Now I think all of us intellectually understand the need to set land aside for when we're gone. But there's a long term problem even so because, more and more, we see the out of doors as having nothing to do with us personally. And though we visit parks in droves, "visit" is the operative word because, for many of us, nature is a foreign country. Not foreign like England, foreign like China where a tourist can't even read the street signs and can't hope to bluff the language. That is, among other reasons, why so many families arrive at campgrounds armed with televisions--so that, when the strangeness gets too much, they have someplace to go.
We raised our son and daughter on twenty acres. It's not much land, but it's enough that, as adults, both of them love the outside; our daughter to the point where she and her husband bought land too, and, as soon as their little girl could walk, she was toddling down the middle of the creek. In fact, D'Arcy, who loved the trees in our pasture so much that she named them, passed her enthusiasm on to Ava, who, before she was two, could identify oaks by the shapes of their leaves and once informed me that what she held in her hand, Nana, was a sweetgum ball.
One afternoon, D'Arcy invited "Susan" and her little girl "Anna"--Ava's best friend from nursery school--over. It was a hot day so, after sandwiches, we all headed for the creek. When we got there, D'Arcy took off Ava's shoes and shorts, and she waded into the water in her diaper. D'Arcy held her arms out for Anna. "Don't you want to come in?" she said. "I'll carry you." At which, Anna burst into tears. Susan tried going closer, but, with every hesitant step she took, Anna screamed louder than before. The closest Susan and Anna got to the stream that afternoon was the few drops of water Ava ran up and threw at Anna to encourage her to come down and play.
Another time, it was two little boys, 8 and 11, whose father said they'd been talking about Mike and D'Arcy's creek for days. But, though they've since recovered from this, on their first visit, they were afraid to go beyond the strip of grass Mike had mowed around the house. This is a disturbing turn of events. In only a few years, we'll be passing the stewardship of the land on to these children. What will they, who fear it, know to do? I think the only solution may be to expose them young to all the beautiful non-ways to be outside. If we don't, then we and the species that depend on us are in grave danger.
Copyright 2006© Lola Haskins
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