Sunday was Earth Day, and, by tradition
, we honored it by picking up litter
that’s accumulated along the sides of our road. Actually, because Ursula needed
to be in town for the day, “we” this year was just Jim and Virgil.
and I went one direction in the car, our windshield wipers clearing off the
misting rain, and Jim and Virgil tromped off in the other in raincoats and
rubber boots. Through the rear-view mirror, I saw that Virgil was pulling the
old red wagon behind him. We used to take him for rides in that wagon as a baby.
On this day, discarded coffee cups, crumpled cigarette packs, and especially empty
beer cans would soon rattle against its slats.
past experience held, Virgil wouldn’t make it to our closest neighbor before
he’d want to call it quits. In an effort to forestall that eventuality, Jim
offered to pay him a penny for each five items he collected. Even then, Jim
wasn’t sure how far they’d get, especially on such a wet day.
though, noticed cans nearly buried under leaves in the ditch, scrambled down
muddy slopes to collect dirt-caked bottles that had been chucked into the woods
from moving cars, and didn’t hand the wagon over to Jim until they’d crested
the steep hill far past our neighbors. The money wasn’t what was motivating
him, Jim decided; he thought Virgil was partly enjoying the fun of the chase,
and maybe also feeling the pride of taking care of this place, this land, this
at the garage, Virgil sorted their haul: 152 bottles and cans (mostly
Budweiser and Natural Light, leading Virgil to ask his dad, “What’s up with
that?”) went into our recycling bins, Styrofoam cups
and other trash into the garbage. That earned Virgil 30 cents at the negotiated rate, but he didn’t bother
that night, telling me this story, Jim reminded me that my first posts on this
blog were about motivating Virgil, our then six-year-old reluctant hiker. We
used M&Ms on the trail then — “the Hansel and Gretel ploy
,” I called it —
and tried handfuls of other ideas
, some of them pretty desperate, to keep him
going. Somewhere along the line, he appears to have developed an internal sense
that green, wild places matter, and that taking care of those places is a good
thing in itself.
thought of my own parents, who took me and my brothers on an early Earth Day river clean-up
. I’ll bet that we resisted going, even if we kept our resistance to
ourselves. Because they insisted, though, we knew that taking care of rivers
and roadsides mattered. Because it mattered to them, it mattered to us. And now
it may matter to Virgil.
I’m thinking about all this as I write my final entry for AMC’s
Great Kids, Great Outdoors.
Although the blog will continue (with Heather as the
writer), and I will still write about children and nature occasionally for AMC,
I am stepping down from the demands of regular blogging to focus on writing my
next book. It’s been a great pleasure to work with Heather, AMC senior editor
Marc Chalufour, and many others around AMC; I can tell already that I’ll
miss this regular forum.
And regular it has been: Over
nearly 300 posts, I’ve had the chance to explore the interconnections among
things that matter: parenting, wild places, science and natural history,
environmental issues. In doing so, I’ve discovered that those of us who care
about kids and families in the outdoors are part of a growing movement. We’re
part of a community that’s interested not only in recreation but also in combining
our care for children and our concern for the natural world in new and important
ways. It matters that we work together, raise issues together, and share our stories together.
I’ve spent the last few days
looking back over the information and topics that this blog has brought to the
The work of people and organizations helping children and their
parents get outside, appreciate nature, and become stewards of natural places
and green spaces, such as Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move
childhood obesity, collaborations
in a small Massachusetts town between a
teacher and an AMC staff member, Safe Routes to School
, forest kindergartens
and outdoor classrooms
, environmental mentoring
programs, school-garden and
, AMC’s vision
for youth and family participation in the
outdoors, and other healthy-community organizations
It’s been an honor.
Labels: AMC, earth day, family, junior naturalist, Kristen Laine, parenting, White Mountains