Friday, November 14, 2014

Camp Time With Grand-daughter

“The quiet wisdom of nature does not try to mislead you like the landscape of the city does, with billboards and ads everywhere.  It doesn’t make you feel like you have to conform to any image.  It’s just there, and it accepts everyone.”  Richard Louv
 A long awaited weekend at our camp had finally arrived and grand-daughter was thrilled to be here.  While we unpacked, she could hardly contain her excitement of getting outside to go exploring.  If I had access to a place like this when I was younger I would’ve been stoked.  Well I’m stoked now knowing that I now have this place to share with her.  Our property borders the Big Thicket which contains more diversity than any other area in the country.  In other words- it can’t get any better than this.  I’ve written before of my plan to educate her about the natural world and slowly but surely I’m beginning to see the fruits of my labor.  When we’re outside she’s the one that spots the caterpillar, or the lizard creeping in the ferns, or the hawk soaring overhead. 

The first thing we see are buckeyes flitting everywhere along the edges of the driveway.  Yes that’s right- butterflies in the fall.  These nervous little insects have a brilliant pattern of eyespots on their wings which are believed to startle or ward off predators. They are here in this part of Texas for most of the fall during their southward migration.  I can remember seeing them on days where temps had dropped in the lower 40’s.  My grand-daughter was in awe of their beauty as they danced all around us.

I recently had bought her a book called “A Guide to Wildlife Sounds” by Lang Elliott.  It contains the sounds of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects.  We sat on the front porch listening to the various animal sounds on the cd and wouldn’t you know that as we were listening the call of an
eastern phoebe, one showed up and landed in the ash tree out front about ten foot from where we were seated.  What wonderful experience that was.
We also looked at some fresh mounds created by the diggings of our local pine voles.  These mounds are a part of an extensive tunnel system below ground.  We sat and watched hoping one of the beady-eyed mammals would appear, but never did.  In a sandy area we came across a nice set of fresh deer tracks.  I explained to her what had made them and then told her to “feel” the edges and interior of track with her finger.  I wanted her to get up close and personal with a mark in the sand that had been produced by a living, breathing animal.  I wanted her to feel its essence.
I then taught her how to make a plaster cast of the track.  I allowed her to mix the casting material and pour it into the track.  As Richard Louv said in his book “Last Child in the Woods” -  “Much of our learning comes from doing, from making, from feeling with our hands.” 
I could have easily mixed the plaster and poured it into the track myself allowing her to only watch.  But I didn’t.  I allowed her to do this. I wanted her to learn from doing, making, and feeling.   This “closeness” with the track will also help her to remember this experience for years to come.

I marvel at the small treasures she has collected- cicada husks, bird feathers, remnants of bird egg shells, and now a nice cast of a deer track.
Later in the afternoon right before we went inside my wife spotted a white-tail doe about 40 yards away from the house on the edge of the woods.  We sat still and watched as she watched us.   The look in grand-daughter's eyes as she watched this beautiful creature in front of us was incredible. 
I was able to get a nice photo before she trotted off.  Then, to our surprise, the next morning when we got up I looked out in the hay field and saw a white-tail buck foraging on the hay.  Grand-daughter got a kick out of that.  We were able to slowly open the front door without spooking it to get some good photos.  It was really cool that we were able to not only make a casting of a deer track, but to also get to actually see the animal that made it.  I hope and pray as she gets older she retains this love of play and the outdoors.  That she remembers and cherishes the time the two of us have spent exploring this wonderful world that God created and that she passes along her knowledge and experiences to her own children and grand-children.


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