Updated: Nov 18
My childhood playground was a 100 acre wood a few blocks from my home. Hours were spent exploring the wetlands and forest of what neighborhood children called 'Smokey Bear Land'. I don't remember adults being present, children were free to wander. It was a place that invited one's imagination to soar encouraged by the smells, sounds and sights of Nature.
Within this mythic land children were free to exert their independence and when hungry return to the safety and nurture of home. For others it was a place of escape from the world of adults, where home didn't always feel safe.
Mary Oliver, the poet, writes that her childhood home was full of darkness. Her father was unpredictable and harsh. As a child and youth she found escape in the fields and woods that surrounded her home. She writes: 'Nature saved me'.
In the fields, woods and waters she found welcome in the beauty and quiet of the natural world. She would become a prolific poet, whose work explores the beauty, complexity and healing gift of nature. She never forgot her wounded child nor the healing and hope she found.
Mary Oliver in her book of essays 'Upstream' https://www.theexaminedlife.org/library/upstream-selected-essays/ which in parts reflects on her childhood, offer this invitation to all adults who want the best for children:
"Teach the children. We don’t matter so much, but the children do. Show them daisies and the pale hepatica. Teach them the taste of sassafras and wintergreen. The lives of the blue sailors, mallow, sunbursts, the moccasin flowers. And the frisky ones—inkberry, lamb’s-quarters, blueberries. And the aromatic ones—rosemary, oregano. Give them peppermint to put in their pockets as they go to school. Give them the fields and the woods and the possibility of the world salvaged from the lords of profit. Stand them in the stream, head them upstream, rejoice as they learn to love this green space they live in, its sticks and leaves and then the silent, beautiful blossoms."
Mary Oliver goes on to say: "I could not be a poet without the natural world. Someone else could. But not me. For me the door to the woods is the door to the temple."
Looking back on my child self, I echo the poets words. For me too the 100 acre wood was my temple. It was a place of wonder and adventure. At times a refuge from the chaotic. A place where my imagination was free to roam and the miraculous was close. As close as wading into a brook full of frog eggs, turtles and trout.
Nature is still my temple. On the water and in the woods I feel close to the Creator as I immerse myself in the beauty of creation. Is that not true for you too?
In the woods and on the water the turmoil of the world recedes. For the sake of the children and generations not yet born, let us each do our part to be good stewards of the earth. It is true, the woods and water remain our doorway to healing and hope.
May it always be so.
With you on the journey ~ Kent Harrop