I long for experiencing a life of simplicity in the midst of our current modern world.
But sometimes — well, most of the time — I don’t know how to get there. Thankfully, that’s what friendship and honest community can do. A new friend recently invited us to spend the day out at her farm and the experience hit me with some long forgotten memories.
I thought, I’ve been here before.
My earliest childhood memories are from my grandmother’s farm. By then, most of the animals were gone which left a haunting emptiness. I remember swimming in a giant cow trough with my cousins, playing hide-and-seek in deserted barns, swinging on a tire swing and helping collect eggs from the chicken coop before they too were gone. Both warm and sad, these memories always felt like nostalgic vapers, like promises of possibility too thin to grab onto or fully materialize.
Then everything shifted.
Surrounded by familiarity, those dusty old feelings came back but this time there was so much life bursting everywhere! The difference was profound. As I watched my own kids play, just as I did with my cousins, the sadness from my own memories began to recede. I felt something I didn’t know was broken begin to heal. I felt a new connection to an ageless dream.
When we think about the early connection between a father and son, perhaps we imagine a nostalgic image of them fishing together. It’s a tradition deeply engrained in the American psyche. With good reason, it’s one of the few cultural rituals we offer children positive messages of masculinity.
For those who have had such an experience know fishing is more than the sum of its parts. For the rest of us, like those in the first Nintendo/MTV generation who grew up without much vision for positive outdoor experiences, here’s a little of what we’ve been missing.
- Fostering Conversations You Wouldn’t Have at Home
- Investing in Your Collective Emotional Future
- Teaching Environmental Stewardship
Thankfully it’s never too late to do something for the first time… and let the simple goodness of life surprise you. I learned this lesson over again when Grandpa took us all fishing for the first time.
Watching my son’s face light up with pride as he reels in his first fish, in the presence of his grandfather, is a significant moment beyond the moment itself. It’s a healing and aligning of generations, as one passes on wisdom to the next — it’s an act of affirming a positive identity as those who will and must someday become men.
When I was growing up, there was a drainage ditch down the street from a friend’s house. We called this place Crawdad Creek because another friend once found a crawdad there. I never caught one, but I remember spending hours trying. Looking back, those were the moments it felt like childhood was magical.
Exploring the natural world connects us to the awe and wonder of life itself.
As a grown up living in the largest city in the state, I lament how much of our life together is spent surrounded by concrete. It’s difficult to find natural spaces like lakes, creeks, or wooded areas for outdoor play — except they do make spaces like that.
They call them parks.
Now there is a Crawdad Creek at Platte River State Park, one of the eight other Nebraska State Parks easily accessible. Thanks to some new friends we made at a local unschooling group, who invited us out and freely shared fishing nets and buckets of all sizes, the kids had the best day of the summer so far!