This illustration is from a book I picked up at Goodwill, “Mark and Michelle on Vacation,” by Marcel Marlier. It is FULL of gorgeous 70’s era illustrations of a little boy and girl exploring the natural world, alone, pink cheeked and romping through dark woods, over rocky crags, even paddling themselves down a murky looking creek. There is something at once endearing, inspiring and a little alarming about it. Where are their parents?
Flipping through it reminded me of a class I took in college entitled, “Mad Women in the Attic and Children Lost in the Woods.” It was an English Lit class designed to bring to light these common portrayels of women and children in literature, and to discuss the reasons behind them. It was fascinating. So much so that I still think of that class from time to time.
I remember that I did my final paper on the use of the word “creep” in the brilliant short story, “The Yellow Wallpaper”. I can’t look at wallpaper of any kind without thinking of it! (Go and read it, you won’t be sorry!)
With that in mind, I began to amuse myself by imagining what a course based on the life and times of a suburban stay-at-home mom and her banshees would be called. I think something like, “Mad Woman in the Laundry Room and Children in Need of Woods in Which to Get Lost.”
That’s not a jab at my children, it’s an honest assessment of their situation. They are woodsless.
I love my home. My husband grew up in it. I think it’s really cool that my boys sleep in the same room their Daddy did, roll in the same patch of grass he rolled in, use all the same spots for hide and go seek. When their Daddy was young though, our home was at the end of the known universe. There were a whole lot of trees, and not much else around, accept maybe a few of these:
(this photo is one of my Mom’s) She’s the source of my love of photography.
Now though, we are flanked by rows of homes, a new toll road, every chain store you can imagine, and the final insult, a spanking new three story office building behind our house. It used to be a field where we picked blackberries.
(these were from a pick-your-own farm last week)
What’s a girl to do? I tell you it does kind of leave you feeling trapped by the wallpaper, having no wide open spaces in which to roam.
I am reminded of something I read from David Sobel, “If we want children to flourish, to become truly empowered, then let us allow them to love the Earth before we ask them to save it.”
One of the things I want most for my boys is for them to cultivate their sense of wonder, to never cease to be amazed, to stop and notice the world around them. And so, I pull over at the end of our street to let them watch the wild rabbits chew grass, even when we’re running late. I point out the Grackles that are building their nests of plastic bags in the Wal-Mart parking lot. And one caterpillar-turned-butterfly at a time, I ask them, for just a moment, to get lost in the (metaphorical) woods and to let me come along.