This year's spring and summer have been so very full that when I started to look through my photographs I was a little overwhelmed at the prospect of narrowing them down to a select few to post here. This summer's weather has perhaps been the best that I can remember for a long time which has been a true blessing for the family that spends a good deal of its time outdoors. Browsing through these pictures I see that we have certainly made the very most of those long, largely sun-filled days. We have walked, played in and explored more corners of this special place than ever before - particularly enjoying the good number of swimming and paddling spots in these valleys. Lumb falls, Blake Dene, Jack Bridge - we've done them all, complete with neon-orange arm bands which seemed to glow in the dark of those shady brown pools. We even found the almost mythical Gadding's Dam - a reservoir high up on the moors with its own little sandy beach.
As well as the paddling, there's been horse riding and bike riding, running and climbing, building and gathering, and watching our allotment grow and produce. The more we've been outside, the more at ease I have watched my children become, hair increasingly tangled and streaked with blonde; skin darkening and gathering scrapes and scratches, each telling a tale of an act of bravery or folly. They have grown alongside the vegetation they crawl through, becoming more sure-footed, more confident in their bodies with each passing adventure. They have discovered more by observing more - spotting bugs, birds and berries with the excitement of growing familiarity and knowledge. My own looking and understanding has been stretched with their help, their constant questioning and enthusiasm pushing us all to discover more, love more deeply.
I have realised too that we are shifting out of the little years; I am gratefully aware that I can now shower whilst the boys are awake - something I feared may never happen - and there are short fleetingly precious moments when I'm not immediately required and am able to daydream a little; creating tiny bubbles of sweet space for my weary brain. They are growing up I notice, and I am caught between wonder at the independent boys they are becoming and sadness for the babies they no longer are. I try hard to keep in mind that they grow lean but no less loving, they talk with more knowingness but make me laugh more and, perhaps the most beautiful thing for a mother, they grow better friends with each passing season. Of course they still bicker and fight (a lot!) but they've also become co-conspirators, accomplices, comrades. They pore over books together: imagine worlds and hilarious far-fetched scenarios; help each other when they're hurt and come running for me when one or the other gets stuck up a tree. Like peas in a pod, where you find one you'll invariably find the other: my little adventurers - curious, kind and always together.