Last month’s Spring Into Service events at Marylhurst have had me thinking a lot (more) about the health of our natural environment and how we connect to nature. Robert Michael Pyle’s reading, especially, got my wheels turning, and I decided that one concrete thing I needed to do was get my kid out into the forest again. Pronto!
Last Sunday we did just this. With his own trekking poles and Camelback, the 3.5 year old and I ventured into the woods.
My hiking partner.
Now Mac’s been hiking a lot before because it’s something that my husband and I love to do. But until last weekend, he was always in the backpack or the stroller. And about last fall, he just got too heavy to schlep around on our backs, too wiggly to sit still in the stroller for the duration, and too unpredictable in both mood and matter to deal with on the trail. (He was, after all, still a toddler.) So we’d not been in a while.
One of our first long hikes together when Mac was about 9 months old. Memorable for one of us.
But now that he’s three, potty-trained, and has learned to listen (most of the time) and not run into the bushes unaccompanied (after all, one must stay on the trail), I decided that it was time for him to get his own feet on terra firma. After a hearty breakfast of pumpkin bread, we hit the trail and started walking. We looked at flowers and listened to birds. We admired the Gorge (and the trains we could see from our high perch above it).
A hike with views of the Columbia River Gorge
We wondered where all the big rocks came from.
"Mama, there's a lot of rocks here!"
We talked about where the deer might sleep, and examined a large and suspicious patch of white fur along the path (likely from another hiker’s dog, but still…maybe it was from a rabbit, or even a polar bear?!?!?) We rested and had a snack by a waterfall before turning back to civilization, the car, and the trains / bikes / trash trucks / and legos that beckoned him.
Waterfall lunch spot.
Back to nature. That’s where we went. For 2 whole hours, and almost 2 miles, we went back to nature. It was everything I had hoped for. I was optimistic that I’d started something good with and for him: that I’d created a nature-lover, a child who would take care of the earth and its inhabitants, a child who would not suffer from nature deficit disorder. I couldn’t wait to do it again! Success! Bravo mama – nice job!
When we got home, Mac’s dad asked him about the hike and what we saw and what we did, trying to show his own approval and excitement that Mac and I actually had:
- Gone on a hike that lasted more than 10 minutes without Mac declaring he wanted to go home and ride his bike, and
- Completed a hike that did not involve me — at any point — carrying him.
And what does that kid say about his hike? Let me quote:
Dado, I got to go pee pee in the forest! Let’s go hiking again – I liked going pee pee in the forest! That was cooool!
This is his take-away, his key memory of our time together in the forest. This is why he wants to go on a hike again.
In the forest!
My intent was to have him know what the breeze sounds like among the ferns, experience the earthy smells of rotting wood and new green leaves, hear the birdsong, and feel the thrilling cold spray of a mountain waterfall on his shoulders. My intent was to elicit an appreciation for a different kind of playground, to admire its beauty and mystery and power, and to realize important ways to take care of it. My intent was to have him get back to nature.
And yet, apparently, I somehow accomplished something like this, though not exactly this.
Back to nature, we went. Back to nature.
And where is nature?
Nature: Where a young boy can pee in the forest and be thrilled to not have to flush.