The Spark Reignites

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Photo Credit: Wikimedia

I have very few memories of my childhood, most of which was spent as an “army brat” moving from place to place. As I have been thinking about those years lately, I realize that there is a theme in some of my happier days.

While I don’t know for sure, it seems like most of those pleasant memories may have occurred during the four years I lived in Germany. We were transferred to Pirmasens, Germany when I was in third grade and we moved back to the U.S. after I graduated from sixth grade.

Some of my childhood memories:

• Making forts. When I was really young my brothers and I made forts inside our house, often under tables. Later we made forts in the woods near the apartment building where we lived.

• Playing outside. There were times when I would leave the house in the morning and only come home for meals and at bedtime. I would play with my friends in their houses and outdoors. In those days, children were given a level of freedom that would be unheard of in today’s world.

• During fourth grade, I remember making a large system of small trenches in the school playground. I then filled the beginning trench with water and watched as the water flowed throughout the network.

• I loved butterflies.

• In fourth grade, I also remember crawling under the schoolyard fence and going into the woods to collect snails. When I crawled back under the fence, to return to the schoolyard, I saw my teacher, Mrs. Pollen, and my mother, who also taught at the school, watching me.  Uh, oh.

• My grandfather was a dock master. When we visited my grandparents during my younger years, I would catch fish using a drop line off of the side of the dock.

• I remember hunting for crawfish. That could have been in North Carolina before we moved to Germany or it could have been in Georgia, the place we were stationed after Germany.

As I think of these events, I realize how important outdoor activities and nature were to me when I was young. While it did not continue to be a life theme, there were exceptions.

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Photo Credit: Wikimedia

I had loved my experiences of camping with the Girl Scouts and when I traveled across the country with my church youth group in 1965. After Al and I married in 1971 we took trips to Mt. Baker and to National Parks such as Zion, Bryce Canyon, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, the Redwoods and the Grand Tetons. At least one of those trips we took after Sreejit was born.  In some places we camped, in others we stayed in cabins.

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When Al and I bought our house in 1973, I loved gardening and canning.

In the 80’s I took my children and one of their friends to places like Zion National Park.

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In the early 90’s, I had a strong desire to have a tree house in the magnolia tree in my back yard. I had planned to have a simple structure built, but the carpenter I hired couldn’t do simple. He constructed a beautiful seven by seven foot structure that even had a skylight!

Tree house

I slept in the tree house from April to October for five years. That era ended the night two large raccoons blocked my path to the tree house. It wasn’t the first time, but it was one time too many. I started sleeping  in the house again. At first the cells of my body screamed with grief. Being contained within the walls felt like moving from freedom to prison.

In the 90’s there was a period of three or four years in row where I explored Bryce Canyon on my own.

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For the most part though, my outdoor activities had petered out over the years. I was too busy with work, raising children, and life in general. As I reflect on how I am living now, I can see that the spark has reignited. Gardening is again a priority for me. I have become fascinated by nature, whether it be flowers or creatures such as ants and slugs. A considerable amount of my time is spent in writing and editing the PNW GreenFriends newsletter. A part of me that has been long dormant is waking up.

I grieve that children nowadays don’t have the freedom that my generation had as children. Children are not allowed to roam freely for most of the day. Because of all the violence that surrounds us, parents naturally feel a need to keep their children close and well supervised.

But that is not the only difference. Today, children, teens and even adults are so focused on technology that there may be no time or interest in immersing themselves in outdoor play and nature. Texting, videogames and social media all too often fill their days.

Several years ago, I was at a church when the pastor gave a sermon to the young children. He talked about how in the “old days” children spent their days playing outside on this green stuff. He continued talking about grass as if it was something the children had never seen. He then encouraged them to go outside every day and do activities on that green stuff, activities that would cause them to sweat, something else he thought they were unfamiliar with. While it was a funny sermon, it seemed like an important one to me, then and now. If, as a culture, we keep going the direction we are going, where will we end up?

It is my hope and prayer that all of us will either reconnect with, or experience for the first time, the joy that comes when we immerse ourselves in the natural world, and by doing so may we discover that all beings on this earth are interconnected and can learn to live in harmony with one another.

Written for DungeonPrompts: What did you forget?

13 thoughts on “The Spark Reignites

  1. I think we both were writing prompts at the same time. We were not allowed to play in our living room and I think that’s why I let my kids make forts for as long as they want it in our living room when they were kids. Another parallel I started canning for the first time in 1980 when we had a very large garden. I enjoyed this post. Wonderful memories… I don’t think I would’ve argued with the raccoons either!!

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    1. The raccoons were standing up on their hind legs. That made them SO big.

      We played in the living room I think, but I remember all of the living room couches and chairs were covered in plastic. I can’t imagine that ever happening nowadays, but it certainly was the practice back then.

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      1. My grandmother’s living room couch had plastic. We were allowed to sit in the living room to watch tv. That’s it. But like you if it want raining we were out all day

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  2. I share your concern for the disconnection with nature happening in our society today especially with children. My parents still live in the neighborhood where I grew up and I remember the streets and yards then were always filled with children. Now when I go back to visit them I rarely see kids playing outside. But of course, as I child, I wasn’t allowed to stay inside during the day even if I wanted to. My brother and I were literally kicked out into the yard every day to “go play,” which I remember not always being happy about. I guess I was somewhat reclusive even then and would have stayed indoors reading books in my room on quite a few more days if I could have.

    An argument could be made that each development of “civilization” has cumulatively torn humanity away from a close connection to the earth. When humans started gathering in the first “cities,” in the west, at least, they were choosing to leave more tribal, more nomadic (and one might say, less secure) lifestyles for the close confines of city life. As a race, we have continued to make such choices over the past 5000 years, perhaps, of which “smartphones” is only the latest (and most isolating from nature). It is possible in past lives we might have had this very conversation face to face rather than screen to screen. lol.

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    1. I imagine we were sent outside a lot too, but I don’t think we were banned from the house. I have very little memory of my childhood so that level of detail I have no access to. I do know I grew up in a house where “children are to be seen and not heard.” And I was sent to my room for every infraction. Reading was an escape for me so I spend a lot of time reading. I remember that in Georgia we lived near the library and I loved reading in there. I remember the delight of going to the library to get new books as a child. And I remember reading them under my sheets with a flashlight when I was supposed to be in asleep.

      Since I have so few childhood memories, I don’t know how much time I actually spent outside and with friends. Most of my outdoor memories come from when we lived in Germany but that doesn’t mean it was only there. In preparing this post, I was fascinated to see that most of my positive childhood memories were connected to being outdoors.

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  3. Hi Karuna,

    Just back from a wonderful 2-week vacation in Southern Utah with hubby John – hiking, camping in our camper van, and thoroughly immersing ourselves in nature, exercise when it doesn’t feel like it, and solitude (or duotude, as I’ve taken to calling it when I’m with John). Being less of a tech person than John, I sometimes worry about how much time he spends on computers, TV, iPhone, etc. Then, when we go on a vacation such as this one, I realize that he is actually pretty balanced and, when given the opportunity and the focus, he is as much a nature-geek as I am. Also, I am well aware of my own tech addictive qualities and, although it’s so much easier to focus on John’s “issues” (still, and, most likely, will always work to return the focus to me!), I, too, oftentimes need to force the issue and get myself off the gadgets and outside. Well, just wanted to touch base and share my thoughts! 🙂

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