By Anna Van Devender
The trees are thirsty. The kids are restless. The day is young, and one that will heat up quickly. I turn the hose on a trickle and then rest easy. The water promises 30+ minutes in nature for the kids and for me.
When I water our backyard’s two young live oak trees, my boys get to play in the mud. Sprinklers? Too cold, they say, plus we have fake grass. Pool? We had it filled in. Wading pool? We call it a bathtub, but that’s another story. Muddy tree wells with sand, rocks, sticks, and toy cars mixed in? Their most regular water play.
Water and summer go together in concept: a way to cool off in hot weather. This becomes messier in the desert. Our water supply in Tucson is overdrawn. We receive far less from rainfall than we use, and our groundwater supply is supplemented by the Colorado River. When we look for ways to cool off, we can also look for ways to mitigate our water use.
I just learned a new word for what I’ve been teaching in my classes and practicing at home: “stacking”, or serving two or more purposes with one activity. Katy Bowman presents the concept in her book Movement Matters. Now I have exactly the word for watering trees and kids at the same time!
On my family’s lovely getaway to Northern Arizona earlier this summer, my husband, Tim, made a similar discovery. All four of us had been playing in Sedona’s Oak Creek. “All four” being key. “It’s more engaging. It’s far more interesting than swimming laps in a swimming pool,” he reflected. He navigated shallow and deep, slippery and steady with Kid 1 while I dug and splatted luxurious red sand-mud with Kid 2. We all laughed at wading in and around multicolored cobbles. We stacked exercise, cooling off, enjoying something together, and time outdoors. We also found water flowing in the desert, as it does in a few rare, special places.
Back at home, I’ll take Kid 2 to his swimming lesson at Demont Family Swim School this afternoon because he needs to learn and we don’t live by a creek. I’ll water my pots on the patio, talking to the brave blooms and nourishing us both. Even with creative play and with letting some garden beds go during the summer, I use more water than if I didn’t love plants or my kids. I’ll keep looking for water to enjoy and to also let seep back into the soil.