105. A Walk in the Woods

I do hope you get a chance to walk in the woods with your child. My children aren’t children any more, but we still spend time in the woods when they come to visit me. Maybe some time I’ll have grandchildren. Until then, I take other children on the bike trail. Last week, the touch-me-nots were starting to have full seed pods. I told a friend about it, and my friend let me take her child on the bike path.
We came to the touch-me-nots. They’re pretty, orange flowers. They’re also called “jewelweed,” either because of their flowers, or because their leaves sparkle when they’re in water. They’re called “cornucopia,” because of the shape of the flower. And a friend by E-mail tells me it’s also called “medicine plant,” because the juice in the stem is supposed to relieve the stings of nettles and mosquito bites. Which reminds me – if you touch poison ivy, immediately rub the point of contact with the leaf of this medicine plant. You can find them lining the Fuller Brook path, near Brook Street, in late summer and early fall. If you touch a ripe seed pod, it will quickly open up, and seeds will burst out. Children (and adults who haven’t lost touch) get excited about it. But don’t all go at once. And don’t get Freudian about it. In the wilderness is the preservation of humanity, not a bunch of symbols to analyze.
A rabbit was sitting at the edge of the trail. We stopped. We whispered, and decided to move closer, ever-so-slowly. The rabbit knew we were there, but trusted us, I guess. A biker was headed in our direction. I signalled to her, and she stopped to see what was going on. She watched the rabbit, too. After two minutes or so, we moved on. The rabbit stayed there.
Robert Frost lived near here for a while. Back then, the bike trail was a railroad track. And Emily Dickinson spent her life here. I don’t know whether the railroad track was even there yet back then. Sometimes I read their poetry. When it’s raining out, or too cold and/or snowy to go on the bike trail. I’m not the type to stop by the woods on a snowy evening.
Some of my articles – most of them, maybe – express my thoughts about specific issues. There are a lot of important things to say about children, parenting, and teaching. But there is also some important silence about it all. So I hope you get a chance to go to the woods with your child. Even a noisy child may surprise you with silence in the woods. Just say to your child, “I’m going for a walk in the woods. I sha’n’t be gone long; you come, too.” One could do worse.

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