“Man’s heart, away from nature, becomes hard; [the Lakota] knew that lack of respect for growing, living things soon led to lack of respect for humans too.” Luther Standing Bear (c.1868-1939)
One of the things that really surprised me this year during my pull-out sessions were the number of students who told me they preferred not to go outside, whether it be for a fresh air break or a bit of a field trip to the local bird sanctuary. Knowing the draw of a good book, the pull of my basement studio and my fascination with the portal to the world that rests in the touch of a finger on my iPad, there is a part of me that can understand the competition these attractions can provide, but this summer I urge you to not only spend time outdoors, but to really fall in love with where you live in the natural world. If you want reasons I can quote you several books: Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv, The One Straw Evolution by Masanobu Fukoaka, Epitaph for a Peach by David Mas Masumoto or Barbara Kingsolver’s: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I firmly believe that there are things we need to know that only the land can teach us.
My mother, a farmer and avid environmentalist, grew up in Berlin during World War II and says that it was a book that changed her life. She can remember at five years old reading a book about wilderness survival and held that dream until adulthood when my father brought her to a farm in the middle of nowhere in northern Alberta. She thought she had found paradise in the hard work of making a life on the land. I grew up in a wilderness playground where nature taught me many things perhaps most importantly, the concept of unconditional love as I became a forager for wild berries. To this day I experience it as the land around me and my garden produce (with very little help from me) an unbelievable amount of rhubarb, saskatoons, apples, raspberries and strawberries making me feel rich and loved in ways that I can’t even begin to describe. (The vegetables take a little more work and I learn other things from them!)
Teaching children about the natural world should be treated as one of the most important events in their lives. Wendell Berry
While I can’t find the English version of the book my mother read, there are other books that can lead to a curiosity and interest in getting outdoors (especially if you read them in the shade of a tree!) My favorites include: My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George, Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, Owls in the Family by Farley Mowat, Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell or Call It Courage by Armstrong Sperry. Then start exploring! In our part of the world, there are some great places to get back to nature:
Pipestone Creek: camping, playground…dinosaur fossil bed. Historic Dunvegan: mission and trading post. South Peace Centennial Museum in Beaverlodge: you don’t want to miss Pioneer Days in July. Two Lakes: if you really want to get out in the wilderness this is a beautiful place to go. Red Willow Falls is a little more difficult to find, but it is definitely worth the adventure getting there. Kleskun Hills: a family favorite, with some great little hikes and a lot of history. There is so much to love about our place in our world…summer is a great time to discover it! Perhaps you have some special spots or books to share?