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Paul Smith: We overlook the simple things — but kids don’t

Summer is speeding by. We must get outside and enjoy the sun and warm breezes because in Newfoundland the picnic season is short. That’s unless you like to eat outside with a down-filled jacket on.

July is over half gone and I haven’t dipped a paddle yet, at least not since May in Florida. In a blink and summer wind change, the blueberries will be ripe, there’ll be a nip in the air, and I’ll be getting the urge to smell gunpowder again. I best get doing some summer stuff. All I’ve done so far is salmon fish, not that there’s anything wrong with that. But I haven had a fry of trout yet.

I’ve been thinking and reflecting a lot lately, my age I suppose, mortality takes on increasing significance as we age. You know I really should get some trouting done. And I have to take my granddaughter Rory with me. She’s six now and it’s time she learn to paddle a canoe and cast a fly rod.

There’s always so much bloody work to do, especially when you own a home on a big piece of land. Cutting grass alone is significant, and I get too ambitious about projects, too many nails to drive into that new garage I’m building. I’m going to grab my hammer, spend the next two weeks at it, and then that’s it for bloody work this summer. August is for camping, paddling, picnic baskets, and teaching grandkids to fish.

Outdoor activities

Summer might be short in Newfoundland and Labrador but there are certainly lots of activities to do outdoors. We have endless lakes, ponds and streams, hiking trails galore, wild woods to roam in, oceans to play on, and hills and rocks everywhere to climb about. There is no excuse to be sitting around watching TV, and every reason in the world to take your kids and grandkids outside for some wholesome fun.

Rory and Harry, our grandkids, were out of the city and in Spaniard’s Bay with us this past weekend. I had big plans for taking them out in that new old canoe I bought off a buddy last summer, a classic 16-ft Grumman. You might recall that it poured rain the whole weekend, and so much for that. Although we did take them out in the rain, I wouldn’t go as far as canoeing with them in a downpour — maybe when they get a bit older.

Rory was out bike riding in the rain, with Harry chasing her up and down the road with a plastic lawn mower in tow. It was quite amusing. I can’t wait for him to get old enough to cut my grass for real.

Forced indoors by the rain

So canoeing got cancelled and we had to spend quite a bit of time in the house. That can be fun sometimes, rain pelting on the window, watching some top notch kids movies, playing games, and it’s surprising the stuff you can learn just talking to a kid who just graduated kindergarten. Young minds I think, with no pressure to drive nails, or pay bills, have a clear, uncluttered insight into what’s really important in life. I think we get that illusive sense back as we age, but sometimes too late. Anyway, I had a great chat with Rory over popcorn, and caught a glimpse of true adventure. I was there and had forgotten all about it.

… It’s surprising the stuff you can learn just talking to a kid who just graduated kindergarten.

We were talking about our stay in a cabin at the base of Marble Mountain last summer. I can’t really remember why, or how it came up. Rory’s deep piecing blue eyes lit up. I just love those spirited youthful eyes. I’m privileged and I damn well know it. That’s good on me, not taking these most important things in life for granted. Anyway, “Pop,” she says, “Do you remember that evening you took me down that steep hill into the river?” I had to think for a minute. I had forgotten what for Rory was probably the highlight of the entire week. I totally missed the bus.

It really funny, because we had done all the stuff that you figure would stand out in a kid’s mind. We had taken her on hiking trails, to parks, all the go-to kids’ stuff we could think of. This down the hill to the river business was just something we did one evening after supper to pass away an hour. There was zero planning, no preparation. A river flowed in a tiny but steep valley behind the barbecue area near the cabins. I took notice while grilling a few chicken drums. I figured me and Rory could have a little hiking adventure to work off supper.

Every little detail

I’ll let Rory tell the rest of this one, or at least the way I remember it from our conversation a few days ago. She was really excited telling it all back to me, reminding me of what I should have filed more carefully. She had every little detail of that evening stored away in her uncluttered youthful brain and I never had a clue how much it meant to her.

“Oh Pop, we had some fun that evening. Remember? You helped me down that steep bank and then we stood on rocks out in the water. I wasn’t scared. We hopped on rocks all the way down to the bridge. I was pretty scared walking under that dark bridge. It was dark under there, and then we heard the cars driving over us. Do you remember that Pop? That was so cool. Then we climbed up the bank and found a path back to the cabin. Can we do that again this summer?”

What can I say? It’s sometimes the unplanned simple things in life that matter most. Hopefully I’ll get her canoeing and fishing soon, or maybe I should just stop making plans and start thinking like a kid again.   

Paul Smith, a native of Spaniard’s Bay, fishes and wanders the outdoors at every opportunity. He can be contacted at  or follow him on twitter at @flyfishtherock

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