Admittedly, I have been complaining with the majority of my region about the harshness that has been this winter. I do hate to complain, given the fact that I live in a home which protects me from the elements, and is more than adequate in size. My family has not missed a meal, nor have we suffered from any illnesses. However, it has been a trying winter, the winter of our discontent, if you will. (Here, I give a nod first to Mr. Shakespeare, and now to Mr. Steinbeck.) We have been outdoors far less than is typical for us, even in the winter season. The constant battles with snow and ice, coupled with some ridiculously frigid temperatures have taken its toll on us. The fact that the five of us have been living nearly 24-7 under one roof is another tale. Remember, my husband works from home? Enough complaining, right? What do they say? If you can’t beat them, join them. So, out we go to find the trees.
All three of my guys love being outdoors, which was why it was surprising when A started balking at my proposal for a nature walk in nearby trails. I was also more than a little annoyed, because I genuinely thought all three would jump at this idea after being cooped up, and frankly, I have already had to deal with too much whining and bickering this winter.
“WE ARE GOING. GET YOUR NATURE JOURNALS.”
Of course, once we were all out the door and in the car, spirits rose.
Here is the profound lesson I Iearned while on this nature walk with my three guys. Ready? Here it is: boys do nature walks differently than I do. Yes, that was it. Astounding isn’t it? Even though it does not seem like it to my adult sensibilities, they do appreciate nature. There are differences in appreciation, however, just as there are different personalities and learning styles. While I was sauntering through the wooded trails, gazing upward at sky and trees, they were…well, where were they? They were here just a moment ago.
Oh…there they are, tearing through the dead underbrush, up the side of a hill, now sliding backwards into ice and snow. Sigh. Yelling and whooping, and well, just creating noise pollution.
Later, A finds a tiny trail which leads to a sizeable creek. Sandy patches freckle the snow leading up to the water. A young, slender hickory gracefully sways in a chilly current, its entire trunk caught in a wintry breeze. S turns to me for a moment as I admire it. Quietly, I share this encounter with him.
“Oh, it feels so calming,” he agrees. Then, immediately, he has turned back towards the water and is hurling fistfuls of snow into the creek. “I am helping out the eco system!” He yells back at me.
Honestly, I thought about being disappointed at our nature walk. The world was still and gorgeous, and I felt they were missing it. Then, I realized that thing about differences in appreciation. Here are some ways children might appreciate nature:
- Children are not passive in their love for nature.
- They must directly engage in it. It may be enough for me to sit quietly while a bird sings and breathe in spicy, earthy aromas of dirt, but my children need to touch it.
- They love it by interacting with it, moving in it. They dig in the dirt, chase after the birds, lift fallen branches, collect favorite pieces….whack things.
- PLAY is a child’s way of being in and loving nature.
I know. We already knew all of that. And yet I learned it again. Profoundly. While watching them enjoy a day in early March, I remember more of those trails, because of the play. Without them, I would have missed the creek. I don’t think I would have chosen the trail that A did. He showed us the Red-breasted woodpecker high up in the tree, putting on quite a show. G located tree cavities I never would have noticed otherwise.
There was a child went forth everyday,
And the first object he look’d upon that object he became.
And that object became part of him for the day or a certain part of the day,
Or for many years or stretching cycles of years.
~Walt Whitman from 103 in Leaves of Grass