I’ve lately been thinking a lot about nature connection, and the role it plays in my and my children’s lives. I often ponder this as I’m running through the forest on paths of soft, rust brown pine needles. After 25ish years of road running, I’ve made the complete switch to trail running. Originally, this switch was out of necessity for my aching 38-year old joints (sad, yes), which made it clearly known that they were done with pounding on asphalt mile after mile. Well then, the woods it was. And then my runs became a moving meditation in nature. I can’t even imagine going back to the roads, now, for all that I receive when I set footfall after footfall in the woods. There are the rich scents, and the feel of Earth on the soles of my feet, the swans and herons on the river and the songbirds high above in the trees, the gentle quiet – all folding me into their immense peace and restoring me to equilibrium by refreshing my perspective. I need this connection to nature to be the animal I am and the human I aspire to be.
And so do my children. A friend recently wrote about our children, “they are so much closer to magic than we are.” So true. Nature restores the magic in us, whether we’re gazing open-mouthed at the Milky Way in a clear night sky or inspecting the unexpected blue toned stripes on a shelf mushroom. It’s the magic of discovery, and magic of natural beauty, and the magic of the cycles of life of the innumerable species that wax and wane and interconnect in ways we have not yet begun to grasp. It’s there all the time, waiting for us to connect to the natural rhythms that act as reminders of its presence.
As individuals my husband and I crave this connection, and so we weave activities into our and our children’s daily lives that enable it. Building a campfire in the yard, hiking in the mountains, gathering wild edible and medicinal plants, camping, spending days at the ocean, planting seeds and harvesting vegetables. The kids always love camping, the beach, and campfires. Depending on the day, they may or may not get jazzed about hiking up a mountain or planting seeds. Fickle creature they are, but they are just kids after all. So when we’re standing on a 4000-foot mountain as a family after a joyful hike, we treasure the moment (with a little extra treasuring for good measure to get us through the times the kids are grumbling about forced death marches).
While it’s sometimes hard to tell, in my heart I know the kids are embracing these ideas and activities. I see it in the little moments, when they’re making ladybug homes, begging to do a litter cleanup on our road, gathering and eating violets in the yard, insisting we bike to the library instead of driving the car, or creating a bit of artwork while we wait for our post-hike pizza. This nature connection bent we’re on matters, both to us and to them.