Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Signs of Spring

In A Sense of Wonder, Rachel Carson writes about exploring the natural world with her young nephew:

We have let Roger share our enjoyment of things people ordinarily deny children because they are inconvenient, interfering with bedtime, or involving wet clothing that has to be changed or mud that has to be cleaned off the rug. We have let him join us in the dark living room before the big picture window to watch the full moon riding lower and lower toward the far shore of the bay, setting all the water ablaze with silver flames and finding a thousand diamonds in the rocks on the shore as the light strikes the flakes of mica embedded in them. I think we have felt that the memory of such a scene, photographed year after year by his child’s mind, would mean more to him in manhood than the sleep he was losing. He told me it would, in his own way, when we had a full moon the night after his arrival last summer. He sat quietly on my lap for some time, watching the moon and the water and all the night sky, and then he whispered, “I’m glad we came.”

For the past couple of weeks, as I have taken my children on small excursions around town to enjoy the warm weather, I have been thinking about the importance of exposing them, in every season, to the natural world. I have been thinking about the importance of returning, year after year, to see the blooming magnolia tree on our street, to look at the greening trees at Elizabeth Park, to search for wildflowers in the woods at Westmoor Park. Like Carson, I believe that such scenes, photographed year after year by my children’s minds, will mean more to them in adulthood than many other things I could give them.

One summer evening when my daughter was three, a vibrant watercolor rainbow spread across the sky right before sunset. I had just put my daughter to bed, but without hesitation I rushed into the house, pulled her from her bed, and carried her outside in her pajamas to see the rainbow. She still remembers being held in her mother’s arms while looking at a rainbow. She will likely remember it for the rest of her life. What better gift could I leave her with? It’s worth it.

And now, my son notices the starbusts of the forsythias glowing in yards across town, the coral blossoms of the Japanese flowering quince in our front yard. “Mom, I just found another sign of spring,” he tells me, again and again, pointing at his strawberry plants awakening from winter dormancy, at the dandelions studding our lawn. “Everywhere I look, I see signs of spring.”