Thursday, March 8, 2012

Help Build Children's Connections to Nature.

NOTE: I wrote this post this morning (Thursday) and scheduled it to be posted tomorrow morning. This afternoon, there were more signs from nature for me. I'll share them tomorrow, so please come back for brighter news.
*         *           *
I've been struggling to write this post for several weeks. I've wanted to share an important nature experience, but it's not a positive one. And this blog is supposed to be about positive experiences in nature.

On Wednesday afternoon, I grabbed my camera and notebook and headed out in the woods hoping to find the positive message I needed. As always, nature did not let me down.
*           *           *
For weeks, my husband had been telling me that I needed to go walk the trail to the frog pond. He told me there had been logging going on and I really needed to see it. Not surprisingly, I didn't jump at the chance. Destruction of nature is not what I want to see. Finally, about a month ago, I walked that trail. As I approached the area, I stopped cold. My chest tightened.  I felt my face pinch tight as I tried not to cry. I held my breath a few moments and then I did cry. The devastation was overwhelming. All of the hardwood trees had been cut out.

Giant wheels had mashed the mound of soil where my favorite little clump of violets bloomed each May.

The corner where only dappled sunlight used to reach the forest floor blazed bright. The decaying log covered with the "turkey mushrooms" my kids and I love so much, gone.

I continued to the hill where the wood frogs winter over and found this:

Squishy machinery tracks beneath my feet made me wonder what happened to the wood frogs. Would vibrations have driven them out or were they too deep in their winter slumber to move? Were they crushed while they slept?

I couldn't take it. I turned and walked home.

I returned with my children a few weeks later. The weather has been ridiculously warm this winter. The wonky weather caused snowdrops, crocuses, and daffodils to bloom weeks early. Maybe some wood frogs would be out.

I don't know why, but I didn't tell my kids about the logging. I wish I had. I SHOULD have.

As we rounded the bend and saw the results of the logging, my son stopped his bike and just stared. My daughter stopped walking. Her shoulders stooped. Her face crumpled and she cried, "I don't want them to cut down the trees." She completely fell apart sobbing. My son said, "I'm mad!"

I didn't know how to comfort them. For children, what is the upside of a treasured natural landscape being demolished for human consumption? I did my best. I expressed my own sadness and hugged them tight.

But my daughter never recovered that day. Her shoulders remained slumped. She was whiny. She cried at the simplest thing. My son was quieter than usual.

I've been looking for the positive. As I sat there beside our beloved frog pond yesterday, nature brought me the answer. (I sat in a different spot than usual- a place where the devastation was not in my view). It wasn't the answer I was hoping for- no frogs are out- but in just 15 minutes time, three little animals visited me: a common house fly, a daddy long legs, and another little fly (I don't know what kind).

What were they telling me? Life continues. Our forest will continue to grow. Sun-loving pioneer trees- white pines- will sprout in the sunny cleared patches. Over time, those pines will grow so tall that they'll choke out the sunlight. Then shade-loving hardwoods- maples, oaks, and beeches- will grow in their shadow and eventually become kings of the forest.

Maybe some day, 100 years from now, my descendants will walk through the forest to our frog pond to watch the descendants of the wood frogs I love so much come out of their winter slumber to mate.

This, I hope. And it will be true if we take the time to bring our children to natural places. My kids love that landscape, and with that love comes a desire to protect it. They are our future. Your children are our future. What can you do to reconnect them to the earth that provides their food, their shelter, and the air they breathe?

Please, get your kids outside. Let them play. Let them explore. Let them love nature.

Related Posts:
Reading the Land


  1. Eighty years ago, the forest I walk in every day wasn't here - it had been completely logged over and then burned. I understand your pain, though, because I would be heartbroken if I went out tomorrow to discover it had all been cleared again. Knowing that someday, decades from now, it will come back only helps so much.

    1. Thanks, Rebecca. I know the history and can see evidence that the area we love used to be fields (stone walls abound). The forest gradually took over when the farmers left. You're right, though, it's still hard.

  2. is this THE frog pond....where the wood frogs mate every march 16th or so?

    1. Yep. That one.

      BUT... the frogs are there! They came out yesterday. There weren't as many as in the past but it could just be because it's so darned early. Seriously... it was 62 degrees yesterday! We've barely had any days below freezing this year. Snowdrops are nearly gone by and crocuses are in full bloom here.