Still Feeling the Nature Bond

by Mary Clista Dahl

These days, when I approach my young adult children to request their company for a nature walk, the answer is usually no.  Gone are the days of their youth when they would eagerly step outside with me to explore our country acres.

So when my daughter recently invited me for a walk in the woods to try out her new Canon and exercise her rejuvenated interest in photography, I grabbed my jacket and headed out the door before she could change her mind.
We drove to a wildlife management area with a boardwalk for nature viewing.  The late summer air was filled with the noisy sound of birds and cicadas.  The goldenrod was in full blossom and alive with pollinating bees.  This wasn’t my usual steady, slow-paced nature walk.  This one was interrupted at intervals by her desire to photograph even the most miniscule life forms for future enjoyment.  As we progressed, I asked if she intended to submit her photos for publication.  She responded that it was difficult these days to find someone to pay, but she thought she might try.  Above all, she expressed that it was the pleasure of the art form that made it all worthwhile.

As she crouched behind the railings for close ups, I huddled behind to share her perspective.  I marveled at the delicate ivy climbing the silver maples. Moss-covered logs were damp and cold; there were no sunbeams today to creep through the trees to warm them, so the sunbathing turtles were noticeably missing.  No worries, there was plenty to focus on without them.  After awhile I left her to her artistic devices and wandered off ahead.  A woman passed her and approached me from behind.  Pointing to my daughter, she asked if I were with her.  I told her yes, and she asked me what she was photographing.  I offered, “Whatever inspires her.”

When my daughter caught up to me, she noticed something crawling on the side of the railing.  “Look Mom, a walking stick!”  I hadn’t seen one in years, and we watched together amused as it propelled itself forward one spindly leg at a time, not especially caring that it had become the featured image of the day.

This sparked a memory of the little toddler I had introduced to nature through daily walks in our back yard as I held her tiny hand in mine.  Eye level with a Queen Ann’s Lace, she said, “Look Mommy, a spider.”  And gently touched him. When I finally spotted the camouflaged crab spider, I was a bit startled by its appearance, but she was simply enamored.  Twenty years have passed, and although she needs to bend down now to be eye level with the plants and she touches creatures with her lens rather than her finger, her appreciation for nature remains.

Before the end of our hike, she offered to take a picture of me on the boardwalk.  At first I hesitated, but relented when I saw the enthusiastic look on her face. After all, the woods offer the perfect backdrop.  So I climbed up on the railing and let her do her thing.  As she clicked away, I inhaled the beauty of my surroundings and felt grateful for her capturing this moment of our time together.  I couldn’t have smiled wider.
Twenty years later nature still brings us together.  We enjoyed casual conversation on the way back to the car, and I believe I did a magnificent job of stifling my urge to take her hand in mine.