It's a wonderful peek into the world of Winnie the Pooh's creator, A.A. Milne and the landscape, childhood memories and characters (his own son, Christopher Robin, and his stuffed animals that became the characters) that bring to life the Pooh books we all know.
I want to share a passage with you and then, a realization it opened for me.
In recent years, there has been concern that the very nature of childhood has changed. People have begun questioning if there has already been a "last generation" to play outside. In "Last Child in the Woods", author Richard Louv writes about the modern disconnection between children and nature and the importance of providing children some autonomy in the natural world. "Whatever shape nature takes, it offers each child an older, larger world separate from parents. Nature can frighten a child too and this fright serves a purpose, too. In Nature a child finds freedom, fantasy and privacy, a place distant from the adult world, a separate peace."
When we are young, tramping through forests also leaves footprints on paths well into our adulthoods.
Throughout the writing of this book, for example, I heard laments from grandparents and parents about the diminishing range our children are now allowed to wander. Milne's childhood and his stories are touchstones of a paradise lost, of a bygone time that many - writers, psychologists, parents - believe is important in the development of a child. with these rising concerns over the nature of childhood itself, Milne's books offer a reminder about the importance of freedom in nature.
And that took me into thinking, as I so often do, about my own childhood.
I often say I grew up in a city, which I did. A large industrial eastern US steel town. One decaying under the weight of the loss of those mills and industry. And many of my childhood experiences and the process of "becoming" are tied to very city-like adventures. Riding streetcars by myself, exploring downtown and all the people and activity of a city. But I immediately recognized something that I now feel so eternally grateful for. That in the midst of the urban life, I was fortunate to have woods, dense tree covered hillsides, (under which old mines lay) on either side of the house that I spent much of my childhood in. Entire days were spent exploring, making tree-houses (even if many of them were just a board slung through the branches to sit upon), following birds and squirrels, digging, climbing and creating worlds apart from the ones of my family and their adulthood. Time to be whatever and whoever I dreamed of being.
Much of what I write about in the short stories I am working on came from those childhood experiences and the imagination that the time. A mix of city experiences like "pitching nickels" with school friends against buildings and walls downtown. And also the woodland adventures scouting from treetops and crossing imaginary bogs and quicksand pits. Hiding from trolls under large spruce trees. . .
But to choose, one or the other? It's not even a question. The woods were far far more important to my future self.
The freedom of nature.
A separate peace.
And there was much in the world around me to necessitate that peace, that break from the slip-slide into adulthood.
Even today, my conversations with my own mother, who never had such a childhood and who I used to think of as being so overprotective but who, in comparison to many parents today would have been seen as very permissive, tend to be fraught with her lamenting the daily decline of the world around her. The news blaring from her tv all day long. And me, with no tv at all, no social media feeds, no newspapers. . . still the dreamer and believer, and every day seeking a deeper connection to that childhood me instead of that adult "other".
Maybe part of the problem is that it's the adults who forget and who become so lost in the very ideal of their own adulthood and it's many pitfalls and traps, that childhood seems eons away. Like a distant dream nearly unattainable now.
Or maybe more and more adults are coming from a childhood that lacks that time in nature, that freedom, that ability to develop those skills of nature's teaching?
I am saddened by the way kids become more screen bound and less independently imaginative with each passing year. I see it in the small town I live in, one surrounded with woods, blackberry patches, out of the places all bordering an expansive estuary/coastline/bay. The computers at the library are always in use. . . while many, many great and inspiring books, graphic novels and natural resources are not.
People defend this modern age as just the changing of the times and I do not disagree. Change is a given. . . but that simplified view asks us to accept that all change is, or can be, good, and that all change has an equal exchange within it of what is lost and gained.
It does not.
Losing the natural world, the freedom to explore, the ability to develop self-taught skills and stir imagination from within. . . there is no substitution for those.
All this is to say I never gave those woods, that space I had growing up, it's due. I took it for granted as just being part of the landscape but see now, thru the eyes of Pooh's creator, how very important it truly was. My own little "Hundred Acre Wood".
I see how it just being there for me each and every day amid the grind, noise and weight of the city, and of impending adulthood, was more important than I could have ever known.
Thank you for reading,
|I imagined building little cottages like this in my own childhood woods/forest many times.|