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A Child's Garden - Livin' the Good Life

Mar. 2nd, 2009

08:41 am - A Child's Garden

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I always have several books going at once. Usually I'm reading a "heavy" book that takes lots of time and contemplating. I'm in the thick of a couple of books on Christianity that belong in that catagory at the moment. I also have at least one "lighter fare" that I pick up for fun and amusement when I just want to take a minute to relax during the day or before I fall asleep at night. Right now that would be this one:
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I had so much fun as a child just playing outside all day. When I was growing up, all the parents I knew told their kids, "Go outside and play." I think it might have been because it was before serious TV availability and if we didn't go outside and play we would 1. be creating more mess in the house 2. be noisy in the house and 3. run around in the house, all of which disturbed our parents' peace and focus on their work. So, unless we were doing chores, children back then were pretty much required to stay outside as much as possible during the day. This was no problem for me. I came alive outside! I was lucky enough to live in a beautiful, semi-rural neighborhood with lots of wild places to explore. I felt intimately connected to nature, and I was never happier than when I was climbing the mountain across from our house, following trails (mostly made by little critters, but sometimes made by me) and galloping around like a wild horse. I loved swinging out over our creek on a rope swing that hung from a huge gnarled old tree on the side of the hill sloping down from our house. I climbed "ancient" oak trees every day. We had the best climbing trees to hang out in! The one I liked the best had a very long horizontal branch to scoot along for about 25 feet, and when I reached the end of it, the branch was thin enough to bend down and offer about a 6 foot drop to the ground. Dropping from that branch was one of my favorite pastimes. I loved rolling around in the tall spring grasses that grew in the vacant lots and burrowing tunnels through them. (That's probably where I contracted my multiple cases of poison oak!) I often challenged myself to jump off a smallish cliff near our house just to see if I could do it. (I could.) I loved exploring around the dirt floor under our house where my brother had made a "spook house". It was cool and dampish down there, and there was one part where the clearance was so narrow that I had to crawl on my belly, clearing away cobwebs as I went. My brother appropriately named that area "The Tarantula's Den"... I still shiver when I think about it! Large-leafed ivy grew all over everyone's yards instead of grass. We unceremoniously tramped through that ivy looking for lost baseballs, and it was so hardy, it never seemed to mind. Roller skating and bike riding in the street on our quiet cul-du-sac was a daily occurance. Carting each other around in wagons and wheelbarrows was a part of our regular play. It's no wonder that the kids from my generation, and before, were generally a slender, strong, and healthy crop of people. We were so active! And there was never a shortage of playmates because everyone else was in the same boat. We had all been sent outside and that's where we found each other every day.
So this book I'm reading is about recreating "wild" outdoor play places to tempt our poor indoor, couch-potato, TV/computer-addicted children of the 21st century to go outside and like it. Someone is trying to fix the problem, and I appreciate it. The book is loaded with beautiful photographs, like the one on the cover, and lots of great ideas in the text for providing exciting, mysterious, adventurous, and just plain old fun natural settings in our yards for children to play in. I myself prefer wild settings designed by nature herself, and if I was raising a child today, I would make that a big consideration when deciding where to live... next to a mountain and a creek, with plenty of mature trees around, would be ideal!

Comments:

From:ext_120870
Date:March 2nd, 2009 09:44 pm (UTC)
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Just reading this made me want to be a kid again. I did not like the outdoors growing up like you did, but I still spent much of each day outside running, making mud pies, climbing trees, riding bikes. I think part of the reason kids stay inside so much now is the fear parents have of someone coming along and hurting their children. My boys spent lots of time outside but I was usually close by. They really missed out on the independence that I enjoyed.
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From:lestermom
Date:March 2nd, 2009 10:21 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, Jill, that's a problem nowadays. The nice thing about this book is that the author addresses that problem by creating spaces in your own yard that are like wild spaces, but they are safely in the confines of your property. My cousin picked a small town in Idaho to raise her kids based on the safety of it. The kids could safely bike to the movie theater a few blocks away and leave their bikes, unlocked, outside the theater, and the bikes would still be there when they got out. She says it's still like that today! She felt safe letting her kids roam freely and her kids feel like they had an idealic childhood because of it. That's the way it should be!
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From:nathenlester
Date:March 3rd, 2009 06:41 am (UTC)

semi-rural

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Wow, Mom, it's hard to believe the San Fernando Valley was 'semi-rural'!
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From:lestermom
Date:March 3rd, 2009 04:13 pm (UTC)
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Yes, going to the "San Fernando Valley" back then was like going out to the sticks! Honestly, there was nothing there in Van Nuys, and even Burbank! I think there were orange groves in many places. La Canada, where I was raised, was quite populated, but still had lots of vacant lots and mountains around it (it's a valley) and it was heavily foliated (is that a word?) Anyway, for southern Calif, it was considered "lush"!
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