I live in Austin, TX, where there has been fairly consistent growth for the last few decades. Don’t get me wrong, growth is a good thing—it means jobs and a stable economy. But our traffic certainly reflects growth too. Life can easily settle in to a daily routine that sandwiches long hours of work between two taxing commutes.
Before you know it, years can slip past. It’s very subtle, the way this phenomenon can sneak up on you. And for today’s youth, going outdoors is all too often not even a consideration. Instead, eager anticipation is engendered waiting for the next incarnation of favorite video games and other technological pursuits.
I recently became acquainted with Jannifer Powelson, a naturalist from the Midwest. Jannifer works in conservation and education. She has written several lovely books for kids that feature artwork as well as her own photography of flora indigenous to the prairie and the American Midwest.
Jannifer’s writing reflects her passion and respect for the natural world. I found the books to be relaxing to read, as I followed her two main anthropomorphic characters around on their hikes and nature walks. The photos especially evoke a deep sense of place, revealing the quiet beauty and majesty of the oceans of grasses and flowering plants that can stretch for miles to the horizon. I pictured the near-sentience of seas of sunflowers turning their faces to follow the sun. The shots of the waving grasses undulating in the wind brought to my mind scenes from Dances With Wolves where people had 360 degree views of miles of golden prairie as they ventured west.
We miss seeing the horizon in urban areas unless we make a concerted effort to find new vantage points, which often means getting out of town for a day. Without that sense of space and perspective, we don’t feel the same relationship with our beautiful planet. We don’t have opportunities to gain a sense of spatial perspective about ourselves either. The times I’ve been able to get away into wilderness areas in Alaska, Colorado, California, or Nova Scotia have been replete with magical, meaningful, majestic moments. It’s like hitting the ‘reset’ button on a malfunctioning appliance: suddenly, everything that was jammed up becomes fluid and functional again.
Being surrounded by nature makes for literal breathing room.
In addition, many children don’t realize that the broccoli, corn, or apples we purchase don’t magically appear at our corner Mega-Mart. Rather, we rely on our planet’s renewable resources to provide daily necessities. If we take the time to show our youth where these foods come from, and how they grow, they become special and more appreciated. We become aware that for our planet to continue to provide for our needs, we must care for it intelligently and actively.
But, but, but… we all have jobs and have to work full time, usually in the Big City. How on earth can we find time to get out in Nature, and teach our kids to have a healthy awareness and appreciative attitude toward our home? Stay tuned for our next blog, an interview of Jannifer Powelson. She has lots of great suggestions for parents and families to share. You won’t want to miss it!