When I was a kid I lived my summers at a place called Sun Valley, a campground cozied into the wooded hills of north central Connecticut. My family rented a gravelly lot and kept a trailer there, and while my dad was at Army camp, my mom, my sister and I stayed at Sun Valley, traipsing home only once a week or so, the trunk full of dirty laundry.
Our campsite was tucked into a thick woods of peeling birch trees, whispering pines and pungent skunk cabbage. Alongside it ran a brook I could cross in one leap. At night, as I lay atop my nubby sleeping bag, I’d slide open the screen of the tiny rectangular window at the head of my bunk so I could hear the water trickling over stones, popping campfire spraying sparks into the starry sky.
In early summer we kids would muck out the brook, grabbing fistfuls of gritty, decayed leaves and sodden sticks from the stream. We heaved rocks onto the bank so the water could tumble freely down the hill, through the culvert under the dirt road and beneath the rickety bridge that led to the svelte silver airstream trailer in the lot next door. We belted song lyrics into the damp woods as we worked – “Playing with the Queen of Hearts,” “Put Another Nickel In” – occasionally using a birch branch as an impromptu microphone and a boulder as our stage. We considered this brook-mucking a service of sorts to nature, one of our very important jobs as camp kids.
A short ways up the dirt road, behind the cinder-block restroom and shower facilities and a few steps into the woods, was Gilligan’s Island, named after our favorite television show. Here a wider stream ran fast and shallow over large, flat boulders abandoned eons ago by glacial retreat. We'd wade with our shorts cranked high over thighs as sunlight pooled dappled in swirling eddies. Careful to avoid pinching crayfish, we’d plunge arms up to elbows in warm water, grasping for rocks specked with mica. Later we’d position one of these treasured stones on each corner of the orange and lime floral oilcloth to keep it pinned to the redwood picnic table at our campsite.
I think long about Sun Valley and my years in the Connecticut woods as I read Chapter One of L.L. Barkat’s God in the Yard. Like me, L.L. spent a lot of time in the woods as a child, but now, she admits, she sometimes feels pinched in her life. This is what prompts her to return to the woods in her backyard.
So I sit now, too, for a bit every day in my backyard. I think about Sun Valley, how back then, nature wasn’t something I needed to seek intentionally, but was naturally woven into my daily existence. As a kid I spent all my time outdoors; now I clutch at 15 minutes, a half hour on a rare day.
Still, I think perhaps these 15 minutes are the beginning of enough.
A hawk keens from the white pine, sparrows and chickadees diving at it like fighter pilots. Two cardinal fledglings wobble in the magnolia as father flashes scarlet, swooping and squawking after an intrusive blue jay. The yellow swallowtail alights on a swaying coneflower and unfolds its proboscis toward nectar. The rising sun glints straight through an iridescent spider’s web strung like gold in the lilac.
I don’t get all day, every day to delight in the outdoors anymore. But that doesn’t mean I should not delight in it at all.
“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” John Muir
This post is part of a 12-week study, using L.L. Barkat's book God in the Yard as my guide. Click here to read additional posts in the series.
Linking with Laura at The Wellspring for her Monday Playdates with God:
And with L.L. at Seedlings in Stone for On, In and Around Mondays: