Children of the woods

When we were all young. Some of us younger than others. Walking out on Lake Superior.

A long long time ago two young pups graduated from college and moved to the northwoods. 

They raised their family in the forest, twelve miles from the nearest town.  Their children went to one of the last remaining two-room elementary schools in Michigan. 

Back when we had help filling the woodroom

The kids grew up helping fill the woodroom.  (OK, Kiah–you’ve made up for your childhood reluctance for this chore after you’ve become an adult!) 

They played for hours in the woods. 

Big brother (almost four years older than his little sister) showed his sister everything he knew.  He made forts for her.  They played “Blind Dog” together.  One of them blindfolded the other and led them around by their hand.  When they reached the “special” spot…the blindfolded one was supposed to guess their location.  (OK, kids, correct me if I’m wrong!  I have never played the game yet.  Although if surgery hadn’t happened this Christmas, there was quite a bit of pressure to experience the game once and for all.)

How our kids grew up in the woods

The children stumbled in the house at night, exhausted, covered with dirt and happy smiles. 

They never ventured far from the house.  Mama and Daddy could see their forts within spotting distance.  Until Christopher reached age twelve.  Then he built a fort beyond parental eyes.

Child of nature, child of woods

I have never read the book “Last Child in the Woods.” 

The book, by Richard Louv, apparently discusses the modern disconnect between children and nature.

I think about the freedom and beauty of our children playing in the woods, and…excuse me, dear reader…suddenly feel nostalgic and missing those long-ago times. 

Kids and cousins

Both of our children live in Big Cities now.  One rests his head in San Diego and the other in New York City.  Chris likes nothing better than to hike and ski in nature out in California.  His voice gets so excited when he describes his next adventure out in the wilderness or on the slopes.

Kiah has expressed how much she misses the trees, the woods, the lake, the earth, the acknowledgment of the seasons.  She called to share about the bird on her fire escape last week.  Her voice lilted with happiness.  A bird in the city!

Warriors of the woods

I wonder, sometimes, whether the two children of the forest will find their way back to living in nature.  Whether they will choose city or woods or something in between.  I am glad they are living in the city now–it’s where they need to be. 

Yet I wonder.  Will nature call them back to her bosom?  Will nature sing them back to the trees and forests and lakes?

About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
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60 Responses to Children of the woods

  1. Absolutely the best pictures!!!!!!!

    I felt like I was right there enjoying the woods too.

  2. holessence says:

    Oh my gosh, those are GREAT photographs — I LOVE them! And you can COUNT on the fact that they won’t stay city dwellers. You know what they say, you can take the kids out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the kids.

    • Kathy says:

      Aren’t these great old photographs, Laurie? I’m sure Barry took most of them, as I didn’t know how to use a camera until recent years, lol. It will be interesting to see where they decide to settle. I know wherever they settle, they will always have a special relationship with nature. (gosh, I am so choked up this afternoon thinking about this!)

  3. Karma says:

    What great photos! You have me feeling nostalgic for my own childhood, despite the fact that I’m quite a bit older than your kids. I didn’t grow up in the woods, but my family’s home had a good amount of pine trees and wonderful spaces for playing “house” among the trees and blankets of orange needles, and a path at the back of the property into the woods.
    You also have me wondering just how far from home my own little birdies will fly a few years from now. 😦

    • Kathy says:

      Ahhh…playing “house” among the trees and needles. Yes, I did that, too. There were many more fields around our childhood playground. Wherever your birdies fly, Karen, you will delight in visiting them–I can guarantee!

  4. john says:

    This is wonderful, in so many ways! We were bidding on a place like yours near Amasa before we bought our house, when the deal fell through my wife insisted on looking in town as a compromise. My sons spent each summer coming up North. I can only dream about what their life would be if we lived like you do. Your children seem be so balanced. They can reach for the stars because they are so well grounded.

    • Kathy says:

      John, I grew up on the edge of a small town downstate. The good thing is that you can walk or drive so quickly to nature. You have Lake Superior out your window–that is a gift, for sure. I love what you say about them being able to reach for the stars because they are so grounded. That is a good image.

  5. Elisa's Spot says:

    Nature can sing sadly and longingly, happy and cheerful, raging and beating. I haven’t traveled very far, nor to many places, but I always notice what is different and have yet to find that I didn’t want to come back home.

    • Kathy says:

      Nature refuses to be categorized, Elisa. It is everything. It is ourselves…and perhaps coming home is simply opening the door and allowing nature to come in. Maybe?

