nature longing

“Here is this vast, savage, howling mother of ours,

Nature, lying all around, with such beauty, and such affection for her children,

as the leopard; and yet we are so early weaned

from her breast to society, to that culture which is exclusively

an interaction of man on man.”

(Henry David Thoreau)


I’ve been feeling compelled to limit my screentime again (i.e. time spent on the computer).  In my rush of blog posts, I’ve gotten a bit haughty and proud over the increased traffic (though it may be the same ten people checking my site time after time after time).  We need to get outside.

I have to admit that my copy of Les Miserables is once again sitting alone, unread, as I’ve started my library copy of Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.  I started Louv’s book with such intense sadness over the plight of modern American children.  They are a generation proficient at technology — video games, remote controls, mp3 players, and the like.  A season to them is not winter, spring, summer, or fall, but a series of episodes on TV.

At once, I feared for Isaiah, perhaps not having the most precious memories I have had as a child.  I remember wandering all over our farmyard.  In a fenced, grassy area, I was someone else.  I kept house with rocks and rusted tin cans I’d found.  I walked over acres of pastureland, alone and completely unafraid.  My sisters and I decorated bark with weeds and grasses.  I had a friend named Christy who lived under the ground; only she truly understood me.  To go barefoot on the rocks and on the grass was life.  To find the skeleton of a dead bird was not disturbing but a natural lesson in science.

If my children have all this taken away, it is I who is to blame.  If they are more captivated by our indoor conveniences than with the expansiveness of nature, I have stolen from them what God meant the world to be.

Louv writes: “Nature — the sublime, the harsh, and the beautiful — offers something that the street or gated community or computer game cannot.  Nature presents the young with something so much greater than they are; it offers an environment where they can easily contemplate infinity and eternity.”

Just as I have been convinced lately of the dangers of the standard American diet, and how it can lead to terminal illness in the forms of obesity, heart disease, and even cancer, I am convinced today that many medical problems in children are exacerbated by their estrangement from nature.  Louv argues that attention-deficit disorder could be offset by giving a child time to be alone outside.  And childhood depression, now at record levels, could be cured by sending our poor little children outside to feel the grass and the sun and wind.  If they could only smell the morning, feel the bark of a tree, they could be more whole.  I forgot that they don’t have this.  We have all forgotten that nature is not something outside our window; it is something to be experienced with all of our senses.

I will conclude with one more quote from Louv:  “Nature is imperfectly perfect, filled with loose parts and possibilities, with mud and dust, nettles and sky, transcendent hands-on moments and skinned knees.  What happens when all the parts of childhood are soldered down, when the young no longer have the time or space to play in their family’s garden, cycle home in the dark with the stars and moon illuminating their route, walk down through the woods to the river, lie on their backs on hot July days in the long grass, or watch cockleburs, lit by morning sun, like bumblebees quivering on harp wires?  What then?” 

  1. While I would be encouraging to you, for wanting spend more time outside, I also know what it is like to spend a lot of time on the computer in my off hours. I may also be one of those afore mentioned 10 people that read and check your blog on a daily basis. And am delighted when ever I find a new post, or several more.

    While I have several blogs I check daily, and many others I occassionally check from the list on Luke’s blog, I am usually encouraged in reading yours compared to the others. A lot of what you write at times make me stop and think about life and things. There is a lot of meat in your postings.

    Enjoy the outdoors as often as you can, then come share your revelations, with your faithful readers.

    Have an AWESOME day! ..Outside..!!

    • Rachel
    • June 2nd, 2008

    I’ve been challenged by this book too! Louv’s point that the best way to preserve nature in the future is to let our children learn to love it now, through their own experiences, seems so obvious. Yet, it seems somehow difficult to allow these experiences to happen!

    • clbeyer
    • June 3rd, 2008

    Rachel: Yes, I just got to that part last night, and I was thinking the same thing. Thank you so much for recommending this book to me. Another life-changer!

    • Michelle
    • June 4th, 2008

    This is one more reason why I am more and more convinced that not having regular cable in the house is a good idea for anybody and everybody. Call me old-fashioned or whatever you want–goodness knows I have nothing against a good movie or inspiring documentary–but more and more from my own experiences I understand why my parents raised me without a TV in my house for daily watching. Children who grow up in this situation naturally spend more time in books and outside. I see it in my classroom as well.

  1. July 9th, 2008

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: