Labor Day is the traditional end of summer vacation as the regular routines of our lives “peak just around the corner.” Today, many of us are making final preparations to race to the beach, the shore, the mountains, our neighborhood park, or maybe just into our own backyards. Remember to take some time with the kids in your life this weekend, and “smell the roses” together. We are thrilled to share this guest blog post by Lindsay McNamara with you that reminds us to do just that! Lindsay recalls for us how life changing certain experiences and brief moments in nature can be, and that it is our “job” as parents to help create these moments. As we read Lindsay’s post, we were reminded of the prophetic words of one of our favorite authors, Richard Louv: “The child in nature is an endangered species, and the health of children and the health of the Earth are inseparable.”
Remember to BE in the moment with the kids in your life as you enjoy nature together. Be inspired by nature. As you admire and wonder at the beauty and surprises that our natural world shares with us, help your children see what is at stake as we humans force our planet further and further out of balance….Enjoy these recollections from Lindsay and ask your children to tell you how nature inspires them!
The Restorative Power of Nature, by Lindsay McNamara.
While in college, I went on a field trip with my Environmental Humanities class to Muddy Run Recreational Reservoir in Lancaster County, PA. We went canoeing, tested the water quality, and did the “Macro Shuffle” to find macro-invertebrates in a nearby stream. My friend Nikki and I found a fairly large crayfish during our shuffling. Finding a crayfish as a 21-year-old college student had more a larger effect on me than I thought it would. It got me thinking about catching crayfish in the creek down the road from my house with my friends and my cousins on holidays in middle school and early high school. Like most middle schoolers, I was not aware of just how many environmental issues we face as a society. I was familiar with the immorality of animal cruelty and the importance of not littering, but I cannot recall my knowledge going much further than that. As a college senior pursuing a degree in Environmental Studies, I was more aware of a large scope of environmental problems.
Sometimes, learning about the stress humans place on the environment stresses me out and I have a hard time remaining hopeful as I went through my Twitter timeline and read story after story on Keystone XL, songbird decline, politicians’ speeches, etc. What I learned from my field trip to Muddy Run was something much bigger than how to test water, I learned, or perhaps was reminded, of how important it is to get back out into nature to continue to fight for clean water.
It is easy to get bogged down and have a defeatist attitude about the state of the planet and the lack of stewardship of our ecosystems…but getting back out in nature reminds me of what I fight for day-to-day as an ‘environmentalist.’
I often take walks outside through parks or along the ocean without my iPhone. I love the freedom of not knowing what time it is and not compulsively checking my phone to see if I have any text messages. Part of getting back into nature isn’t just going to a park and taking a walk; it is connecting with nature without distractions.
In college, I used to walk through a state park near campus. I would turn around when I reached a certain bridge in the park, but one night I realized a small wooden plank foot path leading farther into the forest. I went down this path, and listened for the birds. I was delighted to see a woodpecker looking for food in a tree trunk. She was seemingly unaware of the water quality below her; I noticed a nice shiny top coat of some kind of pollutant, most likely from mining, on the water. It was then that I realized that my “get back into nature” idea is somewhat of a cycle. When I get bogged down by all of the problems we have created, I go for a hike and allow myself to be submerged under the tree tops. When I see a filmy cover on the creek water, I am motivated once again to go back out into the world and fight for species like the woodpecker. And, I’m sure, when fighting the good fight has me down again, I will go back into the park to repeat the cycle to find the motivation to provide my children with the opportunity to be able to go to the creek and catch a crayfish, as I once did, without getting sick from the quality of the water.
Lindsay McNamara, THE ’20-something environmentalist’ enjoys blogging about environmental issues in her spare time. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Delaware and currently works as the Program and Communications Associate at an environmental nonprofit in New Jersey.