“What would Henry do?” is something I often ask my kids, although lately not so often because they’ve finally caught on to the beauty of their own feet.
A children’s book by D.B. Johnson entitled “Henry Hike to Fitchburg” will probably be one of my most favorite books, and children’s books, for a long time. For me, no other book demonstrates the purpose of taking time and slowing down in nature as much as this book, all the while showing us that even at his slow pace, Henry achieves his goal.
His goal? Getting to Fitchburg. Henry, a caricature-ish creature of Henry David Thoreau, is challenged by his friend to see which one can get to Fitchburg the fastest. His friend works to earn money and takes the train. Henry hikes.
The book is littered with beautiful artwork and mentions a slew of transcendentalists. Beyond that you’ll just have to read it for yourself to see the simple pleasures of Henry’s hike.
In real life, I find myself always fighting to be the Henry. We are fortunate enough to live in a part of the world where we’ve got hundreds of acres available, and quite a chunk of them that our family actually owns. Available weekends, which become fewer and fewer as the children get older, are spent at the cabin in the woods where we escape from reality and step full-force into the hills.
There’s a TV there, but we don’t watch it. Instead we sit and watch the herons on the pond and crackle of a camfire.
There’s a phone, but we don’t make any calls. Instead we sit in the woods and call in the turkey or the owls in the next valley.
But there are also four-wheelers, and we do ride them. I won’t lie that at times I crave the wind in my hair and the mud on my jeans. My children, a girl at 8 and a boy at 6, like that feeling too.
“Take us for a ride!” they beg and plead until one of us takes the baby and the other parent hauls the kids up old logging roads and through fields of poison ivy.
At least once on every trip to the cabin, I tell the family that I’m going for a walk. “Why don’t you take the four-wheeler?” my husband asks.
And sure enough, like lemmings, they all don their boots and grab their collection boxes constructed from old lunchmeat containers and animal stickers, and out the door we go. We walk around the pond and look for tadpoles, then down by the creek to check the beaver activity.
At least once we’ll pass a new wildflower that has us wishing we’d packed the field guide.
There are deer rubs and turkey nests and what seems like three million squirrels in the beech forest. Blackberries when the season is right, and old apple trees later in the year.
Breathing in the quiet, tasting the apples, sharing the magic that is the slow pace and the open eye.
Karrie McAllister writes from Small Town, Ohio late at night when the kids are asleep. Besides writing and mothering, Karrie teaches a music-and-nature program, combining her two of her greatest passions. Contact Karrie at www.KarrieMcAllister.com.