Special Childhood Places

My ball cap shields my eyes a bit from the morning sun and frames my view from the kayak. The morning sun lifts the cool air left from the night. The still water reflects the shoreline made of white pine, balsam fir, sugar maple, basswood, and oak. This lake, where I’ve experienced the beginning of summer since I was a boy, is a special place though at times becomes rote and forgotten–until mornings such as these.

The sun climbs higher and I remove a layer of clothing. Summer is here. I stop paddling and drift across the surface. Bullfrog tadpoles twist and dive to safer depths leaving behind little swirls all around my invading kayak. It’s going to be a banner year for frogs I think. Later this summer, the rising and falling chorus of “rummmm” will fill the night. A larger swirl catches my eye. Probably a descending painted turtle, but maybe a northern pike or muskie reduced the bullfrog population by one.

Ahead, thick water lilies require more effort to push through. No gliding and coasting here. I stop to listen and look. A woodpecker continues to work away on a distant tree. The rapid pounding carries across the water. Across the bay, a beaver lodge with fresh cuttings with green leaves protrudes from the surface. Behind it on the shore, is a tall white pine upon which an old, but active eagle nest sits. I don’t see signs of either inhabitants this morning, but I know they are around and I like that.

This morning paddle is routine and nothing special, which only highlights my good fortune. There are so many in this world for whom this peaceful paddle, glide, sit, and listen, would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. That saddens me. I’m sad for them and the lack of opportunity to connect to the natural world. And sad for all of us that so many do not get to connect to the natural world, and the ramification of that nature deficit on all of us and our collective connection to and therefore relationship with the natural world.

Then again, connection doesn’t have to come only from such grand spaces. It can happen in a suburban back yard observing squirrels and songbirds in a tree, a spiderweb in a tomato plant, or the coordinated efforts of ants carrying bounty across a sidewalk in a bustling city.

Then, I hear a distant lawnmower start and I start paddling again. Even in this space around the cabin, filled with wildlife and “natural” lands, human activity continues. An interruption or a part? I don’t’ know. I’ve probably thought more about this than I need to. Back on shore I see fresh deer tracks where a doe and fawn (or two) came to the lake during the night. The mower stops and I head to the cabin for some more coffee. This is how summer begins in my special childhood place. What is your special childhood place and how does it impact your emotional, intellectual, spiritual connection to the natural world?

P.S. My wife came in a few minutes after me from kayaking and asked “Did you see the sandhill cranes?” Oh well, it was still a good paddle.

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