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My Turn: Nature is best viewed through eyes of a child

If you’ve ever known a rambunctious 4½-year-old, you probably appreciate the importance of getting outdoors as soon as humanly possible when the weekend hits.

That’s definitely the case for my husband and me with our son, Henry.

So, my interest was piqued when the Five Rivers email came across my desk announcing an 8 a.m. hike at the Marjorie Swope Park coming up on the following Saturday.

Sure enough, on Saturday morning the three of us headed out for the hike. Even though the park’s been open a while, we hadn’t been yet and this was the perfect opportunity.

Of course, the scenery was dripping with lushness and vitality, and the other people on the hike were warm, friendly and fun. But the most awesome and gratifying part for me was seeing Henry in the forest.

It’s like something washes over him when he’s in the woods. He’s ultra-observant about everything. He soaks in the calm. He sees all facets of life. He questions. He learns. And when it happens to him, it happens to me too, and to my husband, and I could see it happening to other adults, too.

As we hiked along, Henry befriended many of the hikers and always had lots to say. He eventually ended up picking up one of those small ball-shaped puffy things that seem to fall off of trees every now and again.

I had always thought they were a fungus. But, after Henry asked several people, finally someone knew that it was a gall.

Gall wasps “infect” the leaf and somehow induce the leaf to make the gall so the wasp larvae can grow inside it in relative safety. All of this was so fascinating to Henry, who took it all in very matter-of-factly.

These experiences continually remind me how important it is to get kids outside (and adults, too). Without conserved land on which to share nature with children, how would we do this?

Working in Concord and living in Pembroke, my family frequently hikes, bikes, swims and skis in the wild and natural places in and around the Five Rivers area.

We consider these local treasures. And when we get caught up in yard work, housework, life, etc., it’s Five Rivers that draws us back to the land, to Marjorie Swope Park, to teach Henry about gall wasps.

(Amy Manzelli lives in Pembroke.)

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