There was a child went forth every day,
And the first object he'd look'd upon,
that object he became,
And that object became part of him
for the day or a certain part of the day,
or for many years or stretching cycles of years.
- Walt Whitman
Growing up minus iPod, computer or cell phone, I had playmates that wriggled from under rocks and crawled on sycamore branches. I named the bluejays, sparrows, and mourning doves that visited the back porch. My curiosity investigated the tastes of sweet clover and crab apples.
Running to feel the breeze like birds, I tried to catch squirrels who disappeared in oak trees. The fragrance of roses, daisies and geraniums pressed into my palms and translated their colors. Thankfully I did not suffer from what Richard Louv has named Nature Deficit Disorder.
Dr. Claude Arnett, a psychiatrist in Sacramento, works with nature to cure children with mental health issues. Their nervous system and ability to handle stress require natural experiences in order to develop. He explains how at first children must learn to scan the landscape, then target something specific such as a moving beetle or butterfly. In this way children learn to move fluidly between the two skills of field and target focus. Television and video games only teach target-oriented attention and ignore the process.
When troubled children spend time in natural environments, their mental world brightens. They develop a greater elasticity and come to him more flexible and adaptive, he says.
Tree Swallows have a game of their own. During migration to their winter habitat, they entertain themselves by feather tosses. One will drop a feather while flying and the others compete to see who can snatch it. The winner climbs higher and drops it again.
If children watch animals at play, they also learn ways to enjoy simple toys. Feathers provide a variety of ways to play and write.
Write about discovering a simple pleasure in nature. Did you collect rocks for a particular shape or color? How many ways could you use a feather?