By Kat Stiney
I’m an outdoorsy kind of gal, down to the very fiber of my being.
Perhaps I was born this way or maybe it began for me as a child at Grandma and Grandpa’s place in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. My brother, sister and I would spend a couple weeks there each year running free in the fields, catching frogs, turtles and grasshoppers along with other unsuspecting creatures.
Everywhere our gaze fell, there were wildflowers and butterflies. Monarch cocoons hung suspended beneath milkweed leaves and snakes collected under the cool shade of rocks. I remember taking turns pumping the old well and drinking cold water from our hands. Discovery was a daily occurrence, and curiosity was satisfied without our parents having to worry about our safety.
Our grandparents’ property bordered a protected state forest. Way behind the house and beyond their garden stood those beckoning trees. Their presence alone spoke to me, as I stood at the edge and imagined the bears, wolves, fox and deer deep within.
Even at seven years old I felt it. A connection.
Eyes closed, breathing the fresh air deep into my lungs, each one of my senses were alert, but my young soul completely at ease.
Now, as an adult, I long for that feeling I enjoyed as a child. But more than that, I want my daughter to experience those sensations too. You see, we live in suburbia. It seems like overnight shopping centers and new neighborhoods spring up where farmland or forests used to be. It saddens me to see trees cleared and replaced by tidy rows of new homes sticking out of the ground like headstones in a cemetery.
This is why I still travel to northern Michigan as often as time and budget allows. Although my Grandparents’ place is long gone, overtaken by time and the elements, there is still always somewhere to go to satisfy the need—the yearning—to connect with nature.
I do it because I think it’s important for my daughter to tickle the earth with her toes and vice versa. I want the wind to play with her hair as she digs in the sparkling sand on the shores of Lake Michigan, or fills her pockets with the smooth stones from the icy water of Lake Superior. I love to walk with her in the woods, the sound of crunching leaves and snapping twigs beneath our feet, stopping to let her touch every pine cone, acorn and feather that crosses her path, and study every insect she meets.
Or just to stand with her, hand in hand, and listen to the breeze as it flows through the branches far above our heads.
I want her to know what it’s like to relish the smell of a campfire and sleep cuddled up in a tent. I want to let her experience the excitement of catching a fish and learn about the sacrifices involved in both the decisions—to keep it or let it go. I want to give her the chance to hear a woodpecker instead of airplanes in the day or the hoot of an owl in place of the traffic at night. I want her to look up and see that the sky truly is flooded with stars when the city lights are nowhere to be found.
I want her to store memories of the flaming autumn colors in her mind so that she can revisit them any time she likes.
I know it’s easy to become disconnected from nature when it seems to be disappearing all around us at an alarming rate. That’s why we need to seek out and share these gifts with our children. Pluck them away from the television, take them outside and spend time with them. They will not complain for long. I think my daughter will thank me for it someday and I hope she will always remember those times together.
I know I cherish them. And if she’s anything like me, she will treasure them too.
Kat Stiney is an artist/photographer living in semi-rural Michigan, who sometimes dabbles in stringing together written words. A participation award trophy wife, and a struggling mom of a teenage daughter, she also shares her dwelling with a pointy pooch—a whippet named Dash—and an evil house-panther-devil-cat she calls Onyx (because he won’t reveal his name). Kat is a long time practicing buddhist and enjoys spending time in nature whenever possible. You can join her on her Facebook page, My Somewhat Country Life to share in her adventures adjusting to life after leaving the city or on her photography page ~kat’s eye photography~ if you’re interested in viewing her latest images.
Photo: Kat Stiney
Feature photo: (source)
Editor: Dana Gornall