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Bring on nature (03/07/2012)
By Frances Edstrom

I was in need of a sign, and I got it. The temperature soared into the 60s, the drive-ins advertised opening for root beer and ice cream, and thereís hope that soon the hills will be sporting a green sheen and the crocuses will be popping out of the ground. For a warm, snowless winter, this has seemed a long one. Not that I expect spring to come now. Iím not quite ready for that.

I think we need one big sloppy March snowstorm, and not next week during spring break. It has to be on a school day, so that its coming is a joyous thing for kids. They should wake up in the morning and see the ground covered in white stuff and the air full of big fat flakes. Then, they should be able to rush to the radio or the computer to see if school is called off, and cheer loudly when it is. Then I want them to wolf down breakfast, forget to brush their teeth, pull on play clothes and boots and try to find their mittens and scarves and rush outdoors as soon as they possibly can to play, play, play.

When their stomachs start to grumble, they can come indoors all rosy cheeked and have a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup. Then itís off to bed for a nap, or out again to the melting snow for one last romp.

Iím sorry if this scenario isnít one welcomed by the adults in the house, who have to dig out the snow shovel, dig out the driveway, get the kids to daycare and still get themselves to work on time on slippery roads. But thereís so little time in oneís life that can be totally devoted to reveling in weather, whatever it is, that we need to allow it in our childrenís lives.

Childhood these days is so indoor-centered and regulated (despite our religious embrace of the environment) that they need time to connect with their real environment, up close and personal, not removed and political.

So bring on the snowstorm! Then bring on Spring ó the dirt, the bugs, the flowers and the weeds, the puddles. Collect watercress out of the streams, pick the earliest dandelion greens for a salad, watch the berries form on the bushes and the apple blossoms turn to apples. Letís let kids be kids again and learn the way kids have always learned ó not by listening to adults tell them whatís what ó in person or on the Internet ó but by playing with nature, in their environment, even if itís only a patch of weeds in the back yard or a puddle of worms in the driveway.

Then when these kids are old, and their spirits are flagging, they will have that remnant of childhood ó memory of the outdoors ó to remind them of the cycles of life and the hope that does spring eternal. 


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