Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Knapsack 6-2

Notes From My Knapsack 6-2-11

Jeff Gill


The Nature Center is all around you



Next Monday aside, school pretty much ends this week.


(Yes, yes, I'm sending my son to school on Monday. I do other pointless things without complaint, so why not that . . .)


Ahead of us all stretches the summer. We hope and pray that the storms have passed, that blue skies will be the new normal, and that we who have school age kids can get them to play outside sometimes.


The legendary seventh grade science wildflower project is now behind us, and I'm curious to see how personally handling the Peterson Guide for Wildflowers and learning how to see, to notice, to consider the easily overlooked life in our own yard and nearby fields – I'm wondering if much of that will stick, or thinking about how I can incentivize keeping the examination of nature going through the summer.


The Lad went from anxiety over the rare and mysterious "dame's rocket" to realizing that, for a few weeks, it's everywhere; he now knows that bloodroot is effectively gone and won't be back 'til next April along with Trillium (we saw trillium flowers, but never where we could pick it). Checking out the field guide, he learned that his dad's old favorite, ironweed, is something he points out in August because that's the only time you can find it.


Birds are starting to be "seen" in his world, as opposed to just being "birds" (other than the dreaded mourning dove lurking on our front porch mornings), and he's figured out that the savant who created the Pokemon franchise built it on a pre-existing hobby of insect collecting. So there are some carry-overs already.


With the Lovely Wife having planted Ohio wildflowers on two sides of Sycamore Lodge, after watching the ravening deer packs chew through anything not evolved to mock their depredations, we had quite a bit right around the house for the class project. Add in that Dad quixotically hand-pulls dandelions and avoids all but the barest trace of chemical treatment on the lawn, and it's been fun watching the Lad shift focus to see that "lawn" is not a homogenous green mass (OK, later in the summer, brown), but an ecosystem of sorts with a vast assortment of plant species and even a range of insects and a few mammals.


Bill McKibben, the noted essayist and nature-writer, is passionately interested in the environment, concerned about global climate change, and when he's home in New England, a Sunday school teacher at his neighborhood Methodist congregation. He was on the NPR faith and culture program "On Being (with Krista Tippett)" last August, talking about everyday life and ordinary people and a personal faith.


He made one remark that's stuck in my head since last summer: "The suburbs are a device for making sure that you don't notice nature."


Cars and air conditioning and big box stores and no sidewalks and . . . yep, I think he's got a point. I could talk about programs and plans and lessons, but the corrective is perhaps no more complicated than – Notice nature.


And help the children around you notice it a bit more, too. It's right outside your door.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him a story at or follow Knapsack @Twitter. 

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