Frankly, there are few things cooler than walking in the woods with my grandson dispelling notions of cheetah encounters! Every once in a while his 2-year-old sister would join us, although she spent much of the time riding atop her dad’s neck. But we did get to look at and talk about some neat ‘stuff’ together.
The forest floor was blanketed with several varieties of ferns, mostly common types, so we were able to identify them and, most importantly, touch them. I believe that “touching” nature’s stuff is crucial. Tactile images can be deeply embedded forever. I began my own explorations of nature years ago because ferns, so old, lacy, and immeasurably beautiful, ignited a fire within me that burns to this day. There were several stands of Interrupted ferns, which puzzled Grant a bit, as I needed to define “interrupted,” and then explain what it means to interrupt something and then explain further how it applied to the fern. He sort of understood, smiled, and then suggested we continue walking, keeping an eagle eye out for more intriguing stuff. I remember thinking how nice it would be if he stays this genuinely inquisitive as a teenager and then an adult.
Along the way we stopped to examine various mushrooms, peeled some bark off a yellow birch, plucked off a leaf from a striped maple, gathered up several blue jay feathers, and on the way back to the car, added a stem of jewel weed to what Grant now described as his ‘collection.’ As we walked along we heard several birdcalls. We have gone birding together before and one of his favorite things to do is hang my binoculars around his neck and search for birds when we hear them. Towards the end of the walk we heard a bird high up in the canopy. He stopped in his tracks and said, “That’s a woodpecker!” He lifted the binoculars to his eyes, craned his neck backward, and aimed for where he thought the woodpecker might be. We never saw it, but the sense of purpose and real joy that he felt in trying filled me with grandfatherly pride. I look forward to the day when we head out on a birding expedition together, tethered to one another by mutual love and a shared fascination with nature’s illimitable treasures.