Monday, March 22, 2010
"The human spirit needs places where nature has not been rearranged by the hand of man." ~Author Unknown
To celebrate Las Vegas’ recent gorgeous weather, George and I took a stroll around Floyd Lamb State Park, a literal oasis in the desert with lakes, trails, towering trees, ducks, and peacocks. In addition to nature, the park also has historical value: it is full of fossil remains of mammoths and other prehistoric animals, and it is a dude ranch where women used to go in the 1930’s to wait for their divorces to become final. All types of history!
During the same week, I heard an interview on NPR with Richard Louv, the author of the book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. He discussed the fact that kids (and adults) are getting more and more disconnected from nature, as time goes by and kids spend more time in front of computers and TVs and we pave over more and more of our environment.
Kids who don’t go outside tend to be more overweight, but this wasn’t the main focus of Louv’s interview. Instead, he stressed the need we have to be in nature. We don’t need to learn more about nature in a book or google search; we need “hands dirty, feet wet experience.” I so agree.
If I go for a while without being among trees and green, I start to lose a part of myself. This probably comes from growing up in a rural area, where at any moment I could run out the back screen door and into nature. Our house was surrounded by rolling hills and dense forests. On the weekends I explored the hill behind our house; our tradition was to walk to the very top of our property, and we weren’t allowed to turn around and look at the view until we got to the uppermost part where the fences of the bordering lands met. There, out of breath, we suddenly turned around and surveyed the view, all the way across the valley, past tree-covered hills and lined cornfields, to the farm in the distance with its black dots that were cows.
On our land I had many adventures. I flew kites and had picnics. I followed the cow paths to wherever they might lead, and I played around the spring that overflowed when it rained and created a river across our yard far below the hill. In the summers I stomped across the tall grass with my cat; in the Fall we harvested vegetables from our garden; and one winter, we met our cousins on top of the hill for a snowy, nighttime campfire. It was my wilderness.
My husband also had freedom in nature as a kid in New Jersey. He and his friends would leave the house in the morning on their bikes and wouldn’t return till dusk, having filled their whole day exploring nature (and probably getting into trouble, too, but at least they were outside!).
Someday when we have kids, I hope to give them the same experience in nature. While they might not have it right outside their back door, I want them to feel that it is nearby, and part of them. I may have to drive them somewhere to experience it, but it’s worth it. According to Louv, being in nature increases kids’ attention spans, reduces stress, and gives a sense of awe and wonder. And adults get the same benefits that kids do.
I think we’ll be taking a lot of trips to Floyd Lamb State Park.