“Studies show” writes Linda Akeson McGurk in There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather, “that we’re more prone to remember events that engage our whole body and all our senses. Nature, as it turns out, is just the right place for that.” This holds true for Akeson McGurk, who has fond childhood memories of visiting Lapland with her paternal grandparents, gardening with her mother, and cross country skiing with her father. (Can you tell she’s Swedish?)
This also holds true for me. I have a special place in my heart for the park behind my childhood home: the small hill and the big hill, the little playground and the big playground on which we spent countless hours. My parent’s garden, with the overgrown raspberry bushes and rows of carrots, beans, and swiss chard flanked by enough hills of potatoes to feed a small army for the winter. The old barn yard at the farm: cows and sheep, and the chickens, laying eggs in odd places that turned into an exciting treasure hunt. Then there’s Shuswap Lake, one of those special places where we swam, tubed, laughed, camped and barbecued in the sunshine. The sound of birds chirping in the morning at Pipestone. The glassy, still water on a rare windless day of fishing.
And I know I’m not alone. This also holds true for my parents. My mom talks of camping trips, building rafts, and swimming at the outdoor pool, while my dad remembers biking everywhere (including along the highway), fishing in the creek, and an unfortunate attempt to taxidermy a squirrel for high school science class. But, as There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather discusses, many of today’s kids won’t grow up making these kinds of memories because they’re spending too much time indoors.
This change has happened for several reasons. First, the prevalence of screens. Second, fear of our kids getting hurt, or as being seen as a bad parent. Together, the perfect storm for sedentary kids. But we aren’t wired to remember binge watching TV, playing candy crush saga, or winning games on an xbox. Nature truly engages our senses in a way that nothing else can. So when I think about what I want Henry to remember about his childhood, I want it to be roasting hotdogs over a fire, hiking a new trail, riding a bike, catching a fish, getting flipped off the tube, visiting a new playground, and whatever else he decides he likes to do in the great outdoors. I can’t think of a greater gift. ‘Cause nature is just the right place for that.