Monday, June 15, 2009

Nature Walk

My little Niece-in-Law, A.R., showed up to Sunday dinner dressed beautifully, as always, in a dress and fancy shoes. I reminded Her that we had talked about a nature walk for the afternoon, so She got Her PaPa to drive Her home to change.

I am a firm believer that for a child to be pyschologically healthy, they need to have times where they learn the importance of being dressed up,clean and mannerly; and they also need times where they are out and about in the dirt and the mud, or learning how to use basic tools to take things apart; or just reveling in being alive. That goes one hundred percent for Girls as well as boys.

I had so looked forward to this nature walk, especially since acquiring Rachel Carson's book recently about helping children to maintain their sense of natural wonder.

I was very honored to be trusted, I a grown man, by myself with the safety and care of this little Girl. That is so rare of a parent these days, with very good reason. You may know, and I certainly know, that I would select the slowest and most painful death possible for myself rather than hurt a child in any possible way -- but a parent cannot read a caregiver's mind. Trust. It was all about trust.

So, finally, we meandered down into the woods. She was far too little to use my big walking stick, so we found Her one that was more Her size. I remembered what Carson wrote and just let A.R. explore and ask questions, rather than be subjected to a litany of botanical nomenclature.

I did point out and identify poison ivy and help her remember the tricks to identifying it: leaves of three; with smooth, not sawtoothed edges.

She found the skull of a raccoon or possum and insisted on bringing it home ... along with a handful of rocks, little freshwater clam shells and a sprig of wild ginger.

We reached the creek and She was a little reluctant to take Her shoes off and dip Her feet into the water -- but again remembering Carson, I knew that She needed that sensory experience. So I didn't press the issue. I dipped my toes in the water first and She eventually did the same.

I let Her clamber around on the creek boulders, ever poised to catch Her if She slipped, biting my tongue as She neared the edge where the water flows a little fast, doing my best to keep the difficult but necessary balance between over-protection and risk.

The hike wasn't all pleasant. She hit up at one point against a nasty branch of multiflora rose and it hurt -- but these experiences are needed, too, the development of woodland awareness -- one always watches where one's feet are going -- critical not just for avoiding thorns but also snakes and ankle-twisting loose rocks or holes.

She came home a little muddy, a little soppy, but full of excitement about Her day and the treasures that She had found. I hope we made some memories, the kind that I treasure from my own childhood.


Chase March said...

Great message and it is good to see that you are helping to give your niece a natural world education. I totally agree with you that children need to go get dirty and have fun from time to time.

kat said...

Beautifully expressed! Bless you and your little sweetie :-)