I grew up in a rural part of Oregon. The suburban house we lived in until I was 15 backed up to a ditch, and my brothers and I spent countless hours there. We’d meet the kids who lived on the other side of the ditch and climb trees, catch water skippers, build huts, and play make believe. I remember evenings spent back there by myself when my parents would to remind me over and over when it was time to come in.
I discovered a love of horses at the age of 9, and for years I spent most days every summer out at the barn where we boarded my horse. Alongside my 4-H friends I’d clean stalls, feed the horses, and get into all sorts of mischief. My mom and I would spend hours in fields and woods on horseback.
When I was fifteen, we moved out into the country. Trail rides, hikes, and time spent in the wild continued to be a large part of my life.
These experiences outdoors shaped my childhood. Nature always gave me the sense of endless possibility and put my problems into perspective. Being out in the wilderness was a stark reminder that I am one small organism in a seemingly infinite world.
Even now, it’s essential that I spend time outside each day to feel grounded. Knowing the importance of nature, I hope to instill a similar sense of awe in my young son. I want him to experience the vastness of nature. I hope he will feel comforted and centered as a result of time spent in nature. I hope the outdoors will spark his imagination and provide him with memories of a full and wonderful childhood.
What I'm Reading
The primary problem I experienced with this book might be generational. Louv is older than I am and grew up in a different era. He often waxed nostalgic about his own childhood and how different things are now. I have no doubt this is true, but I find little value in mourning the old days when there is still hope for children now.
I also may have not related to the urgency of the tone because I continue to live in a part of Oregon where wilderness is readily available. Parents in this area value nature, and there are even nature-based schools available. There was an edge of hysteria in the writing that just isn't congruent with my experience of parenting.
This book is also quite long and redundant. Many of the good parts are lost amidst endless examples of how things used to be and how they are no longer that way. I found myself bogged down in the descriptions of ways in which we are failing our children and how much better off Louv’s own generation was.
Louv did make some valid, interesting points in the case for nature. There are plenty of children in cities who don’t have easy access to nature. Plenty of children do grow up living mostly inside, and those kids are missing out on all that nature has to offer.
The author gives examples of how nature is beneficial for all people, but especially children. He shares data about schools which incorporate nature and see significant improvements in academic performances and behavioral challenges. He also shares anecdotes about how nature helps hospital patients heal more quickly and improves outcomes in prisons. Most interesting to me, Louv discusses research which suggests that nature leads to more creative play than sterile playgrounds with fixed structures.
“Quite simply, when we deny our children nature, we deny them beauty.”