My husband, Mark, and I both had childhoods filled with long summers running around our neighborhoods, he in the Excelsior area and I in Edina. He lived in a community dubbed Acorn Ridge, and while his family moved him away when he was 10, he still reminisces fondly about his time there. Whenever we are in the area, he drives me through and points out where he had acorn fights and rode his bike, at the house where he lived, where his best friend lived…and I know that some of the things I love about him most first manifested there.
I grew up in east Edina, and spent a lot of time at a park near my home where part of the Minnehaha Creek Watershed DNR Protected Wetlands continually drew me. I’d spend hours there alone, hunting for turtle eggs, watching crayfish scrabble around in the low creek areas, and finding secluded places for little notes I’d write, then bury. I think about that quiet and calming place often, especially when high stress hits my life, and I am almost instantly soothed.
As my husband and I were walking through Roberts Bird Sanctuary in Minneapolis a few weeks ago, he fondly recalled a time when our daughter was about 18 months old. We had decided to go camping, and left directly from work in the early evening on a Friday night. We drove as far as we could before recognizing we were exhausted, and set up camp in the dark somewhere between Hinckley and Cloquet. While we were drained from the long day, our toddler was bouncing off the walls of our tent. Would she ever sleep?
It was then that Mark picked her up, wrapped her in a small blanket, and took her outside for a moonlit walk. He revels in this memory, of holding her little warm body while he whispered about stars and trees and animals and the natural world in her ear, until she fell deeply asleep on his shoulder. He returned to the tent about a half hour later and tucked her into her little sleeping bag.
I’ll close with a favorite quote, and then it’s up to you to read Kelly Jo McDonnell’s feature on children and the natural world, beginning on page 32. Rachel Carson once wrote, “If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.”
Take your children outside. Teach them birdsongs. Let them dig in the dirt. Instill a sense of wonder about this big and beautiful world.