As Curt and I walk around Green Lake we enjoy the gift of nature in a city environment. It is a chance to enjoy the beauty of the lake, the trees and the animals. I love watching the different pets as they walk or run around the lake as well as the wildlife that lives in and near the lake. We saw an eagle land on the tip top of a huge cedar tree. It was amazing but what was even more amazing was the fact that, aside from a handful of us, no one else took the time to look up and see him. They were so busy looking at their devices they didn’t notice the eagle or take the time to look up and see what was happening around them. After we left the cedar tree I was remarking on how sad it was that people are so into their phones or lost in the music coming out of the earbuds that they are not even aware of the world around them. I know that it is nice to have the music playing as you run or the phone call to keep you company as you walk but it makes me sad to see a mom running with her earbuds in and her child in the stroller staring at an iPad rather than having a chat about the baby ducks and the sound of the leaves as the wind blows through the trees. It is important to balance technology with opportunities to make memories, to connect with your child and both of you connect with nature.
It is no secret that I like being outside. I always have. Everyone in my family knows that I get cranky if I have been stuck inside for a whole day and haven’t had a chance to be outside. As a child I ran around outside from breakfast to dinner time. I climbed trees, built my own clubhouse, rode my bike everywhere -- in the 5th grade we rode from Lynnwood to Lake Goodwin and went camping for a week (yes, it was a different day and not something I could have done now), we played in the neighborhood and sometimes we just laid in the grass to watch the clouds. It was the summer of second grade that we moved from Yakima to Lynnwood. I had been used to being outside all the time. On this side of the state they had this liquid that came out of the clouds called rain. I was stuck inside until I figured out that rain didn’t hurt you and you could play in the puddles, make things out of mud, go on a worm hunt and find giant slugs.
I have great memories of both sides of the state and the activities I enjoyed growing up. It was part of the world I remembered as a child that I wanted to share with my sons. When they were little we were outside all the time. We have a neighborhood that has moms who also like the outdoors and wanted their children to play outside. The kids built boats to float in the street gutters after a rain storm, splashed in puddles, watch ants, played capture the flag, hid in bushes, had water balloon fights and made “brews” that sat in buckets in our back yard that continued to ‘brew’ as new items were added to it all summer long. They had fun and they have great memories of being outside playing in the neighborhood. It was a learning experience that became a part of who they are today.
A part of who we are as parents comes from our experiences as a child that come from our parents’ experiences from their childhood and your grandparents’ experiences that were shared with your parents. What are you sharing with your child that has been passed down from other generations? What are you sharing that you love and want to impress on them as important? The love of the outdoors was something both Curt and I wanted to share with our sons. We love to hike, camp, bike ride, garden, go to the beach and explore the world. We would ride bikes to Discovery Park and stop to look at the fish and boats going through the Locks, build sand forts at Golden Gardens, explore the trails at Mt Rainier and camp overnight. We have many family memories of hiking while camping at Mt Rainier as well as evening hikes in the summer and fall at Discovery Park. Both Joel and Nick made their wedding proposals after a hike – Joel and Danielle were looking out at the Olympic Mountains after a stormy Fall hike at Discovery Park while Nick chose Mt Rainier in the summer and the river going through the Ohanapecosh Campround. We have many memories that include Mt Rainier and Discovery Park so I was pleased when they chose to share these special places with Danielle and Greta.
It makes me smile to remember all the places we hiked and camped with our sons and to know how much that is a part of who they are as adults. Nick has summited 4 of the 5 highest peaks in Washington while Joel and Danielle are visiting every Washington State Park. Both of them are continuing to embrace the love of the outdoors that they had as children. What piece of nature are you giving your children that they, in turn, will share with the next generation of your family?
Being outside reduces stress, engages the Five Senses, encourages imaginative play, develops cognitive thinking skills, reinforces self-reliance and is just plain fun. What activity can you and your family do this week that gets you outside enjoying nature? Big and small, walk or hike, sit or run but find a way to experience nature this week.
One touch of Nature makes the whole world kin.
When my sons were little we planted a garden. It was not a large "canning" garden like their Great Grandfather's in Ohio but a small "tasting" garden in our Ballard backyard. In my Grandfather's garden they planted beans, tomatoes, corn and peas to be canned for, and enjoyed during, the winter months. In our garden we planted corn, tomatoes, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries to be eaten during the summer.
When I sent him the pictures of our 3 stocks of corn it was hard to tell who was prouder - my sons or their Great Grandfather. We rarely got to eat our corn as the raccoons usually harvested the few ears that grew but we did enjoy our berries and tomatoes. The neighbor children would come to the garden and pick the fruit for a mid-afternoon picnic in the yard.
It was fun to garden with the boys and as they grew older they added to the items we had in the garden. They loved salsa so we planted cilantro and peppers one summer. From the sour cherry tree ( like the one my grandparents had in Ohio) we made pie and Nick gave jam a try.
Both Joel and Nick were in Horticulture in high school. One afternoon the teacher stopped me in the hall. She asked if they had gardened as children. I said they had. She replied. "I could tell. They have such a respect for living things." Gardening is a way to give your child responsibility for living things. Letting your child plant a seed and watch it grow gives them an opportunity to develop responsibility as they care for something that is alive.
Joel has continued to garden as an adult. He and his wife Danielle have worked hard at developing a garden that has fruit and vegetables as well as a place to sit in the shade enjoying the beauty of the flowers in their yard. Nick has given gardening a try in Wisconsin and his fiancé is doing a farm internship this summer. She sends pictures of the produce from the Farmer's Market in Madison.
My Mom likes the smell of tomato plants because they remind her of her family. We never had a garden when I was growing up but I planted a garden with my sons because my Grandfather had a garden and they loved their Great Grandpa's garden. As we continue to garden I realize that a part of past generations lives on through memories of gardens.
Curt thinks of his Dad every time we pick the raspberries in the yard, I think of our sons and trips to the blueberry farm when I pick blueberries and we all think of my Grandfather's farm when we eat corn on the cob. A memory is planted when we garden with our children and I know a part of me will live on as Joel and Nick continue the tradition of gardening with their families.
What if gardening is not something you like to do?
You can still give your child a taste of gardening - and the knowledge of where food comes from.