A natural affinity

My siblings and I, playing in the Smokey Mountains, sometime in the mid-1960's

My siblings and I, playing in the Smoky Mountains, sometime in the mid-1960’s

“Children have a natural affinity towards nature. Dirt, water, plants, and small animals attract and hold children’s attention for hours, days, even a lifetime.”
Robin C. Moore and Herb H Wong

One of the best ways to enjoy nature is to tag along with a child or two.  They notice things we have forgotten how to see, and find fascination in what we overlook.  Chances are that some of your earliest favorite memories (and probably a few not-so-happy ones) spring from your outdoor explorations.

If you have children, grandchildren or friendly neighborhood kids, try looking at the world through their eyes for a few minutes.  Young people teach us in a way that makes learning fun: unintentionally, spontaneously, sometimes accidentally, but guaranteed to be interesting.  What did you learn about nature as a child?  What do you continue to learn about it from children?

One year ago today:

The world’s best teachers


  1. singleseatfighterpilot

    The instructions were: “Roll your pants legs up; follow me; step on the same rocks I use . . .” Now look closely at Al – he is already drenched in the 58 degree water – even the top of his head is wet! Hilarious.

    • Were those Dad’s instructions? Or yours? Either way, I clearly flunked the part about “roll up your pants legs.” In defense of Al, he was the youngest of us. There is a photo of him taken a few seconds earlier that shows him in the water, obviously having slipped and fallen there — maybe on purpose. 😀

  2. Julia, what a fun time you’ve shared this morning. I spent many summer days playing around (and in) the New River, as it winds through the North Carolina mountains. I remember the shocking CHILL of the flowing water when checking the temp with my toes. 🙂
    Your river scene must be in the Georgia mountains. “Through the eyes of a child” we always say! It’s a rainy day in GC.

    • Sheila, these photos were made either in Tennessee or North Carolina, inside the national park (Great Smoky Mountains). Eric might remember which state we were in for that photo. BTW I noticed I misspelled “Smoky.” I guess it’s the result of having worked for the Tennessee Division of Forestry, where Smokey Bear is a big name. As Eric’s comment mentioned, YES that water is COLD! We had rented a little cabin right by that stream, and I loved listening to the sound of the water at night. Hope your rain today was the pleasant kind. We had another sunny, cool day, just perfect.

  3. MaryAnn

    OH! YES! This photo brings so many memories to life! I “feel” the water on my feet! My family knows if there is water near, I will be IN! Your beautiful photo reminds me of the Merced River in Yosemite National Park, CA, where I always put my feet in on arrival ( then everyday thereafter). Seeing nature through the eyes & guidance of children is the BEST experience! When our youngest grandson, Aaric, was under 2, we would go for walks. I allowed him to choose the route each time. As the years progressed, we collected many treasures along the way. One time he noticed a lovely, deep pink flowering tree. He said it looked soft. So he touched the bloom & was delighted! He insisted I feel it. It was a pleasure to be holding something akin to velvet or silk. Speaking of gathering “treasures”: Aaron, our oldest grandson, wanted to collect rocks at the seashore. At age 2, he picked up a boulder about 1/2 his size & asked to take it home. I told him since I was the one carrying our treasures back to the hotel, I could not carry that heavy rock. We do have a rock “garden” made with our collection, added to each time we are in the water. Amanda, our only granddaughter, collects seashells for our displays. When she was about 2, she kept running to me with handfuls of tiny seashells. We discovered there were a multitude of hermit crabs in my “treasures” pocket! On our beach walks, I always have two bags: 1 for trash & 1 for treasures. The teens at church & I were involved in Beach Clean-up Day for years at Ocean Beach in San Francisco.
    Julia: As usual, you have evoked GREAT, HAPPY memories! Thank you!

    • Mary Ann, thanks so much for sharing these sweet memories. It was like a mini-vacation to read about them. What a neat idea to have a rock garden with treasures from various places. I would be tempted to take a sharpie and write on the bottom of each rock, where they came from. But maybe that would deface the rock. Maybe tape a tiny piece of paper on the bottom or something else that could be removed. Watch out for those hermit crabs! I hope you didn’t discover them when you reached your hand in that pocket and got a painful surprise! 😀

  4. bobmielke

    You know one of the reasons I stay happy most of the time is because I see and appreciate those little things in life. I surround myself with nature, friends and animals and life is good.

    • Sounds like a great recipe for joy. I think a lot of people enjoy your animal photos, so your happiness has a ripple effect.

      • bobmielke

        It’s amusing that animal photography has morphed out of my love for portraiture. I still take a lot of people portraits but animals aren’t concerned that the person behind the camera is some sort of whacko or pervert. When I returned from the Renaissance Festival it became obvious that I still had a talent for capturing a likeness.

        • WOW, I just took a quick look at some of your photos from the Renaissance Festival – they are great! None of those costumes could hold a candle to that fantastic Lorikeet, though. I can’t imagine how sad it must be for you that they are closing that part of the zoo. I feel sad just knowing you won’t be able to take any more photos of them. Maybe you can start planning to go see them in Florida!

          • bobmielke

            If I had free airline tickets to Florida I wouldn’t want to go there. Too many Floridians. 🙂

            • Florida is kind of like California, where there are very few native Californians. I think most people in Florida came from someplace else.

  5. singleseatfighterpilot

    I believe the photo was made in Cherokee, North Carolina.

    • That’s what I was thinking. We had that little cabin with a tipi entrance decorating the front door.

      • singleseatfighterpilot

        That’s the one! And now, sadly, many of those quaint vacation spots have been taken over by the Casino culture. 😦

        • You don’t want to get me started on a rant about how casinos are ruining the country. Ellis has told me some real horror stories about the unethical developers on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. In so many ways, on so many levels, they are undermining life for everyone…

  6. Let’s hear it for water! Even puddles work, for kids!
    I remember sometimes taking half an hour or so to make it from the end of the driveway to the house after school when there had been a rain. I had to stop and play in each puddle!

    • Oh, yes, I loved to play in the rain. I can remember asking Mama “can we go play in the rain?” but the answer was rarely yes. It had to be warm enough, for one thing. I used to love to see the water gushing out of the downspouts from the gutter. I didn’t understand how there could be so much of it in one place. Then of course there is all the fun squishy mud to play in afterwards, and as you say, the puddles. All the things that most annoy me now. Funny how it works that way.

      • Very true! If I watch dogs or four-year-olds in the snow, it gives me a much needed reminder to readjust my attitude. Snow hasn’t changed, but shoveling is less fun than making snow Angels! (So I try to make one, when no one’s looking!)

        • Susan, I used to wonder why people complained about shoveling snow, since I grew up in the south where we never had any to shovel and I thought it would be fun. NOT! I’ve had experience with it in Ohio, and more recently, here — WOW, now I know how people can get heart attacks doing it! But I guess it is great exercise. Needless to say, we never had enough snow for snow angels, either. We would get crazy excited over just an inch or two. Mama would take some off the porch roof (where it was relatively clean) and make “snow cream” for us.

  7. What a beautiful picture and memories! Going on nature walks with my preschooler is one of my favorite times of the week. Yesterday we found a white butterfly or moth in the garden and studied it for as long as it would allow. 🙂

    • Wow, a white butterfly or moth is something I’ve seldom seen. It must have been beautiful. Walking with a young child is a great way of opening our eyes to things we don’t usually see. Thanks for visiting!

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