When I was a teenager, I noticed that there was something about being out in nature that gave me a sense of peace. Being at the ocean especially calmed me; I felt as though my problems were put in perspective by the beauty and enormity of the sea.
I spent many afternoons walking through the woods at local parks, off the main path, breathing in the scent and the peacefulness of the trees, dirt, and creek. I would go to the nearby mountains and imagine what it would have been like to be Lewis and Clark exploring America before all the pavement and power lines, or what it would have been like to be Thoreau, living in the woods. Once, when I was very depressed, my dad insisted that we take a walk; he told me it would help me feel better, and he was right. The sunshine, the breeze, the sky... they were transforming. I remember when I was a child, I would play outside for hours, exploring the nooks and crannies of our backyard and riding my bike as fast as my little legs would pedal, just to feel the wind blowing through my hair, pretending that I was on an important mission.
These memories have come back so vividly as I have begun reading Last Child in the Woods. In our culture with its planned developments, rules of homeowners associations, obsession with indoor entertainment like TV and video games, and parents' fear that their children will be hurt or abducted, children miss out on experiences of nature that were simply a normal way of life for past generations. Nature is good for our minds, bodies, and souls. Spending time in nature brings a sense of calm and peace and can help with depression, anxiety, and ADHD. Exploring nature gives children a variety of sensory experiences and a hands-on familiarity with the environment that cannot be gained through mere book knowledge.
I'm only a few chapters into the book so far, so I'll probably write more about it as I continue to read. But for now, I'm thinking about ways to reconnect with a love for nature, especially in the face of fear (my own fear that my children will be hurt and my son's overwhelming fear of dogs). I want to go fishing, camping, and hiking. I want to explore the woods again and spend time near the water. I want my children to experience the wonder of nature in ways that many modern children do not.
"The cure for anything is salt water-- sweat, tears, or the sea." -Isak Dinesen
"Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air." -Ralph Waldo Emerson