The books on my bookshelves get shuffled around periodically, especially after I have gone to a book sale and returned home with a few treasures. Placing the new acquisitions on my shelves generally requires a bit of reorganizing and sometimes even the removal and donation of one or two of my existing books. All of my books are organized by shelf with each one dedicated to a different category such as poetry, trees or nature study. Once the new books are tucked into their new home, it is always interesting to see which books end up next to each other.
A recent reshuffling resulted in a particularly interesting duo sitting side by side, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv and The Book of Woodcraft by Ernest Thompson Seton. Louv's book was first published in 2005, Seton's in 1912. These two books offer glimpses into two very different cultural time periods with a focus our shifting views of spending time interacting with our natural world. Here is a sampling from each book to show you what I mean.
"One U.S. researcher suggests that a generation of children is not only being raised indoors, but is being confined to even smaller spaces. Jane Clark, a University of Maryland professor of kinesiology (the study of human movement, calls them "containerized kids'—they spend more and more time in car seats, high chairs, and even baby seats for watching TV. When small children do go outside, they're often placed in containers—strollers—pushed by walking or jogging parents. "(Louv p35). Also, "In classrooms and living rooms, the topic of the children's relationship with nature sometimes surfaced. I think often of a wonderfully honest comment made by Paul, a fourth-grader in San Diego: 'I like to play indoors better, 'cause that's where all the electrical outlets are." (Louv p10)
The table of contents from Seton's book suggests a very different set of experiences for those who chose to introduce their children to the "Woodcraft" life. Sections include: Principles of Woodcraft, Woodland Songs, Dances, and Ceremonies, General Scouting Indoors and General Scouting Outdoors just to name a few. What many may find surprising, is the amount of "outdoors" that is covered in the indoor section including tackle boxes, peach stone baskets, birch-bark vessels, knots and the construction of bird houses. Other skills of note discussed in his book are: building a boat, camping out, camp cookery, taxidermy, burns and scalds, snake bites, native dyes and wildwood remedies. Additionally there are descriptions of dozens of outdoor games and guides for identifying animal tracks, mushrooms and trees. Also somewhat surprising, especially given the contents of his book, is the fact that over 100 years ago Seton, like Louv, was also concerned about the lack of time that was being spent out-of-doors by children and adults. "Consumption, the white man's plague since he has become a house race, is vanquished by the sun and air, and many ills of the mind also are forgotten when the sufferer boldly takes to the life in tents. Half our diseases are in our minds and half in our houses." I can only imagine what Seton would be thinking today if he could see how unrelatable most of his book would be for a majority people.
In the spirit Louv, Seton and "improving the national wellbeing" (Seton p3). by reconnecting to our amazing world, I encourage you to venture outdoors this evening to seek out the full moon. April's full Moon is known as the Pink Moon, as it heralds the appearance of the moss pink, or wild ground phlox—one of the first spring flowers. It has also been called the Sprouting Grass Moon, the Egg Moon, and the Fish Moon. This year's full moon is also connected to Easter. When this occurs, it known as the Paschal Full Moon—the full Moon that determines Easter’s date. Happy howling!