When I was on the creek last weekend, as we were breaking for lunch, a family drove up and walked down to the bluff.

The parents – appearing mid-30ish – had two or three kids with them, ranging in ages from about eight to early teens. They had picnic fixins’ which they spread out to enjoy.

What struck me, though, was that anytime any of the kids wandered more than a dozen yards away, or got to the edge of the bluff where they could see the stream, the parents would urgently – frantically, even – call them back.

Eventually, they took a little walk together in the refined, civilized area at the parking lot, and departed.

I was perplexed and a little saddened. The creek we were at is not easy to get to. It’s basically in the middle of nowhere, and the closest town of any size is a good 40 miles away. That’s what we love about such creeks.

But I wonder: Why would you drive at least that distance with your kids and then forbid them the pure joy of the place you’ve taken them?

A few years ago, I told you about a book called Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. Louv coined the term “nature deficit disorder” and explained that our children are suffering from this ailment because they do not get enough outdoors time.

“I like to play indoors better – ‘cause that’s where all the electrical outlets are,” an anonymous fourth-grader told Louv. It broke my heart when I read it.

“On the first day of the book tour, a woman told me that her community association had just outlawed chalk drawing on sidewalks – which, you know, does lead to cocaine use,” Louv said in an interview. “You watch CNN or Fox or MSNBC and they take a handful of really terrible crimes against children and repeat them over and over and over again,” Louv relates. “When they get done telling us about the crime, they tell us about the trial over and over and over again. It’s no accident people think there’s a bogeyman on every corner. We’re literally being conditioned to live in a state of fear, and this predates 9/11.

“The future’s in electronics. The bogeyman lives in the woods. Playing outdoors is illicit and maybe even illegal.”

Truthfully, I was almost horrified. What, I imagined, would I do if I were somehow brought to the forest and a river and forbidden to leave the comfort-zone of the picnic table, iron grills and trash cans? What if I could only sit on those cold metal grate bench seats and look out at the pines and the white sand and the wild, laughing water…and not touch them?

Perhaps I am too quick to judge. Yes, Louv is right: We live in a world that is, in many ways, terrifying. As parents, we worry, and with good reasons.

But is our concern detrimental to our kids’ well-being?

And to our own?

Speaking solely for myself, I would wither to a desiccated husk if I were deprived woods and water. I spend too much time on concrete as it is. Though I say it tongue-in-cheek here often, I do firmly believe it is hastening my death, shortening my life. The fluorescent lights, the computer screen, the heat radiating off the cement and glass and metal, the noxious fumes of the passing cars, the stress of making a living and making the ends meet…

Perhaps if I had grown up like those poor kids at the creek I would be a different man. Maybe all the influences on my health and my psyche wouldn’t be terminal. Like a childhood immunization, perhaps I would be desensitized.

But I didn’t. I was raised with wooden boats and cypress canopies and black water sloughs; cane field ditchbanks and fence rows full of sequestered quail; horses to ride, far afield, far and away; good dogs and blue shotguns, and most of all, the sun in my face.

Blessing or curse? I only know that the antivenom to the assaults on my body and mind are found where there is no concrete, steel or glass, no ringing phones, no computers and no sign of people.

“I’ve always wanted to sail to the south seas, but I can’t afford it.” What these men can’t afford is not to go. They are enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of “security.” And in the worship of security we fling our lives beneath the wheels of routine – and before we know it our lives are gone.

What does a man need – really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in – and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That’s all – in the material sense, and we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention for the sheer idiocy of the charade.

The years thunder by, The dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed.

Where, then, lies the answer? In choice. Which shall it be: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life? – Sterling Hayden, Wanderer.

1 comment to Trapped

  • blufloyd

    I live next door to crazy woman ( I cleaned that up a way lots.) that raises her kids ‘line of sight’ they can’t do anything that she can’t see. I was never ever home, still not really, from time the training wheels came off. I traveled the blacktop to the river and the river to all sorts of places. Rule was chores completed and show up for supper a couple time a week. I hung with good for nothing drunks, juvenile delinquents, banks, car salesmen, fighting cock aficionados, state senators etc etc. I turned out a bit of a freak but self supporting at least. I don’t see a good end for most kids I see lately. Oh well.

Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>