By Loren Christie
The side yard at my grandmother’s suburban home was a bit secluded and overgrown with yuccas and ancient rhododendrons. Behind a sappy maple tree I employed my younger brother in gathering leaves to camouflage us when the dinosaurs came marching past. Surely they would, since this piece of nature was my little imaginary world. In October our efforts would turn to a preoccupation with the supernatural in light of our excitement for Halloween. Then the square side yard transformed into a witch’s cave, complete with shelves of ingredients for my secret magic brews. Of course you had to be age 9 or under to see the room, in all its mysterious splendor, like my younger brother and I did. In the center was the focal point, the caldron, (an old sauce pot borrowed from grandma). With a gnarly branch taller than me, I would stir the smoky soup and send little brother off to gather ingredients.
“Okay Robbie, bring back the wing of a fly.” I’d announce to the eager five year old, who would rush off towards other parts of the yard to find such an object. He’d return with a seed shaped like a wing from a large tree in the yard. Then I would screech “Perfect!” and we’d both engage in belly-rolling “Ha, Ha, Has!” until we truly were laughing.
For my own children, just as it was for my brother and me, nature is a wonderland. Watching their play in the backyard, or the nearby wooded park brings me joy, and at the same time, fascinates me. Children approach nature differently than most adults. Often I wonder how and when a human being loses that childish sense of joy and awe that nature inspires.
It has been many years since I was delighted by bugs. In fact, I’ve become a spider/mosquito hunter in my home. Biting bugs are doomed to being squished if they set foot in my house. How different I was as a child! The first time I heard the story Charlotte’s Web I remember remarking: “Oh, a talking spider! I know one too!”
The fact that in my childhood world elves and gnomes inhabited the woods, and all creatures spoke to me reflected my awe of the beauty of creation. It was my creative and innocent reaction to it, and desire to engage in it.
I no longer talk to animals, (except my pets), but I get such a kick out of watching my kids play in this way. Every fall, we go outside and collect leaves. Then we lay them all out on the grass and marvel at their individual beauty.
“Even the ugly ones are amazing!” says my oldest.
My three young children help me slow down to remember the magic of natural world. Sometimes I don’t feel like collecting rocks or leaves or branches, even though I’m told enthusiastically that the branches are really dinosaur bones, the rocks are surely from a diamond mine where real elves work, and the leaves are crying, because they so desperately need to find the tree that lost them. That’s when I put down the phone, or turn off my email and go outside. It’s time to remember how to be awestruck.
Loren Christie writes at Dude, Where Am I?