When I went to college in Massachusetts many years ago, I took a literature class that dealt with spiritual works. Some were actually sacred, but most were modern novels with that bent. After we’d read something focused on the transformative power of the natural world, the professor, who was an avid hiker, went off on a lengthy tangent about people who think nature is nice. “Nature WILL kill you!” he shouted at the end “You suburbanites with your manicured parks don’t get that, but it will kill you.”
That nature is deadly and fickle is something my daughter understands instinctively. She won’t willingly enter the forest without a life preserving fight, and consequently hiking is more of a battle of wills than a time to commune with nature in any manner, spiritual or otherwise. This is a little disappointing for me, because I love the woods myself, which is why we live in the mountains. Sometimes we’ll go for a walk in our neighborhood and I’ll try to coax her onto the trail into the open space (“just to see what it’s like”), but she never gets more than a few feet down the path. We have more luck if we actually drive the few miles to the national forest, but that’s because she likes the stream in the picnic area. We still never get further than the spot where the stream diverges from the trail.
Now, every year Rose’s school chooses a theme to work into several interrelated projects. Last year, Rose’s first year, it was nature and conservancy. The students were supposed to learn to be “good keepers of the Earth”. Rose’s immediate reaction was that she’d stay inside all year to avoid having adverse impact on the natural world. When I insisted that we actually take the assigned nature walks she complied, but only grudgingly. Well, she complied until she found out about the mountain lion sightings in our neighborhood. After that even playing in the backyard was right out. Which is how she ended up designing a large mountain lion deterring statue for our yard as her first school project:
This year the issue is not mountain lions, but coyotes. To anyone that does not live in a wilderness area with packs of wild coyotes this might not seem to be much of a threat. However, a motivated pack of these small, dirt colored canines can bring down a horse (I know because a friend lost her horse in this manner) and would find small children a tasty snack. (As a friend of mines likes say when city folk are showing their kids to the pacing mountain lions at the zoo, “Mmmm, they smell just like cupcakes.”) Since an aggressive pack has recently set up shop in the open space bordering our neighborhood I have to find a gentle way to keep my daughter aware, without keeping her in house all fall. I have a feeling it’s going to be another indoors kind of season.