We went to Descanso Gardens on a lovely day last week. We went straight for the children's maze, which we'd never seen before.
I followed behind Alice as she made her way through the rows of box hedges, trying to capture the curve of her smiling cheek; the sunlight on her curls, blowing in the wind and bouncing as she ran; the angle of her elbows and knees as she found her stride.
After a while, Jon motioned me back, to where he sat with Ivy under a shady tree. He reminded me to give her the space to play alone, where it was safe, to let her experience the freedom and joy of childhood without me or my camera lens breathing down her neck. So I sat and watched from afar as she followed two other small children around, laughing shyly in their direction and watching them, playing with them without really playing with them.
I thought about how I would have loved to play in such magical gardens when I was a child, about all the time I spent outdoors collecting leaves and flowers and other treasures, living in a fantasyland and making up stories about all manner of magical things. She's still so young, she doesn't know how to play these games. She doesn't really want to play with me now but some day, she really won't want to play with me. And I want to be with her, to soak up every eyelash and dimple, to catch it all inside my camera so I can keep it with me wherever I am when I'm not with her. So I follow her. But I know that she needs time to herself, to learn to find her own magic and delight in her own company, so that when she's old enough to play those games without me, she'll know how.
She wanted to look at this fountain so we stopped here for a while. She would have stayed all day, laying on and over the side, dragging her fingers through the water. Now I know where to bring her when she needs stillness in her heart.