(Home From the Hill by Fran Brooks)
This is one of my favorite articles written by Laura Ingalls Wilder on the importance of nature in childhood. I am a firm believer in the necessity of the outdoors for children in developing a healthy sense of place and inter-connection with the world around them, and although they may not all be raised in the environment recounted by Wilder in her writings, it's a good reminder of how profoundly the smallest things they experience in the natural world can affect and stay with them. While children may not always articulate a need or desire to spend some time outside, we as adults can take the intiative to get them out on periodic excursions to have some fun in nature.
This article from April 1923 was included in a collection called: Little House in the Ozarks: A Laura Ingalls Wilder Sampler of Rediscovered Writings.
Going After the Cows
With the birds singing, the trees budding and the 'green grass growing all around', as we used to sing in school, who would not love the country and prefer farm life to any other? We are glad that so much time can be spent out-of-doors while going about the regular affairs of the day, thus combining pleasure with work and adding good health for full measure. I have a favorite way of doing this, for I have never lost my childhood delight in going after the cows. I slip away from other things for the sake of the walk through the pastures, down along the creek, and over the hill to the farthest corner where the cows are usually found, as you can all bear witness. Bringing home the cows is the childhood memory that oftenest recurs to me. I think it is because the mind of the child is particularly attuned to the beauties of nature, and the voices of the wildwood, and the impression they made was deep. "To him who in the love of nature, holds community with her visible forms, she speaks a various language," you know (William Cullen Bryant). And I am sure old Mother Nature talked to me in all the languages she knew when, as a child, I loitered along the cow paths, forgetful of milking time and stern parents waiting, while I gathered wildflowers, waded in the creek, watched the squirrels hastening to their homes in treetops, and listened to the sleepy twittering of birds. Wild strawberries grew in grassy nooks in springtime. The wild plum thickets along the creek yielded their fruit about the time of the first frost in the fall. And all the time between, there were ever varied, never failing delights along the cow path of the old pasture. Many a time, instead of me finding the cows, they, on their journey home unurged, found me and took me home with them. The voices of nature do not speak so plainly to us as we grow older, but I think it is because, in our busy lives, we neglect her until we grow out of sympathy. Our ears and yes grow dull, and beauties are lost to us that we should still enjoy. Life was not intended to be simply a round of work, no matter how interesting and important that work may be. A moment's pause to watch the glory of a sunrise or sunset is soul satisfying, while a birds song will set the steps to music all day long.