Of all the wonderful things I have had the honor and pleasure of doing in my many years with Bergen Audubon is helping to introduce children to nature. Watching their faces when they see a bird or butterfly out in the wild is something I live for and never forget. But in reality kids don’t really need my help and they more than likely have taught me more about how to enjoy nature than anyone else ever has. All a child truly needs to do is open the door, get outside, and let their natural curiosity and connection with nature take over, often giving them a lifelong passion of the world around them.
A while back a nice mom and her daughter joined us on one of our nature walks. At first the child seemed shy and not sure of me or what a nature walk was all about. But as only nature can do, she quickly felt more comfortable and began to enjoy the birds along with everyone else. Her eyes lit up as she began pointing out things that she spotted and asked questions about the plants and birds we saw along the way. When I looked into her eyes it immediately took me right back. I saw myself, a shy kid not sure where to fit in or what my place in the world was. I felt her look of wonder, a deep soulful reminder just in case I forgot about when I first realized there was a, entire other world out there, one I felt connected to, a place I knew that I was accepted and where I felt safe and belonged.
Through the rest of my life nature always gave me the strength when life got the toughest. It was always there for me; I didn’t have make a call or an appointment. There was never a need to knock on a door, or be concerned of the time of day or night. It was just a walk outside that brought me back to where I needed to be. Nature is and always will be life’s one great constant, always there waiting for us to open our eyes and take it all in.
The love of nature will help guide you on many of life’s journeys. We should allow ourselves and our children to be different and take the road less traveled, to embrace nature, to love it, protect it and make it part of our everyday lives. To hold on to it as long as we can no matter what anyone else thinks or says.
Like the story of the crooked tree, the one that was different, the tree that does not fit into the mill machine, the one that stands up to storms and adversity, the one that grows stronger every day and most of all stays both wild and free, it’s always good to be that crooked tree.
Get outside, be part of nature. It is who we are, and nature will fill your heart and heal your soul. In turn, we all will help save it for future generations to come.