping to argue with me about whether one was a whale or shark.
The nature center was educational in a not so precious way. Fragile and amazing stuffed hawks, gulls, and owls from the collection of the College of New Jersey were sitting out on a table, begging to be touched.
Stickers, crayons, clam shells, garbage. We learned to differentiate between a black fish and a bass.
And then we went walking.
First to the bay.
Then back to the ocean.
We remembered how big the sky is in the winter and how little we look at it because we are so often hunched down, chin in scarf.
Not today, though. Today the sun was warm and Theo’s shoe got stuck in the mud. He didn’t even mind a bit.
Lunch in the car with the tailgate open.
New Jersey State Park pass purchased for the year.
It looks like we will be sledding again tomorrow. Building more snowman, drinking more hot cocoa. It will be fun and the best that winter has to offer. But today was like a deep breathe. A smile. A running leap. A spin. A giddy, squishy stomp in the mud. This is warm sun in February.
Thanks, Island Beach.