Well, a little bit ago my dad requested that I share some childhood memories on my blog. And, also going along with the Last Child in the Woods book that I recently read, I have been thinking a lot about some of the memories I have with nature from when I was a child. (and to do a post a day, I am committed to finally post these things I've been thinking of for a long time now. Sometimes I just need to ponder things for awhile, you know . . . )
But the book emphasizes how we make connections and feel attached to nature by having unstructured time to explore and just be in nature, and that is exactly what I remember most from my childhood.
Here are just some of the things I've been thinking of:
1. There was a dirt hillside up the street from my house that sloped down to the ditch by the road. My siblings and our friends somehow came up with the idea of sliding down the dirt into the ditch on our butts. By doing this repeatedly (day after day), it wore a pretty slick slide that got going pretty fast. I was about 8 or 9, maybe younger and I'm sure my mom really hated us coming home with dirt ground into the pants of our shorts, but we just loved it.
2. I also remember going on many hikes up the hills by where the power line easement went through by our house. There was a big slab of rock filled with fossils that we loved to climb and chisel out fossils, and a small cave formed from the rocks that we hid and played in.
3. The wooded lot next to our house was vacant for most of the time we lived there and it provided a forest to explore, trees to climb (and in our yard also). It was especially fun after a rain and it would become a virtual swamp to splash in. And in the winter, the swamp would freeze and we would ice skate (or slide in shoes) in between the trees.
4. I remember spending time braiding chains out of weeds that grew up along the gravel road across from our house and fashioning various kinds of "clothing" from them, namely belts, crowns, necklaces, etc.
5. I also have very fond memories of making an outdoor "house" in the trees by my friend Megan's house. I'm a little blurry on the details (this was probably around 4th grade), but I remember we somehow made a sink with a place for soap, and other little appliances and things, all made from sticks and leaves and other things we found in the woods, along with a heavy dose of vivid imaginations. :)
6. Our favorite thing to do in the fall was to rake the leaves into squares forming the floor plans of houses, different rooms, doorways etc. that we would then play in (and you were NOT allowed to step over the leaf pile walls instead of walking through the doorway - no way!). I also seem to remember that playing orphans had a lot to do with this. Might have been related to living in a house made of leaves, but who knows.
Anyway, this is just a small sampling of some of my very early nature memories. This doesn't include all the amazing memories I have of camping with my family and going to the beach. Especially when I was in high school, our trip up to Maine (whale watching and canoeing in the Adirondacks are among my all time favorites) or Cape Hatteras, NC. I have many many other great memories, but can't write them all, of course.
But what stuck out to me as I read the book and thought about my own memories was how much freedom I had as a child. We played outside almost all the time and roamed around, played in the ditches, collected tadpoles, etc etc. And I realized my kids just don't have that freedom, for whatever reasons. They are pretty much confined to our fenced backyard and they don't spend enough time out there as it is. It is interesting to think a little about how different times are now and why and whether or not we should try to put things back to how they were "back then." But Zac and I have committed to try to do more to get our kids to explore nature outside, to spend time to just take things in, to think, to enjoy and savor it (with and without us), and to feel "connected" to life outside.
What do you think? Do you have fond memories of playing outside? Do you think things are "different" now - and should they be?
Share your thoughts.