When I was a little girl my family lived on a small farm in Chesapeake, Ohio. We had horses, chickens, rabbits, an occasional hog and goat, dogs and cats, gardens that I remember as being incredibly large and of course, wooded hills and ravines. I remember wandering those woods. The outing that stands out most in my mind is the first time I wandered by myself in those woods. As I recall, my mom packed me a snack in a brown paper bag and off I went exploring. Now maybe my perspective is skewed – it could be that my mom followed behind ensuring my safety or that she was there alongside me – but for me it was a moment by myself in the woods, to wander and wonder as I would.
The moment that I cannot forget begins with looking down toward the ground, the sun filtering through the shadows of the leafy branches above, and picking up a smooth, auburn buckeye out of the crunchy leaf litter below my feet. I remember very clearly the way it felt and looked in my hand and I remember turning my head skyward, looking up at the leaves and then through the open spaces in the canopy to the brilliant blue sky above. Later I remember walking on down into a dry creek bed where I found what I thought was a pure, white rock. As I pulled it up out of the rocks and sand around it I realized it was a bone. It turned out to be the skeleton of a small mammal that had met its demise in that place.
Now as an adult I can very quickly be cast back to those exact moments, seeing them, still, in my minds eye just as clearly as if I was experiencing them first hand again, there, among the woods of the family farm. A richly colored buckeye or even a chestnut, smooth and brown in my hand, the bright blue sky seen through the lush greens of summer immediately send me there. These moments have inspired a lifetime of experiences valuable in more ways than I can count. They evoke emotion that I cannot put into words.
My daughter recently brought home a book from her school library – Luba and the Wren by Patricia Polacco. One inscription on the title page is as follows – “For children everywhere, who should be full of joy and free from care”. It is my wish for every child to have the joy and freedom to experience his/her own ‘epiphany moment’ in nature.