While I have a love of all things natural, be it mammals, reptiles, fungus, trees, flowers or just appreciating the beauty of a sunset, I will be found outside exploring it or photographing it. Somehow though, insects have won out above all else as the object of my love.
When I tell people that I love insects, I get many strange looks and always the question follows "why?" How do I answer that? For me it is many things all combined into something that makes perfect sense to me. I love being outside, the warmth of the sun on my face, the breeze blowing across my skin, and then I catch sight of one of God's perfect creations hidden among the foliage of a favorite bush or flower. As I creep closer, careful to not scare away my quarry, I am rewarded with a glimpse into the life of a caterpillar munching away on a leaf, or perhaps a beautiful butterfly drinking her fill from one of the pretty flowers put in the garden just for her, or maybe it is a pair of stink bugs engaged in a love embrace as they shyly retreat under a leaf. Whatever it is, it is sure to fascinate me and cause me to smile. Nature does that, it makes us smile. Can you walk into your garden and catch sight of a spring batch of baby bunnies and not smile? Can you look at a large swallowtail butterfly nectaring at the flowers in your flower bed and not smile? Can you watch momma robin feed her hungry babies, mouths all agape, a fat juicy worm and marvel at the fact that they eat those things, and not smile? Nature restores us, it rejuvenates us, it brings us back to the center of ourselves.
In this day of the electronic age, so many of the youth in this country do not know what it is like to experience the outdoors beyond the virtual world presented to them on the television or computer screen. They will never know what it is like to eat snow, or chew on timothy grass stems, or eat wild berries. To capture caterpillars and watch them mature, or to walk in the woods among the sights and smells that only timberland can bring. Do they miss those things? Not on a conscious level, after all how can you miss what you've never had? On a subconscious level it is a different story, their body cries out for it. It is why they are restless, bored and never satisfied. They are seeking something that can't be bought. It won't come in a can, or on a video game. The only way to find it, is to leave your home and walk outside.
I recall as a child spending hours outside. We went out shortly after the sun came up and wouldn't return to house until the sun went down. Being called into supper was a serious irritation to us. It often interrupted whatever fun we were engaged in at the time. Many times we would stay out way after dark to play a particularly challenging game of hide-and- go- seek. My bothers and I found all sorts of things to do. We were never bored. We made our own entertainment. We built snow forts, snowmen and had snowball fights. We explored creeks, got stuck in the mud and had to figure out how to get out (we learned problem solving skills). We drank water from the garden hose, just so we wouldn't have to go inside and none of us were hurt because of it! We played "real" baseball, and football, we got dirty, we skinned knees and we wouldn't have had it any other way.
All this time spent outdoors brought me into constant contact with insects. Some welcome, some not so much. One neighborhood we lived in was across from a neighborhood swimming pool and large open fields with tall grasses. I can still smell those tall weeds and grasses when I think back. I found so many caterpillars feeding on those grasses that I was in sheer heaven. I captured many of them and took them home and placed them in an aquarium, only to learn a valuable lesson. Each species of caterpillar requires certain plants to feed on to be able to survive. Simply placing them in a container with grass was not suitable at all, unless you were doing a study in caterpillar cannibalism. Many more experiences with insects presented itself, including a neighbor girl who happened to possess a delicacy in the form of chocolate covered ants and grasshoppers. I was the brave one (ok... the dared one) who tried them. I found it not as repulsive as I first thought it was sure to be. At least I didn't puke, lets put it that way. Now I find myself partaking of such edibles merely for shock factor. Who doesn't love to see the look of revulsion on the faces of your closest friends as you slurp down a nacho flavored mealworm? "You eat shrimp, right"? I always reply when they make their varied comments about me being gross or insane. For some reason, they just don't get the connection between shrimp and mealworms. I've even been told I am a shoe-in for Fear Factor...I see it as simply a survival skill, if I am ever left stranded in the wild with no food, viola, instant protein!
Life in the outdoors has filled my life with adventure, laughter, sadness, happiness, and an overwhelming sense of peace.
We as parents, need to make the commitment to graduate our children from the couch to the yard. Let's give them the same chances we had as children, to explore, to taste, to smell, to grab a hold of their part of nature, and make memories to last them a lifetime. Who needs Ritalin when you can run off all that energy in a healthy way?