Welcome to our book study of Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. To be honest, I have no idea what this "study" is going to look like. I imagine that when we get together I will post about all of the things that caught my eye. And I would ask that you leave a comment, or a link to your own blog post in the comment, about what caught yours. This isn't anything formal, ladies, just a place to talk about what we have read.
I have now read the first four chapters of Last Child in the Woods two times. It is just so good. Several things have specifically hit me deep, but in general I just realized that "times, they are a changin'." Things aren't the way they were when we were kids.
Chapter 1. Gifts of Nature ~ "When I see birches bend to left and right ... I like to think some boy's been swinging them." ~ Robert Frost
What is your definition of nature? What feelings, visions, senses does it conjure up? For me, it's not a nature preserve or a botanical garden, it's just being outside, wherever your outside is. My nature is my backyard, primarily. It's where I can observe, listen, touch, and just be silent with God's creation.
One of my favorite quotes so far was on Page 10. "Now my tree-climbing days long behind me, I often think about the lasting value of those early, deliciously idle days. I have come to appreciate the long view afforded by those treetops. The woods were my Ritalin. Nature calmed me, focused me, and yet excited my senses."
I know that I get the most out of nature when I am ALONE. I've always been that way, and I see that now in my children, as well. I have memories of being outside, and when I felt the most at peace, I was alone. I wasn't really doing anything, most times. I was just being alone with nature. Now as a mom, I will look outside and see Eli just walking around in the backyard, talking to himself, soaking in the outdoors. He is so at peace. I will see Brynne swinging on the swingset, singing to herself, just carefree and at peace. PEACE.
Chapter 2. The Third Frontier ~ "The frontier is a goner. It died with its boots laced." ~ M. R. Montgomery
Could you imagine the three frontiers defined in the chapter? I could. The first frontier was a time of free land, a time of passing from savagery to civilization. I could see the pioneers. The second frontier was the time when we lived (that wasn't very long ago!), a time of the family farm. People were in touch with their daily existence and substinance. I can feel and smell the farm life. And the third frontier is here all too quickly. Children don't know their food sources, there are medical advances with animals that make them more human than animals, there are so many animal rights. We are no longer taming the wildlife, they are taking us over with their rights. It seems chaotic, doesn't it? Where is the PEACE?
On Page 19, it says "[m]any of us now in our forties or older knew farmland or forests at the suburban rim and had farm-family relatives. Even if we lived in an inner city, we likely had grandparents or other older relatives who farmed or had recently arrived from farm country ... For today's young people, that familial and cultural linkage to farming is disappearing ..." I got to thinking. My children do not know ONE person who farms. Not one.
Instead of natural living, we now have "green" living or urban living. There is a difference.
Chapter 3. The Criminalization of Natural Play ~ "For many years I was self-appointed inspector of snowstorms and rainstorms." ~ Henry David Thoreau
Rules and regulations now dictate what we can and cannot do with our environment. We live in a neighborhood with a strict homeowner's association. We live in actual FEAR of getting that letter telling us what we have done wrong. If the adults are being mandated, you can bet the children are, as well.
My dream is to have chickens. That's not happening while we live in this neighborhood. And unless we put in a $50,000 in-ground saltwater pool, my kids won't get the summer pleasure of splashing around in a pool while we live in this neighborhood. Anything above-the-ground would get us in "trouble". It's annoying. It frustrates me. I want more for my kids.
Because of all of these rules and restrictions, kids are just staying inside. On Page 33 it says that "average eight-year-olds were better able to identify characters from ... Pokemon ... than native species in the community where they lived: Pikachu, Metapod, and Wigglytuff were names more familiar to them than otter, beetle, and oak tree."
My children are guilty of this. I am guilty of this. THIS is something I aim to change.
And another thing that stuck out at me was the decline of FREE play. As parents, we are all about structured play: activities, organized sports, lessons, etc. But do our kids have the opportunity to just PLAY? I think my kids do. That's what they want to do, so we let them do it. They don't want to be in many organized activities, so we don't make them. To many, we are bad parents because of it. But in reading this, it just fuels my desire for my children to be children with their OWN imaginations, not playing under the rules of someone else.
And studies are showing that "exposure to nature may reduce the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)." Do you agree with that? I absolutely do. Remember the quote from Chapter 1? "The woods were my Ritalin."
Chapter 4. Climbing the Tree of Health ~ "I bet I can live to a hundred if only I can get outdoors again." ~ Geraldine Page as Carrie Watts, in The Trip to Bountiful
I don't know that there is that much to say here about this chapter. Being in nature improves our physical and emotional well being. I'm not even sure we need to read any statistics to know that it really is true. We only need to call on our own experiences.
I have revealed that I have been involved in a very stressful and upsetting situation in the past few weeks. I have been depressed, angry, sad, and more. And I have found myself stepping outside several times a day, with no agenda, just to be alone and with nature. I have picked a few weeds, looked at some newly planted trees, filled some bird feeders, worked a bit in my garden, sat and watched my dogs play, and just sat on my porch swing. Each and every time, my mood improved. I felt better. I felt more PEACEFUL.
I recall being a teenager. I was having typical parent troubles, probably boy troubles and friend troubles. I can remember driving to the town park and sitting on a park bench just looking at the lake. It calmed me. It helped me. Even as a younger girl, I would just go play in my sandbox, or swing on my swingset. Being alone, outside, with nature, got me through some hard times, and still does today.
** Wow. Okay, this was a long post. I hope you were able to stick through it. Now take some time and comment on how you felt about the first four chapters. Obviously my main feeling was Nature=PEACE. How about you? If you do your own blog post, please leave the link to it in your comment.
See you next week! Please read Chapters 5, 6, and 7 by next Friday.