Since the day I found out I was pregnant, I’ve been thinking about baby’s first hike. Of all the firsts that she will have in this life, I was most excited for this one. I wanted it to be special, but as three months passed with never ending rain and as the realities of parenthood setting in, I realized we would just have to go out and do it.
“Drink in the beauty and wonder at the meaning of what you see.” – Rachel Carson
So we did it. I packed her up and off we went on a beautiful Sunday afternoon to Twin Falls. This easy, often crowded, short hike was one of the first hikes my husband and I did in Seattle and I’ve been there many times since. Usually the crowds would keep me away on a sunny weekend but it didn’t bother me now. Evie and I were in our own little bliss bubble and I was actually quite happy to see a great diversity of hikers and lots and lots of families on the trail.
We headed down the trail and I took it all in with new eyes. Not only was it Evie’s first hike, but it was also my first hike in a long time. I took a deep breath and soaked it up. Evie was awake and alert and doing what she loves to do in her ergo carrier- push her head back as far as she can so she can look at everything. She is the most curious baby and loves looking at new things.
I think about what it must look like to her, it is all just a blur of sky and shapes? Does she know that what she hears is a river rushing by? Will she recognize the smell of mud and skunk cabbage next time? There is something magical in knowing that this is the first time she has really looked at an old growth cedar and a sword fern and a waterfall.
“There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature- the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter.” – Rachel Carson
I want to point out everything to her and tell her the names of the plants and trees. But as Rachel Carson writes in The Sense of Wonder, we should give up the impulse to teach and explain and let our children explore with feelings and emotions. This will be a challenge for me, I want to teach her everything I know as soon as possible! But I must remember to allow her to discover things on her own.
“It is not half so important to know as to feel.” – Rachel Carson
So instead I make up a song to sing on the way down the trail as I see her eyes getting drowsy. ‘What goes up, must come down. Down, down, down. Down, down, down. What goes up, must come down, down to the river.’
“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.” – Rachel Carson
The Sense of Wonder by Rachel Carson
The legendary environmentalist Rachel Carson wrote this essay in 1956 about spending time on the coast of Maine with her nephew. Her lessons hold up decades later as she gives advice on how to introduce children to nature and spark a sense of wonder. She says that we should rediscover our own sense of wonder and help them discover the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in. The edition we have that was gifted to us is a beautiful hardback full of lovely photographs to accompany Carson’s lyrical words.