A long season of short days and cold nights makes for two restless explorers like Claire and Nate. The sky grows dark just after dinner, and it is too cold to be outside for long periods of time. Having to stay indoors is dreary for the young wayfarers, but their imaginations grow as they plan what they will do this summer.
They eagerly long for the day when they can play outside again. Mom often hears them making plans for a new fort they are going to build in the woods. Nate cannot wait to see if the raft is still by the pond. They like rowing it to the other side and pretending they are walking through a new land.
Mom knows the season is beginning to change, and it will not be long before they can go discovering outside once more. One night at dinner, she tells them the weather is supposed to be nice over the weekend and perhaps they can spend some time out of the house. They have waited all winter for this moment. While their older sister, Anne, is disinterested, Claire and Nate are excited!
The weekend arrives, and just as Mom said, the weather is beautiful. Claire and Nate bundle up in jackets, and with a rucksack in tow, they head out to see the world. Their eyes are big with expectations of what the day will bring. The smells in the air stir an energy that the day will be full of adventure. Mom tells them to be in before dark and kisses them goodbye.
As they begin down the trail leading to the pond, Nate wonders if the raft is still there from last summer. He is happy when he sees it lying on the bank, right where they left it. He and Claire grab the oars, climb on, and paddle to the other side. Things have changed since the last season. The path is clearer because of the barren trees, and they can see deeper into the woods.
They stop in their tracks and question the decision facing them. They can either go home or continue along the path. There is plenty of room to play in the field next to the house, yet if they continue on the trail, they do not know what they may find. Nevertheless, in their hearts, they know they cannot turn back.
Their venturous drive gives them boldness and courage to confront the fears of the unknown. Their childlike imagination picks up on every noise, including one that is familiar, at least to Claire. That recognition brings comfort to them both. Along their quest, they meet new friends and find surprises in old friends, which brings them hope in what they have lost over time.
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