Second Nature

Connie Clay

When I was a young girl, my family lived in a small northern Iowa town, of around 350 residents. When you grow up in a small town, you feel like you and your neighbors are almost like family. You know everybody and most of what they are up to each day. The homes in my hometown were well cared for. Whenever my sisters and I went on bike rides through town, we admired the beautiful houses and yards with colorful flower gardens. It all seemed a lot bigger back then.

One of our favorite things to do was go on a hike. Small towns can be pretty quiet at times, especially if half of the town kids are away at camp or on vacation. There were times that I was bored with riding bike on the same streets, so I found myself walking the railroad tracks out of town. My friend and I often enjoyed walking out there, just talking and stepping along over the railroad ties, one after another. It was hot in the summer, with the sun beating down on us.

We never took water along—that I remember. Back then, they didn’t sell water in bottles. I recall dipping our hands into the cool stream to wet our sun-kissed faces and scoop up water for a drink. The stream ran under the tracks in the spot we referred to as, “the dredge”. There was a nice grove of trees, and a lovely stream or creek. We felt pretty adventuresome out there. It must’ve only been a mile or two from town, but it seemed like another universe!

He makes springs pour water into ravines; it flows between the mountains. Psalm 104:10

I remember how serene it was there, and even as a young child, I remember knowing how good it was to be there, under the heavens, hearing the birds, and watching them fly back and forth. Bees buzzed among the wildflowers, and we watched spiders spinning webs in the weeds. We would sit under the tracks in the shady spot by the water and talk, or sometimes, just listen. On more than one occasion, the tracks began to tremble as a freight train approached. It was both extremely exciting and scary as we hid under the tracks! Our mothers would not have appreciated knowing we were doing this, but in that day and time, our parents did not feel the need to know our whereabouts every minute of the day. Today, this would not be permitted, I am quite certain. It is a different mindset, now, and for good reason. It was usually getting close to supper time by the time we walked the long walk home. We ate a good supper and collapsed into our beds!

The birds of the air nest by the waters; they sing among the branches. Psalm 104:12

Now as a grandmother, now, I am trying my best to introduce adventures into my grandchildren’s lives. When we spend time at the family farm, it is refreshing to see my little loves running in the wooded areas, building forts out of fallen trees, losing all track of time and loving it! Life today is so filled with screen time, whether computers, TV, or cell phones. We have to really make a conscious effort to limit our own use of these electronics. I’m sure we have all been in a restaurant and witnessed a family at a table, out for a meal together, yet all of them are staring at their phones and not even sharing this beautiful time. It is a great asset to have a phone, but it can also become a substitute for interacting with real people.

My grandchildren have been enjoying looking up the different birds on our feeder. They were so excited that they wrote a story about them! Children sometimes only need a little nudge in the right direction, and then their love of the wild takes over to become second nature for them. God has given each one so many special talents and interests. He has created so many intricate details in each flower, plant, tree, and organism! It is right to be amazed at the world around us! I am glad that they have a curiosity about our world and I know it is healthy to be outside, using their muscles and their minds to foster a love and respect for the world around them—one that will stay with them forever, and someday, perhaps be shared with their children and grandchildren.

For great is your love, higher than the heavens, your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, and let your glory be over all the earth. Psalm 108:4-5

Our world is so different now from when I was growing up. I was free to have my adventures without fear. But I think if you give it some thought, and teach the children you know how to have safe adventures, in their backyards, they too, can learn about this beautiful world firsthand, with the sun on their faces, and the birds singing around them.

With the end of another school year and summer soon upon us, I hope you will get outside with your children and grandchildren and take the time to listen for a cardinal’s song, or spot an indigo bunting’s bright blue hue. It is amazing to see what grows in wooded areas. There are lovely flowers and berries to gaze at. This is also a great time to teach about leaving the berries for the birds and to be good stewards of our earth by not tossing our trash there. Make plans to do some carefree rambling, build a tree fort, hang a tire swing, or plant a garden. Wade into puddles and dry your feet in the sunshine. Reinforce the attitude that this world is a beautiful place filled with miracles and mysteries that God has created for us, because He loves us. Have a blessed summer!

Connie Clay is currently a florist/cashier at Gartzke’s in Blue Earth. She and her husband of 38 years, Dennis, have raised three children and are enjoying spending time with five grandchildren. They look forward to moving to the family farm, expanding God’s kingdom, serving God, and studying His Word.