I’ve been spending lots of time these past few weeks focused on kids and outdoors. Part of my time was actually being outdoors: in the very rare snow that we had last week. In the freezing cold temps. Hanging out in the yard around the fire. Hiking with the kids.
Part of my time was spent talking about kids and outdoors: with Austin Children in Nature Coalition discussing ways to increase kids time outdoors. Watching the film Play Again, an amazing documentary that took 6 kids away from their video world and introduced them to the outdoors.
In all of this play and discussion and sharing of ideas, the word inspiration keeps coming up. When I’m actually outdoors and spending time with the kids I am continually amazed by the inspiration I find in our whole experience. Being outdoors with them also inspires lots of stories of my own youth – times of play, sledding, swimming, skating, just being in the outdoors. I am inspired too by their own stories. Their own sharing of the inspiration they find. The ideas they concoct. The places they create and their pure love of the air they breathe and the plants and the rocks and the wildlife they see.
What I’m realizing, is that for most people, whether they grew up in a city apartment building or on a 1000 acre ranch or on a tropical island far, far away, there was a place, or a person, or a moment in their childhood that inspired their own love of and connection to the natural world. I’m curious about that piece of the natural connection. What was your inspiration? Where were your magical outdoor places? Be it a 14th Floor apartment window staring at the moon, or a tree growing up through a suburban sidewalk, or a stretch of abandoned dirt road that went on for miles on end – where did you go to connect to nature? And what did you discover about yourself when you were there?
For me it was Snake Mountain, Holstein’s pond, Hussa Pond and Indian Lake. I am lucky that all of these places still exist as natural spaces and have even been preserved recently so that they will always stay natural places. In those places I learned to climb trees and rocks, ice skate, dig for clay in the muddy banks, paddle a canoe, balance on a fallen log, and just be. Just lay on my back on the moss or on the frozen pond or even on the bottom of the canoe, staring up into the sky, the trees, listening to the geese fly overhead or watch the robins build their nests or taste the water dripping from the end of a melting icicle.
While I do get to bring my own children to those very same places each year, it is the feeling of those places that I get to share with my children every single time we are outdoors – wherever we may be. Those feelings of connection to the self. To the outdoors. To the trees and the sky and the plants all around me. And to the people I’m with.
Try it. Try going outdoors with your kids or with yourself. Try laying on your back looking up at the sky. Try connecting to the feelings of your own childhood magical places. And try sharing those stories with the people around you. The feeling of connection you’ll find is like no other.