“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.”
If you will, try to remember a time when you took a quiet walk. Perhaps it was a walk through a park, maybe it was a walk home from work, maybe it was a power walk to relieve stress, or maybe it was a hike through the woods. I know I don't get to do this nearly as often as I would like, and I live less than a mile from a state park! As for me, I tend to get caught up in the things I have to do - laundry, dishes, cooking, curriculum, grants, etc. Your nagging cries of responsibility probably keep you from taking that time out of your schedule as well.
I find that I have to look back several years in order to recall quiet retrospective walking. But when I do, I experience idyllic visions and a sense of quiet fulfillment.
The smells... the dampness that permeates damp woods beneath the carpet of leaves, the distinctive odor of earth from the enriched soil, the rush of wind that rushes in the aroma of sticky pine sap oozing from a tree wound, and the freshness that permeates the young cottonwoods.
The sounds... the quiet chirping of the chickadee as it flits from trunk to branch and ground looking for seed, the snapping of dried and fallen branches as I walk over them on the trail, the rustle of leaves and needles on swaying branches, and the wind brushing past my ear as it whistling towards me, making my senses extra alert to the natural sounds that it shares with me.
In my memory, there were little mushrooms that popped out of the crevices and crooks of the tree, a tree that participated in the journey of forest life even though it no longer grew, little fiddle fern heads poking up out of the soft soil and looking so delicate, and falling twigs of white pine as they blew from the top of the tree. My sense of wonder was evoked by the intricate designs on the bark of the Douglas Fir, and the way the line of sight traveled in and out of the trunks appearing endless.
It is these memories that make me love the forest and being outside in the forest. In the end, I get so much more out of the walk than I originally expected, as Mr. Muir so eloquently stated.
I can only imagine what a child might learn through time spent quietly in the forest. How might they see, hear, and wonder with their open minds thirsting for opportunities? How much joy and excitement would a child experience if they saw a rabbit or a ground squirrel? What questions would it elicit that would expand their perspective of the natural world around them? Could it swell their hearts and grow the seed of passion for understanding inside of them?
Maybe we should all take those walks more often.
I also think that we, as adults, should take a child's hand and let them experience all that nature has to offer.
It represents a personal challenge to me to help students develop a sense of wonder and a desire for learning through exposure to nature. Would you like to join me?