One of my favorite summertime memories does not involve ice cream, waterskiing, a beach, or an exciting trip to a foreign country. Yes, I am blessed to have all of those summer memories too. But my most memorable summer day looked like this:
Me, seven teenaged girls for whose safety I was responsible, and a field of tall grass in rural southeastern Michigan.
I was working as a camp counselor at a girl scout summer camp. Somehow, I was given the incredible gift of camp-counseling a group of girls during the horseback riding camp program for two weeks. This is crazy to me because I knew nothing at all about horses other than the fact that I shouldn’t walk directly behind them. The beauty of the horseback program … it was separated from the rest of the camp by several miles of streams, forest, fields, and farmland. When the girls weren’t riding horses, we were essentially left to our own devices. It was amazing. The girls swept the barn, tried to make candles, sang songs, filled up empty horse troughs with water to go “splashing”, and got into shaving cream fights.
One day, one of them must have uttered the dreaded phrase, “I’m bored.” So I said, “Alright girls, put on some long pants and the tallest boots that you packed.” We started hiking out on a familiar path, but as soon as the complaining started again, I told them, “Change in plans.” We started walking straight into the middle of a field.
The girls looked at each other. They grew silent as the grass grew taller and the dirt grew muddier. All of a sudden the grass was higher than the tallest girl’s head, and we all stopped and took a look around.
“Wow,” the girls said.
One by one, the girls took turns free-falling into the grass. It was so tall and thick that when you let yourself fall, you got caught by a deep cushion of grass, softer than a bed. What euphoria!
I don’t know how long we stayed out there. I do know that as we started heading back every single last girl, from the most giggly to the most sullen of the group, had a huge smile on her face, from ear-to-ear.
I won’t forget that day, and I know that they won’t, either.
Tucy, age two, camping at Tyler State Park
Twelve years later, I am a wife and mama to Tucy, age 2 and 3/4. Tucy’s first experience camping was in the Appalachian Mountains, age three months. In her short life (with two wild parents), she has swam in the Pacific Ocean, gone camping in the Anza Borrego Desert, and visited the world’s biggest tree at Sequoia National Park.
Hiking with daddy at Sequoia National Park
You’d think that with two parents that love the outdoors so much, we’d have no trouble getting outside, right? Last year, we moved from the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains to Dallas, TX so my husband could attend law school. With our busy schedules, North Texas’ wretched 100 degree summer days and Dallas’s pervasive car culture, for the first time in Tucy’s life, I found it a struggle to make time for her daily sun.
I am so grateful for Ginny and her team at 1000 Hours Outside. This project is such a daily inspiration to me, and reminds me of the sweet, easy goodness that is childhood and the very simple, healthy joy of wandering around outside. While we are no where close to Ginny’s family’s tally for their number of hours spent outside, we have made the joy of nowhere to be a conscious daily practice and we have loved every minute of it.
No, I am not a perfect parent. Yes, Tucy has a favorite movie (Aristocats), and we sometimes spend entire days eating only mac ‘n cheese and ice cream. But it is easy to call goodness when you see it, and this is it.