Tag Archive 'children and nature'

Aug 24 2015

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Cabin in the Woods

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NicholsonCabinOnce again my wife Judy and I took our grandkids to the Nicholson cabin in Stowe. We all had such a good time there last year that it only made sense to go back for seconds.

Once again we had the two-acre pond at its base all to ourselves. That’s the main attraction. The kids swam in the pond daily during a run of 90-degree heat, kayaked on it, and hiked its perimeter so many times that we lost count.

For three days and nights, the cabin was our home base. From there we ventured not-so-far-afield to Cotton Brook where we hiked then went for a dunk in a clear, cold pool. We also did the tour at the nearby Ben & Jerry’s factory then ran into Stowe for some good food and a little entertainment. But the cabin itself, both primitive and charming, was what the kids really enjoyed. Judy and I were somewhat surprised by their sustained enthusiasm for it.

When I was younger I dreamt of having a cabin in the woods – a simple little place where I could live close to nature. In my advanced years now, I must admit that I like having electricity, indoor plumbing, and easy access to the amenities that a small town provides. When I feel the tug of wildness, I like to venture into deep woods where there are no amenities at all, not even a roof and four walls. But it’s a pleasure to live simply for a few days in a humble abode surrounded by trees.

When we returned home, all our grandkids were glad to have access to their electronic devices again. That said, I’m sure they won’t forget that cabin in the woods or the fun they had there anytime soon. The Thoreauvian ideal of living simply might be a bit much for most people, but there’s something to be said for the occasional exposure to Walden all the same. Living close to nature, if only for a few days a year, reminds us what we are and how little we really need.



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Aug 19 2014

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Changing the Game

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pond kayakingFor ten years Judy and I have had our grandkids stay with us for several days during the summer – no parents allowed. This year we decided to change the game a bit. We would pack up all six of them, along with the necessary gear, and take them camping. But a rainy forecast nixed our plans so we opted for the next best thing. We rented a primitive cabin in the woods and took them there instead. No electricity, no running water, and we didn’t have a chance to check out the place ahead of time. It was a risk to be sure.

The kids were excited when we got there. The cabin overlooked a 2-acre pond. We had it all to ourselves. After helping Judy and I haul food and gear into the cabin, they gravitated to the water. The older kids kayaked while the younger ones fished. Then they swam out to the floating platform to play. A light rain fell but they didn’t care.

We ate dinner by candlelight. Judy played charades with the kids while I cleaned up. Some of the kids slept with me in the loft. The others slept with Judy in the bunkroom. Rain pelted the cabin’s metal roof that night, assuring Judy and I that we’d made the right choice.

The next day the rain let up so we all went hiking. That evening I built a campfire in the fire pit next to the pond. After dinner, when it grew dark, we roasted marshmallows and told stories. It wasn’t easy getting them to settle down and sleep that night.

After playing on and around the pond in the morning, we packed up and left just as it started raining again. Everyone was glad to take a hot shower when we got home. All the same, the kids want to go back there next year.

It wasn’t what Judy and I had planned but it worked out better than we could have hoped. The kids took to the natural setting as if they had been born to it. One could make a strong argument that all kids are.


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Aug 26 2010

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Goofing Around

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Once a year, Judy and I gather together our grandchildren for a four-day “summer camp.”  No parents allowed.  Every gathering has a different theme.  This year it was all about the jungle so there were lots of apes, frogs, insects and other wild animals in the mix.  Imagination turned our back yard into a rain forest, and there was no shortage of fun.

Brightly colored orangutans dangled from strings stretched across doorways.  We watched part of a documentary about the rain forest canopy to see the real ones in action.  We painted lizards, opened a coconut, made tribal masks, swung from a rope like Tarzan in the movies, and hung out in the tree house that I built for the occasion.  The kids loved the tree house.  It spoke to them in ways that I, as an adult, just barely understand.

With a theme like the jungle, there are plenty of teachable moments, but for the most part it was all about goofing around.  While I was pretending to be a wild man living in the tree house, the kids stole my mascot, Peewee – a monkey carved from a coconut.  And somehow that became the driving symbol for this year’s frolic.

Peewee is silly looking and silly is good.  I was all excited a couple weeks earlier when I found Peewee in a store.  Judy thought I’d gone crazy when I showed it to her but somehow I knew the kids would love it.  Perhaps I’m more of a kid than I’m willing to admit.  Despite all the gravely serious philosophical rumination that I do when I’m alone, either at home or in deep woods, I still gravitate to silliness.  That’s for the best, I think.  It’s not healthy being serious all the time.

Kids like to jump, run, laugh, play, imagine and generally goof around.  Judy and I did our best to keep up, but we were exhausted by the last day and glad to see it all come to an end.  Now back in adult mode, a couple days after reordering the chaos, we sink into melancholy.  We miss the kids even while thoroughly enjoying the peace and quiet.  We look at the pictures taken during the gathering, amazed by how much we missed, and speculate about what we’ll do differently next year.  One thing’s for certain, though.  No matter what the theme is, silliness will abound.

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