By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer
My older child is a third-grader at Lawhon who typically takes her lunch to school, and we have some small slips of paper sporting encouraging messages that get included alongside the PB&J, box of milk and envelope of cheese nips – fortune cookie messages minus the cookie. The other night when I was preparing the lunch, the message could have been for me as well as anyone.
“Think of how truly fortunate you are,” the mini-note read. How much better could seven words be? We all have our daily headaches and distractions, but a simple pause is sometimes all it takes to remember our blessings.
As the first cooler winds of the fall finally make their way this far south and bring my favorite time of year back again, I’m reminded of memories from years past. The little girl who attends third grade now was a fuzzy-headed little sprout barely a month old when this season arrived in 2003, a year that already seems a lifetime ago. That fall we went on walks in the back yard, listened to the birds, looked at the squirrels, talked about the meaning of it all. We sat on the porch and enjoyed the cool breeze while we read little books, sang little songs, dreamed little dreams. In the seasons that have followed we’ve caught fish and shot doves, told stories and thought up riddles: When is a green book not green? When it’s read.
We’ve taken trips to museums and we’ve explored nature trails on our own. We’ve looked at zoo animals through the fences and looked at wild animals through binoculars, and we’ve seen how they’re both different and the same.
Childrens’ minds develop so rapidly, their personalities bloom from day to day, sometimes slowly over time, sometimes all in a rush. Along the way, their spirit is formed as well. Sharing the outdoors with them is a privilege, and something done a little at a time, because every trip outside is filled with something brand new for a little one. Seeing it with them makes it brand new for us as well.
When my boy was born a few years later, we lived in a house that had honeysuckle growing on a fence. I hadn’t tasted the nectar of those blooms in 20 years and hadn’t missed it, but showing someone how to taste it for themselves made it that much sweeter.
Maybe when she’s grown, my little girl won’t remember the first time she saw a hummingbird or smelled a buttercup, her mind by then too full of the necessities of everyday life, but there’s a connection that was forged then that runs deeper. I can already tell, she’ll always remember those days in her heart.
Kevin Tate is V.P. of Media Productions for Mossy Oak in West Point.