Friday, February 17, 2006

A Walk in the Woods

When I was growing up, every weekend (weather permitting) my mother would take her children for “a walk” – all six of us. She would drive us out to the middle of nowhere, park the car and off we would go. Sometimes it was obvious that we were trespassing (because of the “no trespassing” signs) but my mom, determined to get us out in nature, ignored the obvious.

Often we would walk so deep in to the wilderness, that I wondered how we would ever find our way back. But we always did. And almost every time, there was something incredible waiting for us in those cool, primeval places – a waterfall, a cave, a hidden clearing, a field of flowers, or a secret, glassy lake. My mom seemed to have a special knack for finding natural treasures.

But the real purpose of these walks (which were really hikes) was to learn about the plants and trees and animals that we would see along the way.

My mother could identify every tree, every flower, every creature. She would show us how to tell the oak from the birch, the maple from the elm. She would point out the ferns and wildflowers, mushrooms and moss. She would show us where to look for arrowheads and fossils. She would reveal to us the differences in the rocks and minerals. My mother could always find the wild fruit as well – blackberries, blueberries, persimmons, scupanines and muscadines (large, wild grapes that are most delicious).

I remember how quiet the woods were. Sometimes we would hear the rushing creek, or the wind in the trees, or a Mocking Bird upset by our presence.

What my mother’s walks did for us was to connect us to nature in a real and endearing way, and to illustrate the beauty of the circle of life. To this day, I would rather be deep in a forest, than anywhere else on earth.

The naturalist John Muir wrote:

"Let children walk with Nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life."


Anonymous said...

Your mom sounds great southern breeze. The walks sounded like a blast. Were there ever biting flys though?

W.M. Turner said...

I don't remember biting flies, but we did see a lot of snakes.

Anonymous said...

I said flys, not flies. Did you win the spelling bee when you were younger (you're still young)?

W.M. Turner said...

I didn't win the spelling bee, but I did win Queen of the 6th Grade.