Thursday, October 22, 2009

Where The Wild Things Are

From the bean of Green Bean.

A body shifts next to me and then a small hand touches my forehead. "Mama." He's the only one who calls me that. My littlest. I squeeze my eyes open, taking in the trickle of sunlight through the tent flap and the sleeping forms of my husband and six year old, swaddled in blue sleeping bags.

I reach back and hold the soft hand. Checking my watch, I signal him to be quiet and follow me. I don't want to wake my sister's family, sleeping nearby. We climb out of the tent and silently put on our shoes. Tiptoe quiet, we move away from the campsite, the leaves and sticks determined to crunch even under the gentlest step.

The harbor lies just on the other side of the road. A blue expanse of boats mottled by sea grass that resembles shredded newspaper. The tide is in. Not a foot print mars the soft dirt path along the marina and toward the estuary. A rabbit, white cotton tail and all, skids past us and into the underbrush. My four year old grins but knows better than to shriek his excitement. Mr. Bunny might have friends. We do indeed spot three more rabbits and a handful of chickadees before rounding the path and settling down on a rock to watch the water, still as glass.

Side by side, we marvel as a rare White American Pelican drops into the water and bobs along with the current. I doubt that it is a pelican but my son insists, pointing it out on the laminated bird guide we picked up at the visitor center. He is right. A sea otter lolls about, sleepily rubbing his eyes and ignoring the screeching gulls. My little guy spots the egret first. Stilt legs and darting head, it wades in amongst the reeds, searching for breakfast. A blue heron soars overhead and the snorts of sea lions echo from distant rocks.

Two years ago, I read Last Child in the Woods, realized how disconnected we, and especially our children, are from nature and I panicked. I dragged my family on urban hikes and transformed my yard into a pollinators' delight. A year later, I bemoaned the ability of us suburbanites to reconnect our children with nature and all its ravaged beauty. I wondered if I should throw in the towel.

This past year, a girl who never camped fell in love with the outdoors. With the crackle of a campfire and the slow turn of a roasted marshmallow. With the hours of conversation and the silence. With the stars spread like a blanket overhead and the cool feel of a sleeping bag on my check. With the hoot of an owl at night, the rustle of a raccoon in the brush, with the still egret at dawn.

This past year, two boys learned to identify poison oak and banana slugs. They learned what pelicans eat and how to walk without a sound so that you can actually see the animals who left those prints behind.

This past year, we camped at the seaside, in the redwoods and on the red dirt of Zion. We invested in a second hand tent and a new ice chest. We unplugged and recharged. We discovered life without TV or iPhones. We found imagination. We found home.

The camping season is over for this year. And while the rain has come and washed away our camping dreams until spring, our 2010 calendar is full - of campsite reservations and a summer trip to three national parks.

Sitting inside as rain peppered the windows, we realized that, this summer, we learned something about ourselves. That there is magic in a quiet marsh and a few small birds. That fallen sticks can become many things. That kids actually can go through eight pairs of pants in two days. That the phone and computer and television stifle conversation, connection. That silence can be a good thing. And that nothing is as beautiful as where the wild things are.


ruchi said...

Aw. You're such an awesome mama. Your kids are never going to forget these trips. :)

jimmycrackedcorn said...

:Applause: !!! Keep up the good work (and the good writing!) I have the same aspirations for my two.

Rosa said...

thank you, this is beautiful.

We're in the "cold rain" part of fall, soon to be hard freeze (we already had first snow) and every Friday I have to explain to my son again why we're not going camping this weekend :(

I hope he still remembers how much he loves it, in the spring.

Jenn the Greenmom said...

oh, what a lovely post...thank you.

Jessica Nichols said...

Goodness you are such an amazing writer! I get lost in your words and your world.

Also, I have yet to read that book. Must read it soon.

Donna said...

I'm glad you guys are having so much fun! There's a lot to explore just in the western US, so dream big! We're currently brainstorming for next summer, but we have a wish list for when our son is a little older.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post!

Barb and Steve said...

What a beautiful & descriptive post. Your children are very lucky to have you for a mom :-)

balmeras said...

Such a lovely post! Grass stains and gold stars for you, my friend. :-) Bethe @balmeras

Green Bean said...

Ruchi: Thank you. I sure hope so. I have read that families who spend more outdoors time together tend to be closer once the kids grow up. Fingers crossed. :)

Jimmy: A fellow soul. Thank you!

Rosa: Even if he doesn't want to go at first, once you get kids out in the wild, I really think he'll remember. Camping is great for the soul.

Jenn: Thank you. :)

Jess: Yes, a key book but feel free to skim it. I really feel it would have been as effective as a very short book. Check out the Children & Nature Network for more great info and of course, Grass Stain Guru from Bethe who commented below. Her blog ROCKS.

Donna: Oh we're right behind you guys. We're planning Glacier for 2011 but 2010 is reserved for Bryce, Yellowstone and The Grand Tetons.

Kellie: Thank you.

Barb & Steve: I'd better go remind them of how lucky they are. :)

Bethe: Aha!! I knew you, of all people, would appreciate this post and finally, I've earned the covered grass stains from the Grass Stain Guru. Thank you.

utahlawyer said...


The 4 Bushel Farmgal said...

I agree with everyone above - your writing is awesome. This is a beautiful post. Yes, your children will remember this.

CJStewart said...

This is EXACTLY how our camping trip in June went. Except that it was 150 F. And no one felt like moving. At all. Other than that, right on! ;-)

Pure Mothers said...

That made me cry. What great family values. I agree with other commenters - you are an awesome mama and great writer.

I am a little sad because we just moved from beautiful Marin County with wild turkeys and deer in our yard to London. City. Grocery delivery. I crave a camping trip and a hike up to Lake Lagunitas with my 2 year old. Barely a breast-feeding, sling-toting mama in sight here. Organic food,yes. Wrapped in plastic, yes, too. :-(

And, the Waldorf school is on the top floor of a 5-story middle school surrounded by pavement.

Keep up your writing. I can daydream about being back.


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