KIDS + NATURE = ADVENTURE
A mom reflects on greeting the new day with her daughter & the value of the great outdoors.
BY JODIE TOFT, MARINE ECOLOGIST FOR THE NATURE CONSERVANCY IN WASHINGTON
Part of me would’ve loved if my daughter’s first word had been “crepuscular”. Not “twilight”, “dawn”, or “dusk”. “Crepuscular” - that crusty sounding word that, if said, would have confirmed my nerd genes had successfully been passed on to my daughter. But also a sign that perhaps she notices something deeply special about the time of day when, in my eyes, nature is at its finest.
The push and pull between night and day makes for a good show. The black and white of night cedes to the colors, letting in blues first and then the rest. Birdsong and wind wake the trees. While I appreciate dawn and dusk in the city, it’s when I’m camping that they resonate the most.
For the past three years, my husband and I have taken our daughter (and now son, too) camping with our friends and their daughter at Mount Rainier. I’m not going to lie. It’s absolutely exhausting. We backpack 2 miles in to our campsite, manage somehow to set up camp, eat something besides trail mix for dinner, and settle into our tents for what few would call a good night’s sleep, if it’s to be called sleep at all. But from these mild tribulations are borne wonderful rewards. The greatest glee from chasing frogs, throwing rocks, climbing over, under, and through anything in sight. Looking for deer, watching birds, huckleberry plucking. It’s all fair game.
On our trip last year, my daughter woke just before sunrise, as usual. She was already closer to me than my own skin, having burrowed throughout the night. We groggily made our way out of the tent, me wishing that zippers were silent so as not to wake her baby brother. I knew we had at least an hour before the rest of our illustrious crew would emerge from the tents. An hour or so just for us. We walked down from our campsite into a meadow, and found a rock to sit on. After breathing in the air and watching the sky begin to turn colors, she noticed the moon, perched just above the hills surrounding our meadow. We spent the next hour watching the moon, walking back and forth on a trail through the meadow and noticing the world wake up.
Being outdoors makes me happy. Watching my kids outdoors makes my really happy. I can only assume they’re taking it all in and hopefully becoming richer people for the experiences. I think they are.
At 5:30 the other morning I heard my girl get out of bed, fumble with the door and trundle her way to our room. I expected to hear a mild lament of hunger or cold or fear of the closet. Instead, she whispered in a soft, slightly incredulous voice, “Dad, Mom….look outside…did you see the moon? It’s a sliver. It’s beautiful.”. And she climbed into bed. The word “crepuscular” means nothing to her. But she gets it. I know that. Her first word? “Ball”, just like the moon.