Free range kids

Yes, I know. It is not 1975. Nature isn’t more dangerous than it ever was. People, however, are. And children are more sheltered and less prepared for time alone. Good, bad, I don’t know. As I’ve said before, the good old days weren’t always so good. The past has been remembered for us through endless hours of fiction catering to a perceived need for sanitized nostalgia. The reality of our past was grimmer. No one longs to die from a rattlesnake bite or begs to work seven days a week for straight time with no days off. Yet I wish for children today some of the free range time of yore. Perhaps I’m being nostalgic myself, because free ranging was so important to me as a girl. I was in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways recently and reminded my sister that we two floated together on blow-up air mattresses down the swift-moving Jacks Fork River alone when we were preteens camped out with our family. Now, that was a long time ago and I do not recommend that for anyone, especially considering that the recent series of unprecedented floods has changed the nature of the rivers. In fact, I have to admit I vetoed our youngest ones riding with their parents in life jackets in regulation kayaks on the same river. I am a child protectionist, too. We must, however, as in everything, find a balance when it comes to kids and nature. I want to give the youngest generation of my

family the gift of nature, too. Let them touch things, pick things up, climb on the rocks. But with each generation and as I grow older, I draw them closer. I give them cameras and hikes, but I carry hand sanitizer and stay on the park trails with them. Will they ever know the soul-soaring feeling of standing in the middle of a quiet wood alone? I call this photograph Nature Lovers. I didn’t even let them put their bare hands in the spring water, though. My sister and I would have drunk from it in 1975.

Copyright RC 2018

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