Running around in this kind of environment was typical as my childhood went; the number of dangerous things I was permitted to do all by myself (or with very minimal supervision) on a regular basis would, I imagine, be fairly shocking to most parents these days. At first, Nathan (the 2 year-old in question) kept repeating the same thing: (gasp) "Look! A rock!" (an even deeper gasp) "Look! A big rock!" As you can imagine, I started to wonder after a while, but then it hit me: each one of these exclamations was made with an increasing sense of wonder. All I had to do was listen to his intonation to realize that if he'd had the adjectives to modify each new rock he was pointing out, he would undoubtedly have used them.
Is this proof of how seldom today's kids are permitted to run free out in the woods—or even just outdoors, period? So little that each rock, each tree, each twig, is worthy of pure, delighted astonishment? I loved watching Nathan explore, but I was also vaguely saddened at the possible implications of what I was seeing. When the time came, he didn't want to leave, and he took a wand-like stick he'd found and a pocketful of glittering granite and quartz pebbles with him. I taught him the words lichen and glacier.
It made me realize how much I had, as a child, taken for granted.