I guess deep down inside I knew this, but there was something about a recent day spent with our grandkids that caused me to truly appreciate how history repeats itself. When the two of them, their grandmother and I, along with the dog, ventured into the woods for a morning, it felt very familiar to other days and special times throughout my life. We picked up sticks and trimmed branches to clear a path for no other reason than to simply be clearing a path . . . for the fun of it. The magic started with Calvin’s “OH YEAH MAN!” response when he took a pair of hand pruners and cut off a dead hemlock branch, and it continued with the amazement in his older sister’s eyes when I awarded her the opportunity of using the loppers. I was keenly aware of the privilege of enjoying this with them and felt grateful for the many days through the years that generations of Paluches have spent time in the woods not as work, but as a form of family entertainment.
From my earliest recollections, I have wonderful memories of days working with my parents outside. Whether it was moving 7 tons of topsoil by wheelbarrow loads with my dad, chopping down hawthorn trees, yanking vines from their lodgings, or clearing paths, lots of paths, we always enjoyed it. Even when Dad was 77 years old and I was well into my 50s, I’ll never forget a Saturday morning burning a brush pile he had started on Thursday that was still smoldering when we arrived. There is something very wholesome and rewarding to me about the desire to just go out and cut a path even if it merely leads to the path you cut last week or last month. To prune trees, shape them, come back and dig out stumps, it’s satisfying! Days like this didn’t even take much talking until you stopped to stand around the fire you were burning to take a drink or pick a couple briars out of your fingers from the last hour of work, or to cook hotdogs on a stick.
I share these memories and self-reflection with the hopes of a lesson or two we might glean in the process:
Consider tools over toys and TV - Not that we need to deprive our children of those two things in any way, but I wouldn’t want to miss the “Oh yeah, man!” experiences that might happen out in the woods or planting flowers or pulling weeds or shoveling snow.
Hang on to memories - Over 50 years later, I can recall details of dozens of specific workdays like this. Of course, there were times I liked it a lot and times when I was younger that I liked it less. I can say, however, I always enjoyed hearing Dad brag about how much topsoil I shoveled. I also felt his excitement when we were both many years older to hear him say, “Wait until you see what Mother and I did out in the woods.”
Keep making memories - We should never under value the opportunity we have to create great memories for our children and ourselves. Sometimes it takes a little initiative and ambition, but it is always worth it.
See it like a child – One of the many great wonders of being a grandparent is having the time and desire to see things like a child again. Look closer at an acorn top, a funny-colored mushroom, or scratches some animal has made in a tree. Pick up moss, flip over rocks, and sit down to listen. Grandparents are motivated to see it like a child, but it's anyone’s privilege to do the same.
Value just letting things happen – Simple pleasures like a couple hours out in the woods are best when there are no specific plans or goals in mind. Just go play and let it happen, and children will never forget those moments in time with no need for correction or direction (beyond safety of course).
We Love to COME ALIVE OUTSIDE!
As you can tell from this newsletter, we love to Come Alive Outside and we continue to be inspired by the great leaders and volunteers that have built the Come Alive Outside nonprofit into what it is today. We are amazed at the confirming acknowledgement of its significance and the growth in numbers year after year of people being positively affected by living healthier lives outside.
Knowing most of our audience, you likely see I’m not sharing anything earth shattering or intellectual this week. But you also know it is our goal to talk about life in a way that might just make you think and finish reading this feeling inspired to do something positive. I appreciate the recent reminder that sometimes the most positive things we can experience take place across generations with a tool in our hands and the amazement of what the woods can teach us.