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Ramble with Storm: Louv the Mud

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Mulling things on my morning ramble with Storm, the family's mixed Lab.

last-child-cover1

The depressions were twin strips filled with muck and shallow brackish water in the flood plain of the Kankakee River on the upstream end of Island Park in Momence.

Too inviting.

Sara stepped in first and shouted back, ``It's quick sand,'' as the muck sucked at her sandals.

Naturally, the little guy followed right behind his sister and waded out far enough to cover his sneakers and above to his ankles.

I grimaced and was about ready to grouse, ``Get out of there.''

Then stopped.

I remembered Richard Louv.

He wrote Last Child in the Woods, which defined nature-deficit disorder.

It has been the hot book for several years now in the outdoor world.

My first reaction to the book was ``Sheez, let me see? Kids need to go out more and get away from the computer screens? That passes as deep thinking in the world of the outdoors these days?''

But the book keeps growing on me.

I may be an outdoor writer, but like any other parent, I struggle with that central issue of getting kids outside and away from the screens.

And Louv delves into some of the deeper aspects of that surface issue.

He takes on the fact that fear is one of the great reasons that kids don't get outside. He means the fears of parents. His thoughts on fear of strangers is worth working over more thoroughly some other day.

But he also notes we're afraid to let our kids get dirty, even a simple thing like playing in a sand box, in part because of fear of diseases or parasites.

Kids getting dirty is a major part of being outdoors.

That has stuck with me.

So I work very hard at not worrying about the kids getting dirty outside. They will clean up. The clothes will clean up. The shoes will too.

And it paid off Sunday.

My wife had an afternoon away at a quilt show in Rosemont, so I had the three youngest ones and opted for a picnic lunch of peanut butter and jelly, salad for Sara, a ham and jalapeno slices sandwich for me, Doritos, tangelos, pudding, A&W Root Beer and Pepsi.

We ended up kicking back for several hours at Island Park, exploring the river's edge, crossing under the railroad tracks and going back to the rarely used upstream end of the park.

I have a professional reason why I like visiting Island Park.

It is supposed to be one spot in Illinois where you can see fox, gray and red squirrels. But I have been looking for all three there for years without success.

So I am not sure if that is still true or not.

We did not see a single squirrel.

There were mallards, a weird mallard/domestic mix, Canada geese and gulls which I could not properly ID.

I'm sorry but it is hard for me to take gulls seriously. They're flying rats, and I understand they have a role in a sound ecosystem, but that doesn't change what they are--flying rats. And don't even get me started on the people feeding them bread scraps.

But I digress.

As we circled the upstream point, the kids climbed out on busted concrete slabs and rocks to splash at the water's edge and to toss in sticks and watch them float off.

Simply, it made me happy.

It was time.

Knowing when it is time is key to any kids' adventure.

When they did a final seesaw ride (I can't believe in this fearful age that there's a park with both a seesaw and a merry-go-round) and started that kind of scrapping and picking with each other that drives even sainted parents (and I'm not) batty.

It truly was time.

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This page contains a single entry by Dale Bowman published on April 19, 2010 9:27 AM.

Illinois turkey hunting: Near record pace was the previous entry in this blog.

95th Street parking lot: Firm fix date? is the next entry in this blog.

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