Lessons change over the years


As time marches on, the changing of seasons remains the same, but little else has been untouched by the progression of time.
I was reminded of this just the other day when I realized how few children today could name the various trees that surround us. How many children have helped rake acorns or know that the inside of a cracked black walnut looks exactly like a beautifully polished heart?
Greener grass. In a sentiment similar to this, Barbara Holland writes in her book, Wasn’t the Grass Greener?, about how in the world she has come to know certain things.
“Here on the mountain, I find myself sounding educational with guests: that’s a tulip polar, an eastern chickadee, a yellow swallowtail, a wild aster. Older guests at least feign attention, but the younger ones are openly skeptical.
“One man said, not unkindly, ‘How would you know?’ He meant only that nobody was paying me to have learned such frippery, therefore why would I have done so, therefore why should he believe me?
“Nobody under forty will eat the roadside blackberries anymore, having only me to vouch for their character.”
Knowing what she knows. Holland realizes that she isn’t even sure how she knows what she knows.
She recalls one autumn in elementary school, bringing fallen leaves in to class, pressing them between sheets of waxed paper, labeling them as red maple, black locust, white birch.
She writes, “I think that was the limit of our formal instruction in country matters, but somehow there were things we just knew. Perhaps they seemed more important then, or perhaps information used to travel around loose in the air instead of being extracted from computers or purchased from adult-education classes, and perhaps we absorbed it through our skins, which may have been more porous then.”
Nature lovers. We spent so much time outdoors as children, returning to the house only when we felt we had no choice.
There were days we were forced in by rain or matters beyond our control and I recall those days with the gray gloom of punishment
We much preferred hiking through the woods, hunting mushrooms under the lush green shoots that we called mayflowers, or searching for arrowheads and flint in a freshly-plowed field.
Our lives then were so much more intertwined with nature than we are in today’s world. It all mattered.
Clearing memories. I remember still with a deep pang the day my dad announced his intention to clear our favorite woods, making it tillable acreage instead of a sheltered playground. It felt like life would never, ever again be the same.
That sacred ground, complete with favorite trees and our own little dens made of fallen timber, was about to be chopped up and hauled away. It was almost too much to bear.
It is still that woods to which I return in my memory when I think of playing all sorts of games with my sisters and cousins and family friends.
It is that woods that produced a bumper crop of mushrooms one spring and I remember making a sack of our shirt fronts to carry them home, so proud of our find.
It is there that we learned to imitate the sounds of at least a dozen different birds. And we learned that we could stay out even on rainy days if we gathered under the canopy of just the right tree.
Ah, what a gift!


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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.