Ok, raise of hands. How many of you are sick of hearing about my childhood? If you are just look away, cuz here comes another one. I think being outdoors has always been a part of my life. My infant and toddler years were spent in sunny San Diego. Many of my early days found us at the beach. I am told that my parents turned the playpen upside down on top of me, creating a bit of a cage, protecting me from the sun and preventing what would have likely been frequent attempts at escape. I happily played in the sand while my bottle, wrapped in aluminum foil, sat warming on a rock near the fire.
The remainder of my “growing up” years was spent in northern California. The mild climate afforded children the luxury of many blissful hours of outdoor play. An extravagance that seems to be disappearing. Days were whiled away digging in the dirt, climbing trees, fences and rocks, catching bugs, skipping rope, and just enjoying the natural part of our corner of suburbia. We would make huge forts in the large fields of weeds that surrounded our subdivision. The tall green stalks were soft and the tiny yellow flowers reached well above our heads. We would carefully smash down the plants to create the rooms for our pretend mansions. This even included bathrooms, but I will not go into detail on that. We played for hours, and when the streetlights came on begrudgingly dragged ourselves home, barefooted, bedraggled and begrimed, warranting the nightly admonition rarely needed nowadays to "wash your feet before bed."
As we got older the recreation became slightly more structured, but no less enjoyable. The Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Mendocino and Redwood Forests became our playgrounds. Hiking, camping and fishing kept us busy all day and ensured an appetite sufficient for even the most burnt of Dad's offerings and a sound night's sleep. Quality gear was either less available or less affordable back then (ok, Dad is a cheapskate) so we usually made do with what we could dig up at the Army Surplus store. We lugged around huge metal canteens, slept in leaky canvass tents and stopped frequently to patch blisters caused by salvaging last year's tennis shoes for hiking. Yards of medical tape and moleskin were expended and provided a patchwork of stories on our feet to tell of our adventures. I had the privilege of connecting to the earth and to myself through my natural surroundings at an early age. It is natural that I would do my best to pass the love of outdoors along to my children.
This is not as easy as it used to be. My husband and I have to work more diligently than our parents ever did to ensure that our four children are raised with adequate time in the sun. The draw of technology, no matter how we limit it, is strong. Schoolwork demands more of their home time than ours ever did. It sometimes takes conscious planning and a bit of effort to get out there. Good gear helps make sure the kidos are comfortable and more willing to go with us...no more leaky tents. One of our first campouts with the kids helped ensure I would be well outfitted for outside with Hunky Hubby in charge. The kids were 3 and 1 and it rained all night. The tent leaked and the oldest threw up S'mores all over the bottom of the wet tent. We spent the rest of the evening NOT sleeping in the van. We have had waterproof tents ever since. The point is, we have to get out there with them. Even if it is the backyard. Not too hard. So the dishes and the vacuuming go undone sometimes. So what? We must "Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair." Kalil Gibran said that. So Go! Get those feet dirty, just remember to wash them before bed...
Quote of the Day: "You must love the crust of the earth on which you dwell more than the sweet crust of any bread or cake; you must be able to extract nutriment out of a sand heap." --Henry David Thoreau