A time to work and a time to play

Somehow I’ve ended up with major league flower gardens. I’m no horticulturalist, but I have learned that a good, thick layer of mulch helps keep the weeds down and the moisture in. So every spring we literally buy it by the truckload. It brightens the dreary landscape and I love the scent of fresh woodchips. However, standing in front of a mountain of mulch with my wheelbarrow and a shovel can be intimidating. Getting started is probably the worst part. Jack takes half of it to mound around the tree bases and I work the rest of it away a few hours at a time. It’s one of those relaxing jobs – the kind where your mind wanders freely and the old songs play unbidden in your head.

This year because of the weather, the task dragged out. Finally I needed just one more day at it. I could finish Mulch Mountain and get the lawn cut before it rained again. Then my daughter-in-law Willene invited us to go kayaking with her and the kids. Hmmm. Floating down a gentle river on a magnificent afternoon with my grandkids or sweating in the sun doing yard work. What to do?

I piled into the back seat of the truck with Daniel (age 9) and Cassy (5). We drove down country roads, a colourful collection of plastic boats sticking out over the tailgate behind us. Daniel couldn’t believe I had lived this long without ever being in a kayak. In the front seat Willene and Jack discussed the logistics of getting me into a kayak without dumping it.

“You’ll be fine, Mom,” Willene said. I wasn’t so sure.

I followed her and Daniel as best I could. Cassy, in her life jacket and pink hat, perched on the front of Jack’s kayak, dangling her legs into the water and chatting happily. After a few minutes I relaxed, feeling as if I had some control. That changed abruptly when we came to a shallow area and the current increased. The kayak spun around.

I sailed backwards past Daniel. “You okay, Nana?” he called.

“Never better,” I said, as my kayak came to a grinding halt on top of some rocks.

“Just push your way off,” he said, “And get back into the deeper part.”

Easier said than done.

The river carried us along under a dazzling blue sky. The lush greens of June cushioned the banks. We rounded a bend and passed huge sandy cliffs, riddled with holes made by hundreds of swallows. They swooped gracefully back and forth above us. We stopped for a snack on a rocky little island. When our adventure ended, James brought the truck to us and we returned to the farm for ice cream.

I never did master controlling the kayak’s direction against the stream. But I became quite adept at wiggling (and grunting) my way off the rocks. Seems to me that’s an important skill too.

Testimony of creation
I finished mowing the lawn after dark that night. Mulching would wait until the following week. Later, I lay in bed and smiled at the memory of that perfect afternoon. Summer is a special gift from God. Sure, there’s pleasure in hard work and a job well done. There’s also much to be said for simply soaking in the beauty all around us – the testimony of creation as it echoes Eden in the warmth of the breeze, the glow of the sun, or the joy in a child’s face.

Here’s to summer and to the wisdom of knowing when to move mountains and when to go with the flow. 


  • Heidi VanderSlikke lives on a farm in Mapleton Township with her husband Jack. They share their home with a gigantic Golden Retriever named Norton, who thinks he's a lap dog. Heidi and Jack have three happily married children and seven delightful grandkids.

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