As I child growing up on a farm in Virginia I followed barely visible trails through the woods, picked persimmons off trees and ate them, studied crawling creatures as they marched through leaf detritus and up and down tree trunks. Watched a snake move through dappled shade. I was gone from dawn to dusk, lost in a world that was completely magical. That was back in the days when children were allowed to run free. No worries about being kidnapped or snakebite or anything else. My parents trusted that I was sensible enough to recognize danger.
Being an army brat I traveled to all sorts of areas during those developmental years, including other countries. Wherever we were I found some out of the way place to explore, whether it was the housing complex in the process of being built to beckoning forests that stood dark and mysterious. I lived in Berlin when the wall was being built, ran away from home and came up against a barbed wire fence in the middle of a bridge. I found my way home again. I owe my imagination and my writing life to those who trusted me enough to let me out of their sight. Without that freedom I wouldn't have learned to build castles in my mind.
I'm disturbed by what I see happening with children these days. Kept busy with after school projects and other organized activities, they are no longer given the time to become bored. Because it is boredom that forms ingenuity, allowing minds to come up with some make-believe game or story in their mind that leads them into the world of the imagination. Why has boredom become a bad word? It's part of life. In many places children are not permitted to walk a mile to school. Is it really so much dangerous or is it the media that has instilled this terror in the minds of parents? Yes, there are predators out there and yes, children have been kidnapped. But is this a good enough reason to keep them so busy with organized activities that they can't experience the world around them? I'm not advocating putting children into danger, only discussing how anything can be taken too far. I feel for those parents who are worried all the time.
With everything that's happening across the globe, from disappearing species to polluted water and air, as well as all the practices that are taking away our green spaces, it's more important than ever to allow our children to participate in nature. They get sick more often now and I've heard it's because they're too clean! Let them play in the dirt instead of watching a video game inside a pristine house. Take them to a farm so that they can see animals grazing and rooting in the ground. Let them pick up spiders and snakes and worms. Let them play in mud and cow pies! They'll have more immunity as well as a better understanding of the world they live in.
Our children are the future and if they live plugged in to one video game after another, never understanding what nature has to offer, we will see the end of what makes this world so amazing and magical. Without appreciation the world outside our window will die.