Sunday, September 16, 2007

CM and Us and The Great Outdoors

The Muddy Puddle
by Dennis Lee

I am sitting in the middle
Of a rather Muddy Puddle,
With my bottom full of bubbles
And my rubbers full of mud,

While my jacket and my sweater
Go on slowly getting wetter
As I very slowly settle
To the Bottom of the Mud.

And I find that what a person
With a puddle round his middle
Thinks of mostly in the muddle
Is the Muddiness of Mud.
Unlike some of our nearest dearest CM friends' offspring, our Squirrelings have grown up with some mud and dirt restrictions. Call it overcaution. Call it urban life. Call it the parental ick factor. Whatever. We just don't do a lot of mudpies and backyard earthworks. Certain large squirrels in our treehouse grew up surrounded by nasty stories about what cats do in sandboxes and what toxins might be in this stuff we call soil, and the effects of that early training have not been diminished by the years. The Squirrelings' experiences with muddy puddles, wading in creeks, camping out, dogs, horses, and farm animals have been at somewhat of a distance. (Have you heard what kinds of things are passed around in petting zoos?...ugh, just another thing to cross off the list.)

However, when I start thinking about it, I realize that we have done our share of getting dirty, wet, snowy and/or buggy over the years; and a lot of it has been right in our yard. The Squirrelings can recognize most of our backyard birds: robins, crows, finches, mourning doves, robins, cardinals, and occasionally a hummingbird, a flicker, or a grackle. They love taking care of the occasional caterpillars that crawl across the patio (even one that we found on a cob of corn), and examining even the icky bugs under a magnifying glass. They know our maple trees very well, and the neighbourhood evergreens. They've played games with horse chestnuts, watched ants, and watched the variety of small mammals that show up in our yard: squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, and occasionally the nocturnal visitors like raccoons. (We have a big window just above ground level that lets squirrels and birds get right up close without realizing they're onstage.) They've been bothered by bees and bitten by mosquitoes. They've picked tomatoes, transplanted geraniums, and raked leaves. They saw a big tree come down and two more planted in its place.

Occasionally we do get further afield (I think of nature walks around the block as just an extension of our yard). They have had opportunities to get to know the beach, the sand, the pebbles, the water, the sky over Lake Huron. They've been to the woods--not as often as we'd like, but enough to get an idea of the quietness and the bigness of a hundreds-years-old kind of place. They've been outside at night to look for Orion's Belt, and we're hoping to get the younger ones to a local observatory a couple of times this year as part of their astronomy study.

And we go on all kinds of trips through our books. We've been in the blazing sun, poking at a badger and chasing prairie dogs with Laura. We've been in a beaver pond with Paddle. We've even been in the Secret Garden.

So, while I truly envy the abandon of those who don't mind their bottoms full of bubbles, maybe we're not so badly off either.
I Never Saw A Moor
by Emily Dickinson.

I never saw a moor,
I never saw the sea;
Yet know I how the heather looks,
And what a wave must be.

I never spoke with God,
Nor visited in heaven;
Yet certain am I of the spot
As if the chart were given.


Barb said...

Nice thoughts on your journey into nature with your children. It got me started thinking about all the outdoor things we have done over the years.....sigh. Trying to hold onto those memories and make some more before this season of life is past.

Thanks for sharing,

Phyllis said...

I love that first poem! And I thoroughly enjoyed the whole post.