A huge wind storm downed this pine tree in the summer of 2003, and I remember feeling simultaneously sad about its demise and happy that I'd have a chance to show our little guy the giant from a new angle. My relationship with the natural world is in great shape, and in this, as in so many other areas in my life, I have my parents to thank.
I grew up in suburbia. Foothill Road – actually at the foot of a hill – was a street that there was no reason to drive on... unless you lived there. The town, Big Flats, was and is a company town for Corning Glass Works, and there was pretty much no reason for it to be there except for that.
My parents transformed our "middle of nowheresville" childhood into a daily adventure by making sure we got out into it. We grew raspberries and blueberries in our backyard. We made regular pilgrimmages to the local Tanglewood Nature Center. In the wintertime, the entire family bundled up and went hiking off into the woods at the top of the neighborhood, tromping through the snow until we were too tired to go on, at which point my father would miraculously build a fire while my mother – no less miraculously – produced hotdogs and hot chocolate from somewhere.
Summers saw us heading off for one of the Finger Lakes, where we would toss a series of progressively larger sailboats into the water and head off for an adventure. When my dad showed me that you could actually watch for the wind? Well, there was pretty much nothing cooler than being a seven year-old who could scan the lake, yell out, "Here comes a gust!" and be right.
By the time I headed off for college, I understood that the Earth takes care of us, and that it needs to be a reciprocal arrangement. Not because of anything overt that had been taught me (although I did enjoy Earth Science), but because of the examples my parents had set. I didn't even know you could buy strawberries in the supermarket; when I left for college, every strawberry I'd ever eaten in my life had been handpicked by someone in my family.
We are raising our son in small town America. And although he's eaten a few store-bought strawberries, the evidence strongly suggests that he prefers them handpicked. Not to mention organic.
(Thanks to Mama Says Om for the inspiration.)