I had to pressure my girl a bit to explore the river and not just look at it and then walk away to the swimming pool. I was rewarded later for this persuation by her words, "Mom I never knew the river is so much fun". I realized that today's kids from the concrete jungles do need a little persuation to realise the fun in exploring nature. We have got so used to the buildings, the computers, the TV, the pool, that it has become our whole world; from where we watch nature from afar, not participating in its flow, not experiencing, exploring or understanding what it means to be part of it. We jump into the regularity of the pool but do not care to cautiously explore the mystery and variety of the river. It is because we in our safe world don't know the fun in mystery.
I have been lucky to have explored nature in my ancestral homes in Kerala. In the hilly terrains we had lot of fun jumping into mountain pools watching the waterspiders skitting about, fishing with meshed cloth towels, climbing up slippery rocks to have a look at that mysterious cave which foxes were said to inhabit.
I always used to think there are only artificial gardens(which don't excite me) and nothing natural to explore in big cities like Bangalore..until my husband introduced us to riverside resorts.
The river was a shallow stream near the resort we were staying in. It rushed at some spots and some places it was quite still. I walked in and explored the river bed and found that it was rocky and not even knee deep. I mentally marked a circle in which it would be safe for the kids. I knew this was important as I almost drowned once when I quite naively swam into a river which I did not know about, which we had just come by during a road trip. It was without water in a region where the sandy bed was visible, giving the wrong impression that it was reasonably shallow. I swam along the shore not far from the sloping bank but when I kept my feet down a second time, towards the visible exposed river bed, I panicked not finding the river bed under my feet. It was a sand mined river!! I managed to swim to the exposed river bed (just a few strokes away) but it did leave me jittery about waters for a while though eventually it was a worthwhile learning experience. Never swim into waters you have no idea about especially if it has a sandy bed, you just cant know what man must have done to it!
We walked on the rocks, avoiding the moss ridden ones. Explored the rush of the waters over the rocks, put our hand in and watched the water glide past and then I seated my kids in the still regions of the water where they could watch the water spiders and fishes. I went to a cradle shaped rock that I had noticed in the water where the water was at its fastest and holding two rocks I dipped myself in lodging myself into the cradle with water rushing over me.... and as I came up, I had smelled, tasted and been one with the river. This was what I loved, experiencing the oneness with nature.
The next morning we walked barefoot on the poolside grass, something we had not done in a long while, but oh it was chilly and then I thought of my slippers and why I wore it! I looked at the birds unmindful of the chill, making nests that couldn't keep the chill out. No wonder man made slippers and houses. But I had planned to be bare foot and so later in the day we played bare feet in a natural patch, the games of my childhood and then I stamped on a bramble. Eeek, where are my slippers!
We lay down and watched the birds. I wondered how all day birds and animals have no other purpose but to find their food and take intermittent naps! Lying there I could course the entire journey of man from the forest to houses, gathering to agriculture, leaves to clothes, walking barefoot to vehicles. It was all a natural movement.
Yet in our journey to better adapt to nature we had more and more spare time in our hands to not just create a safe region for us, but go ahead and push nature into a bystander, corrupt its natural features and flow. I was reminded of a quote I had used in my environmental science course book.
"If in a city we had six vacant lots available to the youngsters of a neighborhood for playing ball, it might be "development" to build houses on the first, and the second, and the third, and the fourth, and even the fifth, but when we build houses on the last one, we forget what houses are for.”- Aldo Leopold
Development was a natural progression but let it not become the reason to forget where we came from. Let us not forget to allow an equal space for our origins, leaving it in its pristine glory, mystery and also regularity. And finally lets not forget to play into the magical spell of our real playground.