Many evenings when the girls and I go for a walk, we cannot help but to be captivated by the brilliant hot pink blooms cascading down from the dense, impressive bushes along the fence line of our neighbor’s back yard. Dacey, my four year old, had asked me several times what kind of flowers those were, but I had no idea.
Late last week our neighbors pulled into their driveway just as Dacey stopped to pick a bloom off of one of the lower branches. Their gracious response eased my embarrassment as they assured us it was perfectly fine with them if the girls wanted to take home a pretty pink flower.
“Hey, do y’all like pomegranates?” they asked as we started to walk away. When I told them, yes! I do, they told me those magnificent bushes were growing pomegranates and that when the fruit started to fall, we were welcome to take all we wanted.
I was so delighted! Pomegranates are such a fun and, well, challenging fruit. It occurred to me that evening that as many times as I have enjoyed cutting into a pomegranate and unearthing the sweet seeds for snacking, I had no idea where or how a pomegranate grew! To be able to put a name to these beautiful flowering bushes that grow throughout our neighborhood and to connect that bush to the somewhat exotic fruit (that no longer seemed quite so foreign) was a highlight of my week.
I’m going to sneak into Last Child in the Woods for a minute to draw out one of the points Richard Louv addresses early in the book on our collective ignorance of the things of nature. He shares the wisdom of teacher Elaine Brooks who had stayed intentionally connected with nature wherever she could find it – even if that meant seeking it out in what essentially amounted to a vacant, overgrown lot. On speaking of the bulldozer destruction of parts of the land, she says
“Much of this destruction comes is done out of expediency and ignorance,” she said. She believed people are unlikely to value what they cannot name. “One of my students told me that every time she learns the name of a plant, she feels as if she is meeting someone new. Giving a name to something is a way of knowing it” (p. 41).
As I read, I was convicted of this truth. I have never invested much time in learning the names of the plants and wildlife of the nature with which I am surrounded. How can I teach my children that which I do not know myself?
I wonder if anyone shares my newly kindled desire to learn and know the names of what we come across in nature. I’m issuing a challenge to myself this week – find five objects outdoors that I don’t the know the name of and learn them! Would you care to join me in this? Maybe you already know the common names of the plants and wildlife in your area, and so perhaps your challenge would be to learn the scientific names of some of your favorite objects.
Let’s go outdoors this week – whether to your backyard, your patio, your local park . . . wherever nature waits to be discovered and let’s learn all meet someone new this week! We’ll meet back on Saturday to share what we’ve learned. Happy learning!
photo by ZeePack