Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Rain and No Child Left Inside

The rain is pelting down right now, welcome because of the drought in the Southeast. We're in a severe drought in South Carolina, but are in better shape than our neighbors to the south in Georgia, thanks to greater reservoir capacity, partially due to the cooling water demands of nuclear power and the associated lakes. Any bit of rain helps rehydrate dry soil and I'm grateful for that.

I heard a remarkable lecture today by Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods. His insights have resonated with outdoor educators of all sorts, from park naturalists to botanical garden educators like me, and connected with 'important' folks of all ages. He told the story of how he'd spoken to a group of ranchers, and a grizzled fellow of 65+ was moved to tears as he 'remembered the place that we hold in our heart' -- the natural, semi-wild places that many of us grew up exploring and cherishing. He also talked about how he'd testified recently in front of a Congressional committee, and the Congressmen (all men in this case) asked perfunctory questions, but then wanted to share memories about their 'special places.'

I was certainly of the group who grew up exploring nature and rambling the then open territory near our house (now covered with houses all the way to where my sister and her husband now live) and elsewhere, but my best friend in graduate school grew up in Detroit, and was a mall rat, along with her sisters, until she went to Douglas Lake Biological Station as an undergraduate, and fell in love with the natural world. She's a biology professor today teaching her students about plants and conservation in South Florida. My husband grew up in LA, and went surfing with his brothers, with little interest in biology or nature, although they did spend summer weeks at Lake Tahoe and rambled the hills near their house in Studio City. When he went to college in Northern California, the experiences of learning about plants in their natural habitats encouraged his future career (he's a biology professor, too).

I may have loved nature as a child, but my dad was an engineering professor, and my mom a philosophy major and eventually a psychotherapist in private practice. But both grew up in Northern California, and we went on many long camping trips as a family, with hiking and exploring part of what we did in summers. A family friend in those early years was a high school teacher who was a summer naturalist in Yosemite National Park. I was totally inspired by his programs, and perhaps, in wanting to be a park naturalist, and the round-about academic journey that I took, I'm doing what's most important to me now, trying to inspire folks to connect to nature, whether they're young or old, or something in between.

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