Note: This column was printed in the Barrow Journal on January 25, 2012.
Lately I’ve been reading a lot about the importance for children and adults to get out into nature. If there’s one thing I appreciate about my own childhood, it’s that my parents both enjoyed the outdoors and most of our family vacations were spent on the scenic highways of this country.
Though we only lived there four years, I also fondly remember the two-story house we owned in Littleton, Colorado. It had a large yard with several small fruit trees and a garden that lined the back fence. The cherry and apple trees bloomed beautifully in the spring.
In the winter, my mom would warm up my coat and snow pants by an electric heater, and then she’d bundle me up and send me outside to play in the snow. I kept myself occupied making snow angels and boot prints, and I lived in an active make-believe world, though sadly I don’t remember much about it now.
I do remember one time playing in the snow and sensing that something just flew past my head. I turned to look behind me, but I saw nothing. Back to playing, it happened again. Finally, a snowball hit me on my back. I turned to find my big brother laughing and darting behind the side of the house.
When I was in the eighth grade, my best friend’s godmother took my friend and me snow skiing. It was during the week, and we were the only two skiers on the bunny slope. In my attempt to ski straight to the beginning of the line at the chair lift, I slid by the ropes and straight into a pole. Perhaps that’s when I became less enamored with snow.
My dad loved boating, so when we lived in Las Vegas, Nevada, he took me to Lake Mead. We would park the boat in one of the many sandy coves, and I’d go exploring. Once while I was exploring, my quiet reverie was interrupted by the loudest, blood-curdling sound I had ever heard. It sounded like a ship’s horn. I stood up and there across the cove on the opposite beach was a wild donkey staring me down. Obviously I was too close to his territory, and he let me know about it.
I remember another time boating on Lake Mohave, which is on the opposite side of the Hoover Dam. We found a lone big horn sheep on the bank near the water, and he stared at us in the boat, and we took several photos of him.
I also remember the nights we slept on the lake and the view I had of the Milky Way. The universe was an arm’s length away. I remember campfires, hot springs, and high cliffs streaked with nature’s palette of reds, browns and golds.
While having these adventures, I’m sure I didn’t appreciate them enough or realize how rare they were for most kids my age. Now I know they made an indelible impression on me, and I’m an outdoorswoman at heart.
Most of our ventures outside were uneventful unless you consider the countless times my dad’s vehicles stalled and needed repair. We were stranded many times, but to a young child, this isn’t so bad. It just meant more time in nature, and more time to count the stars.
I hope my boys will remember playtime in their wooded yard, hunting for snakes and jumping in piles of leaves. I hope they will fondly look back on the hiking trails, picnics and parks we visited. I hope it will teach them to always seek out nature because we all need it to rejuvenate our bodies and minds.
What childhood memories of nature do you have?