I was planted early and deep in the natural world.
My mother was afraid of spiders but was determined her daughter would not be. Despite her fears she taught me not to scream at (or squash) the large scary cobweb builders dwelling in the shadows of our basement. To see graceful legs, shiny eyes, the design of silk instead.
And so it began.
We had a house and a yard that was often filled with other lives — baby robins, hamsters, various lizards, snakes, a raccoon, tadpoles, spiders, swallows, chickadees, mice, a one-legged seagull. And a dog.
I climbed high into cedar trees, picked wild berries all summer, splashed through ditches, explored the ravines filled with moss and skunk cabbage and blue clay. Nothing was off-limits.
I warmed garter snakes in my hands on chilly mornings and reburied worms when spading the garden. Caught honeybees in cupped hands without getting stung. Held lizards so they could catch caterpillars on the apple tree. Watched in delight as a rescued raccoon played with snow for the first time.
Some animals were transients; they came and went on their own timetable. Others lived with us, mending a wing, learning to eat, escaping inclement weather.
That love of and interest in non-human worlds followed me through school, university and jobs that almost always had a natural or scientific element to them. I was most fortunate. Today’s generations? Not so much.
In his book Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder, Richard Louv addressed the issue of our increasing isolation from nature, coining the term nature deficit. An apt one for our time.
For a new generation, nature is more abstraction than reality. Increasingly, nature is something to watch, to consume, to wear—to ignore. A recent television ad depicts a four-wheel-drive SUV racing along a breathtakingly beautiful mountain stream—while in the backseat two children watch a movie on a flip-down video screen, oblivious to the landscape and water beyond the windows.
That is a great sadness.
This blog is a stewpot of ideas, impressions and glimpses into what is becoming an all-too-rare commodity — the “natural”world. I purposefully place quote marks around that term: humans have so altered this planet as to make it unrecognizable in many places.
I live in a small spot where the human tread, though present, is not quite as noticeable. Here I find wonder, comfort and serenity.
I write and photograph to remind myself each day that these other worlds are important, no matter what value we may — or too often, may not — place on them from our human perspective.
I find wonder, beauty, untold stories living in the grass, the woods, the waters. Whether it’s a lake or a puddle, a wild hillside or a a sidewalk crack — nature, if given even the smallest of opportunities, will find a way.
We need just give that world a chance. In saving it we may also save ourselves.