There's a beautiful nature trail that winds through the woods and next to the river. It's one of our favorite places to explore. We always start out the same way, with Cole running ahead and circling back to me, running ahead and circling back. He's laughing and giggling, taking so much joy in his freedom to run off his boundless energy - it makes me smile as I follow along, snapping photos.
"MAMA! COLE HIDING! WHERE COLE?"
We hear a bird twittering in the distance - Cole stops and listens intently. I love watching his face as he concentrates on the sounds. He spies a "BABY TRWEE MAMA!" and runs to feel the spiky pine needles. He watches his feet leave footprints in the slimy mud. He sees a puddle frozen over and asks me, "HAND PEESE! HOLD HAND MAMA!" so he can slip and slide across the ice.
When we get to the water, we see fishermen taking advantage of the sunny day and Cole reminds me in an exaggerated whisper, "SO QUIET! PEOPLE FISHING! SO QUIET!", complete with his finger on his lips. He sees the river running next to us and asks to go closer - "SEE DOLPHINS IN WATER!".
On our final stretch of the path, Cole slips his hand trustingly into mine. Every few steps, he plants a smacking kiss on my hand and melts my heart.
We pause to throw a couple handfuls of rocks into the water - "SHPLASH!" - and continue on our way. As we arrive at the car, I ask Cole if he had a good afternoon at the park. "YEAH!" he says as he enthusiastically throws his arms around me in a hug.
Me too, I tell him.
I wouldn't trade that peaceful, sunny hour for anything.