Sunday, January 9, 2011

Where has all the NATURE gone???

Courtesy of Rosemary Ratcliff


I remember loving nature when I was a kid. Not in the sense that, when people asked me what I liked, I'd say, "Nature!" Summers were the best. I'd wake up, eat breakfast, and run outside. I'd hear, "Make sure you come back when I call you for lunch!" Sometimes I never did make it back. I had things to do. The first was to stir up all of the Mayflies that had settled on our house overnight.



Courtesy Lisa McDonald

When that mission was accomplished, I'd sit watching the robins pull fat worms from the lawn and try to figure out how they did it so easily. I once spent an entire afternoon digging up the flowerbeds and never came across one single wiggly prize. Oh, but if it was raining, that wan a different story. Our suburban sidewalks came alive with earthworms, snails, and slugs. I marvelled at them. All of the kids in the neighborhood took the time to help our slimy friends safely cross that huge concrete "street" by scooping them up and setting them in the grass.


This photo's mine! (His name is Chester, by the way!)
When the sun beat down on us, we'd find ladybugs and grasshoppers. If you could keep a ladybug on you the longest, you would be lucky that day. We had grasshopper contests to see whose insect could jump the highest. I can't recall anyone actually winning - the green jumpers wouldn't follow directions and usually escaped before we could even see which direction they were headed.



Courtesy Dr. Joseph Valks
 We often would find toads and turtles travelling through the neighborhood, on a visit from the creek that ran through the park down the street. Finding a toad made you the most popular kid in the neighborhood for the day. A turtle turned you into a legend for at least a week! I recall always naming my finds "Herkemer." Not sure why. I think I may have had the idea that each toad and turtle I found was a repeat visitor, just dropping by to say "Hi" to me over and over.


Courtesy of Arvind Balaraman
 The evenings were the best! Crickets chirped loudly as we played freeze tag in someones yard. The lightning bugs would come out in droves. There were so many that, after it got completely dark, we could see each other's silhouettes blocking out the swarm of green lights. Who needed a light out there?! And, though we lived in an area surrounded by wetlands, no one had more than four or five mosquito bites at any one time.

Why am I writing about these memories? The recent news about the sudden deaths of thousands of birds and fish around the world got me thinking. My kids will never experience nature the way I did. I live in the same area - the westernmost point of Lake Erie. Now, I get all excited when a Mayfly lands on out house and get the kids to come over to marvel at it. The robins are just passing through now, rarely do my kids have the pleasure of pondering these birds' ability to pluck a worm from the earth. When it rains, a few sorry-looking worms peek out and they don't bring their friends the snails and slugs. They've never seen a toad in the wild and turtles are just pictures in books to them. They rarely spend time outside after dusk because the mosquitoes outnumber the lightning bugs a zillion-to-one.

We have a really nice state park two miles away from us with a beach on the lake. We don't go there. The entire length of the beach is an Area of Concern (AOC), according to the EPA - one of thirty in the entire country the last time I looked. This is due to PCBs and other toxic substances in the water. The insects and animals that I once was in awe of are being killed in alarming numbers. We are warned not to eat the fish from the river that is the center of that AOC. Conveniently, the line for that AOC stops 100 yards before it hits the water treatment plant for our area. (I try not to think about what is coming out of our faucet. I can tell you that 1" of bathwater is a beautiful blue and smells strongly of chlorine bleach.)


Courtesy of Evgeni Dinev

For many years, I have dreamt of moving far away from everything. North Dakota? Alaska? My arthritis won't take the cold. We're looking, though. I've read every book you can think of about homesteading, building your own house, living self-sufficiently and off the grid. My oldest is twelve. I don't think my dreams will be fulfilled by the time he's ready to leave for college. But my toddler, hopefully, will get to experience the wonder of seeing nature in it's natural habitat. We may have to work for years to bring our 5-10 acres back to the way it should be, environmentally, but I'm willing to work hard just so he can feel that awe. And, hopefully, my incredibly creative and imaginative older son will be able to experience it, too, even though he'll be on the cusp of adulthood.

Photo Credits:
Image: Rosemary Ratcliff / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image: Lisa McDonald / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image: Dr Joseph Valks / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image: Arvind Balaraman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image: Evgeni Dinev / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

1 comments:

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Amazing post. I am 38, have a 13 year old, a 2 1/2 and a 1 year old. I dream of these very same things. I too enjoyed nature immensely as a child and miss it and never in my life did I think that my kids wouldnt have that same experience. We are looking to move to TN, its where my family on my dad's side is from. I currently live along Lake Michigan north of Chicago and south of Milwaukee. Very nicely written. Appreciate meeting - via thos post a like minded individual!