Friday, January 25, 2008


A streak of mica gleams against the salmon-hued granite rock that I hold in my hand – ancient rock, born in boiling lava millions, perhaps billions of years ago, when this continent looked vastly different.

I have been back to nature today and I brought this little bit of it back with me. Certainly, it was only a lunch-break excursion but it was a revelation. Right here not ten minutes drive from my office is an island of wild-ness. I have known about it, vaguely, for years, but have never gone there on my own. Just as, for years, I never thought to wander through the very forest that lies behind my home. It took a visit from my parents, who are prone to wander and explore everywhere that they go, to wake me up and get me out there.

A friend has loaned me a book, Last Child in the Woods, that is absolutely horrible.

What I mean is, that it is as bleak and sad a commentary on our civilization as Jeremiah’s Lamentation for Israel in the Bible.

In only one generation, America has gone from a land where children splashed in streams, built tree-forts or played ball in weedy lots, to a nation where children are more familiar with Pokemon characters than the plants that grow or the animals that live in their neighborhoods.

The consequences are not just children who don’t grow up to be birdwatchers. The consequences are children who grow up completely disconnected from nature, obese, depressed or dosed with Ritalin.

Perhaps I am in the generation in between. I had a nature-touched childhood, played with frogs in my Grampa’s creek – but I had to be pushed a little. I preferred to have my nose in a book most of the time. My mother even locked the door behind me one summer day to force me to stay outside for a while.

As I noted above, I still have to work on myself today, push myself out of the rut, make being in nature a conscious habit.

Today’s children are not only not taught to enjoy nature, in many cases they are actively discouraged from doing so. Parents fear to let them wander alone. Homeowners covenants prevent them from building treehouses or even climbing trees. Even summer camp these days hardly matches the original concept.

In my opinion, a guy who cuts down a thousand trees to build a subdivision and then replants with some saplings from Home Depot, is much more reprehensible than some kid who breaks a branch trying to climb in one of those saplings.

I was proud of myself today. All on my own, I found my way back to the very spot in that wild place where my guide last Saturday showed me trailing arbutus. Here is a picture.

It’s not much to look at right now, but wait until I catch it in bloom!

As I walked back, I saw deer tracks.

Then, at a meadow’s edge, I found a feather, black and white, who knows from what. Later, I caught sight of a small bird balancing on a shrub. He was just far enough from me to be an indistinct blur and I longed for a good set of binoculars to see him better. I have not had such a longing before. Maybe I can make this my nature goal this year; to pay more attention to the birds around me.

And maybe somehow, I can involve a child. I don’t have any kids of my own but I have a niece, as I’ve mentioned. What fun we would have had today, looking at arbutus, pine cones, deer tracks and birds!


leslie said...

One of my best loved birthday gifts ever was from my bird loving 'adult' pair of binoculars, and a decent bird guide.
I had more fun with those binoculars. Not just for watching birds mind you! :) I would look through the big end to the little end, down at my feet, and try to walk along feeling a zillion feet tall.
Every household should have binocs!

eastcoastdweller said...

Leslie: My parents had binocs, too, which I discovered and borrowed when I was about 13. Unfortunately, I didn't put them to use for birdwatching at all. I was 13, so You can probably guess.

I did outgrew that naughty phase rather quickly, though.

leslie said...

Oh, I didn't mean they ALWAYS had to be used to birdwatch... :)
As I have grown older, I have just gotten higher powered ones...

Chase March said...

Great post, ECD! I think we all need to remember that connection to the natural envrironment.

eastcoastdweller said...

Thank you, Chase, and Leslie, for your visit. Always appreciated!

Rebecca said...

As the mother of an 11 year old boy, I couldn't agree more that life has changed from when I was a kid. We lived in Queens, and were told go outside! We played in the backyard, acting out all manner of adventures. Or we went to the play gound. When in my teens, we went camping in some really wild places. My son has known very little of this...What mother in an urban setting sends her kids out unsupervised?? We visit my family's homestead for real country living every year, where Chris has learned to target shoot and track deer and coyote. But he's still such a city kid...sigh. Hopefully Boy Scouts will further acquaint him with his natural surroundings.

ndpthepoetress - Jeane Michelle Culp said...

eastcoastdweller, a Gentleman, my Confidant – I appreciate you and am still a grand admirer of your Writings, your zestful curiosity about life - rather that be an insect or contemplating literature, art, God, or life itself, and I admire your compassion for your fellow human beings and nature. Currently, I am still under the weather and doctors care so I have been unable to visit many blogs and blog when I am able. Unfortunately, from bad to worse continues as seems to be the theme for many of us in the blogosphere recently. Having partially recovered from one death in the Family this December, now our Father is at his death bed as emphysema is determined to take his last breath. Such is why I am so Thankful to You eastcoastdweller for your comments on my site and for not giving up or forgetting me!

Lyn said...

me and nature have been good buddies since I was quite young, and, often I would wander all alone to discover much of what you have described. I try to share my love of nature in its simplicity but glorious state with anyone around me and am often met with, "Yeah, OOOOOOKKKK!!!" I will ever try to involve anyone and everyone in the wonders of the world around me, and, while I am multi-faceted in personality, that is, I like reading, writing, video games, and all the usual stuff, my favorite thing in life, besides love, is nature... great post ECD~~