Back To Nature With a New Generation
Our young holiday visitors arrived from faraway Virginia with exquisite dolls designed to look like themselves and wristwatches that cost more than my first car.
The trip had been an ordeal for the youngsters, despite state-of-the-art toys, the diversion of a new purebred puppy and the fact that the “family fun wagon,” to invoke Clark Griswold, had entertainment centers in the back seat and bun warmers all around.
After opening a new round of late presents — ours to them, theirs to us — the inevitable boredom set in. They took one look at our movies (“Black and white? You’re kidding?”) and a world-class Mardi Gras bead stash before saying, and I quote directly, “It’s going to be a long week.”
Across the Bridge
So one morning six of us loaded up in Gale’s own family fun wagon and, despite a few complaints of being “squished” on the short ride, made it quickly to the new Enchanted Nature Trail off of Fort Henry Street at the foot of the Bay Bridge on the Pass Christian side.
What happened next was amazing. A quiet, simple place that requires no batteries and whose moving parts are supplied by nature was a hit. A huge hit.
The Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain has taken seven acres donated by Martha Murphy and designed by Bay architect Allison Anderson and managed to widen a lot of young eyes.
It’s a theme park that has nature as its theme. No roller coasters, no hotdogs, no gophers to bop or souvenirs to disintegrate in a few hours’ time. But it’s amazing what a purposeful look along a short trail can produce.
The trio of girls we’d brought along were, well, enchanted by simple things like mushrooms and fungi and pine beetle pocks and fern beds. Not to say they arrived as Valley Girls and left aspiring to live like Thoreau. But for a few long and quiet moments there was no boredom or electronic haze or discontent.
It was a miracle.
A small fairy tale shed with clear, corrugated, light-allowing sides held paper and chalk so the girls could make rubbings of tree rings. The results were amazingly artistic, and each hiker signed her work proudly. I thought of the already-forgotten art kits from Christmas that came in slick boxes from China and cost a small fortune. This, somehow, was infinitely better.
The girls looped us adults several times, doing the limbo under low-hanging limbs, making acrobatic feats look easy. Nature’s statuary — a felled pine, for instance, that resembled a dinosaur or a praying mantis, depending on your perspective — kept imaginations racing as hard as our hearts.
The trail is a work in progress. Everyone from Coast Episcopal students to WalMart employees has been involved in its creation and upkeep.
I think of it as a secret that needs telling. Next time you’re tempted to throttle a youth who says she is bored, suggest a walk in the woods instead.