Lessons of the Forest

I’ve lived near forests all my life, but never resided as close as I do now.   I need only travel 10 miles north or east to be in a forest.  I know I’m incredibly close to forests geographically, when I can see deer up this close!  The picture above, I took of a doe in my next door neighbor’s backyard.  We see Bambi’s relatives with great regularity around here, particularly in the autumn.  These creatures are so intelligent, they know hunters can’t shoot them in residential areas or other private property, so that’s where they go! Brilliant!

I never tire of seeing deer.  They are agile, wondrous animals.  In fact, moments before I started this blog, a 5 point trophy buck strolled out of my backyard, and ventured into the neighbor’s leafy shelter.  I’m keeping an eye out to catch another glimpse of Buck when he exits.

Without truly realizing it, I suppose my life-long association with forests, inspired me to write the OTHER tale about three bears.   It wasn’t a conscious decision.  As a Camp Fire girl, I was earning beads in Galena Forest near Lake Tahoe, and later I was a camp counselor there, teaching art and poetry inspired by the surroundings.  There are so many lessons for kids that are entrenched in forestry:

  •  science— all the species of plants and animal life, ecology, the way things grow differently in sunny and shady aspects of the landscape, just for starters!
  • awe of our surroundings, and of creation.
  • healthy respect for animals (staying a distance, knowing how to react if you’re faced with a real wild animal of any size, giving the animal sufficient space to avoid confrontation; and staying far away from cubs because they are not ever far from angry, protective mothers (bears look cuddly and snuggly when they are stuffed, but you don’t want to try to hug a real one!)
  • philosophy—the enormity of a mighty pine or sequoia versus human size; and the question of “if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear, does it still make a sound?”

These are just a few of these lessons.  There are probably hundreds more that I haven’t even thought of yet!  Parents can engage their children of any age, during trips into the forest, to spy as many types of animals and plants as they can.  The older ones can write the species down, or draw what they’ve seen, and share these things with their classmates and friends.

I suppose it just came “naturally” to me to write about the silly antics of bears, as a part of forest life, though I’ve never seen a bear in the wild.  I prefer not to!  I did have an unfortunate confrontation with a mother raccoon, in urban Portland when I stopped to admire her little offspring clambering up a tree.  My dog barked at the mom crouching in the street before dawn, ironically to protect me!  I’d never seen a raccoon baby before, and it was cute!  I learned a lesson, the hard way, outside the forest that night, and had the puncture wounds to prove it! I don’t think raccoons are that especially cute now, not after this mad mama tried to drag my beloved dog off.   A healthy respect for animals is crucial to teach kids, especially after we’ve shown them so many cute and cuddly animals in books and movies.

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