What an utterly beautiful week we had. (Since I haven't bothered to upload a single picture, you'll have to take my word for it!)
Our first official day of vacation started at that heavenly place, Lake Superior, where we spent a glorious day walking along the lake and picking up rocks, throwing rocks (and Crocs) into the lake and collecting sea glass. We spent a long time wandering, watching gulls slice through the air with their chiseled wings, and listening to the water on the rocks.
We lay on the shoreline, watching the water, feeling the cool air on our faces, and bonding with rock after rock. We were in heaven. Well, the kids and I were, anyway. D is not so much into rocks. But he was a trooper and sat there until we were ready to leave.
The kids have treasure boxes that are positively overflowing now, with bits of sea glass, and rocks "shaped like potatoes" (according to J) and tiny sticks of driftwood.
Although many folks frown upon it, I'm a big believer in collecting things we find outside. Of course, if we find an endangered plant or mushroom or live animal or something, I draw the line. But wildflowers? Gorgeous sticks? Pinecones? I say, if we can get 'em home, let's go for it. And you already know how I feel about rocks. (We filled a whole grocery bag at Lake Superior!)
Sure, sure, some people feel you should "take only pictures, leave only footprints" and all that. But I really believe that if my kids are connecting with something from nature on a personal level, and that thing is not critically endangered or in otherwise desperate straits, being able to take something home and give it a special place of honor really deepens their appreciation.
And frankly (though my other naturalist friends will kill me for saying so) it really doesn't do harm to nature to pick a flower. Or grab a leaf from a tree. Or remove a rock from the forest floor. (Nod to my naturalist friends: When I was leading 5-6 school groups of 30 kids each into the woods daily for months at a time, I was singing a different tune. But you see the difference, I'm sure)
We sift over our treasures at home, recalling our walks where we came across this pinecone or that feather. We examine our shells closely, with magnifiers. We compare feathers, noting how different ones feel on cheeks, arms, and the back of your hand. We wrap up our stones in silk scarves, presents for each other from our favorite places.
Sure, at times, we look at photos from our trips (when D or I ever get around to uploading them. heh.) But nothing connects us more quickly to nature than having something of nature in our hands. For many people, children especially, having something real and physical to hold is so important. It builds connection. It calls up memories. It returns us to the woods, the lake, the meadow. We can experience the textures, the sounds, the temperatures of rocks, feathers, pinecones. And this brings us back to a shared experience that we savor together.