Friday, February 16, 2007

I love Louv

Last night I took my older daughter to an event at the Phoenix Zoo (I am not a fan of zoos in general, but this was where it was being held) to see Richard Louv give a lecture. He is the author of Last Child in the Woods, which I have not actually read yet. My dad, who is a biologist and teacher, recently read this book and was moved greatly by what Louv writes, pertaining to how this current generation of children are no longer taking part in nature, and how this may affect their health and happiness. Their sense of wonder is removed when nature is taken out of their daily equation.

I grew up in Virginia with a huge backyard which led into some woods, and spent many countless hours roaming freely, full of adventure. I was able to be alone all day, rolling around in the grass and watching ladybugs without my parents fearing the worst. My dad would take me out on hikes to go bird watching and to look for salamanders underneath logs. I had a great nature oriented childhood, and I realize now that my children have not had the same freedom I had. My husband and I have bought into the fear of the unknown, and unfortunately, the fear of nature. This fear is so pervasive that we do not let our kids outside alone even in our own backyard, which like most yards in Mesa, is surrounded by a giant cinder block wall. We are fearful of bad men jumping over the wall and stealing or hurting our kids. We are scared of everything and nothing.

Going to this lecture has opened my eyes to the need to bring nature back to our kids. I teach my children reverence for the outdoors and respect of all living beings, but I have forgotten to let them be kids, free to be wild and free to discover the world without constant supervision. There will always be a chance that something will happen to my children, be it a scraped knee or a broken bone, or maybe even worse, but I can't let the fear of these things stop me from opening up the world to them and allowing them to explore it, on their own as well as with us. It will be gradual, as I am sure it will be hard for us to break from the fears that surround us as parents. We will always be hawks, watching them with sharp eyes, but we also need to let go a bit, and give them back that sense of wonder that has been lost.

When my dad finished the book, he read the last paragraph over the phone to me, and wept. It was a powerful moment for both of us, as he understands the fears of today, but is thankful that he provided me with a chance to grow up with a sense of nature and the world.

"We have such a brief opportunity to pass on to our children our love for this Earth, and to tell our stories. These are the moments when the world is made whole. In my children's memories, the adventures we've had together in nature will always exist. These will be their turtle tales."

I bought the book at the lecture and had Louv sign the title page. He is a sweet and gracious man, and he seemed genuinely affected when I told him how my dad reacted to the book. I imagine reading this book will really enlighten me, just as his lecture did. I hope you all get a chance to read it or see his lecture, and take something positive away, too.

Marty & I talk about this all the time. How parent's fear has basically trapped kids inside. It's so weird to us because we grew up like you and in our neighborhood there were always kids running around and playing together outside. I wonder though, if I had kids, how I would feel and what I would do.
Brooke, that book sounds beautiful and I would love to read it. I took a nature writing class last year, and one of the themes we kept returning to in our discussions was the increasing detachment that humans feel from the natural world. It makes me sad that there are so many things in the world today to worry about, but you're right--we have to sometimes just let our kids be kids, and discover those things about nature that will have such an impact on them as they get older. Thank you for sharing your experience.
I saw a review of that book - maybe in Outside magazine? - when it first came out. Glad you had a chance to see the author. Sounds like a very interesting book... maybe I'll see if I can find it at the library.
Brooke, this is such a beautiful post! The book sounds wonderful and the message is an excellent one. Thank you for sharing, pointing this out, and reminding us of such an important lesson!
That sounds like am awesome book, I'll have to look it up. Although we live in a semi-rural area of Noova scotia, and we are really worlds away from your neighborhood, it is still a challenge to get the kids out and about and experiencing nature. Hubby and I do it with hiking and camping, We drag our kids out on hikes all over the place, and camping trips in the most remote spots we can find. (No huge, loud, electrical campgrounds for us!)And there have been some beautiful moments, like seeing a moose in a field, or seeing a squirrell eat out of your hand. Perservere, is all I can say!
Tracy, thanks for the positive comment! :-) We are pretty good about getting our kids out on hikes, parks, trips, etc., but our main problem is letting them go off on their own a bit and make their own adventures and experiences. We are such security and safety conscious parents that it seems we almost take those personal adventures away from them, and that is what I am hoping to get better with. It's so tough in this day and age! I would sooooo love to see a moose!
I’m not a parent yet but I think it must be so hard these days to let your children out of sight. I hope when I am a parent I will remember this post and let them have some freedom to enjoy nature and not be constantly worrying about what might (but probably won’t) happen.
Hi Brooke, just found you through Crystal. I'm looking over your blog and really enjoying it. Thanks for being a voice for the animals... and for caring... ! i loved reading the post that told about you 'behind the apron,' very nice to meet you!
That sounds like a beautiful book- and so cool that you got to meet the author. Your kids are lucky!
This sounds like a great book, I'll borrow it from my library. How great to meet the author.
Sounds like an amazing read. I grew up in the Pa. mountains, roaming around, observing deer, bears, snakes and all sorts of other critters--not to mention the beauty of the flora. Not only are we growing farther from our food sources and nature--we are growing farther from our very essence as humans.

Thank you for posting this.
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