  6. Fountainpen says:

    Incredible pictures, and if they return or not, they carry
    the woods and trees and frogs and butterfies and eagles
    and berries and birds with them inside….

    What a wonderful family!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Fountainpen

  7. Dawn says:

    Return? They never left, nature is with them even now. What a magnificent gift you gave them. xoxo

  8. P.j. grath says:

    Your children’s growing-up years look idyllic, Kathy. The treehouse is especially cool!

    My son had a short stint in the country before we returned to the edge of the city, where his childhood was much like mine. When he was 17 and brought home a girlfriend to give her a tour of all his “secret places” in our neighborhood, I realized that his childhood was a lot like mine.

    http://booksinnorthport.blogspot.com/2008/05/musings-on-beginning-new-book.html contains some of the thoughts I had while starting Richard Louv’s book.

    • Kathy says:

      Pamela, you wouldn’t believe how many tree forts there were in these woods! Smiling, thinking of your son’s secret places. Your blog is really a lovely story of a childhood hatched from nature. Thank you for sharing it.

  9. Deborah says:

    I am glad I stumbled on your blog today. I can so relate and we aren’t there yet, when all of these simple pleasures of childhood become sweet memories for mom and dad.

    I have thought, if my children go away for awhile, that they will come back. Time will tell . . .

    Love you –
    Deb

    • Kathy says:

      Deb, you certainly stumbled on an appropriate day! I know you would appreciate it. I imagine your children have a very similar relationship with the woods around your house. So many sweet memories…

  10. What can I say, Kathy? This is the most beautiful post of yours I have ever read. It comes straight from the core of your heart and is so filled with love. Thank you so much for sharing your children’s childhood today. 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      I have no idea where this blog came from, Joanne! One minute I had nothing to say, and no handy photographs, and the next minute all of this came soaring upward through a nostalgic heart. Thank you!

  11. Tammy McLeod says:

    Gorgeous post!! I loved this so much. My youngest son goes to a school where they spend a great deal of time outdoors and climb trees because the school principal is wise enough to know about the kid nature connection. Awesome Kathy.

  12. Susan D. says:

    Priceless … thank you so much for this post and the pictures. Priceless …

  13. Jeanne Marie says:

    Thanks for sharing these Precious Memories. Such a wonderful way to experience being a kid & a Mom & Dad.

  14. kiwidutch says:

    Once a county kid, always a country kid… How do I know LOL… experience!
    I yearn for open space, wilderness and the hard work but total reward that country life brings. I live in a city now, but when I retire I’m heading straight for the hills!

    • Kathy says:

      Kiwidutch, I am smiling. Sounds like you WILL be back to the hills before you know it. Maybe those who grow up in nature do find ways to head back…

  15. Carol says:

    Once exposed to the wonders of nature, those wonders cannot be left behind forever. When the time comes that they can spend their time in places of their choice rather than in places where they can earn a living, they will most likely choose a place where there are many birds and trees and where you can really see the stars at night.

  16. Barbara Rodgers says:

    What wonderful memories to cherish, Kathy! Your kids were very privileged to have the woods for a playground. You two “young pups” did very well for your little family. The “Warriors of the woods” shot is extra sweet! And what an adorable bunch of cousins! I can just imagine the stories Chris and Kiah may someday be telling their children!

    I grew up in the woods, too, but raised my kids in a small city. Like Karen, they had a path at the back of the condo complex into the woods and also a short walk to the beach. I guess they got a good dose of nature, although sometimes I feel like they missed out on what I had because we didn’t live further out.

    • Kathy says:

      Barbara, don’t you like that term “young pups”?? ha ha! Glad you enjoyed this. I think, even though people don’t live further out in the woods, that nature can still regale us with her secrets. Growing up on the edge of a small town was still a nature-packed experience for me and my brothers.

  17. Precious pictures and memories you shared with us, Kathy. Thanks a lot. I think that your kids will never forget their childhood in the woods, the birds in the trees and the fort they built together. Even if they have to live in big cities right now, they might well come back some day to the world they were so close to.

    • Kathy says:

      Isabelle, oh they built so MANY forts together, you wouldn’t believe it. They do love their trips back to the North Woods when they can now. We will see where they choose to live in later years… Thank you.

  18. Robin says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your memories with us. I really enjoyed it. I have read the book “Last Child in the Woods,” and it saddened me to think children are not being allowed the kind of freedom your children had when they were growing up (or the same kind of freedom I had as a child who climbed trees, made forts, and invented whole worlds out of snow or sand or hidden under the branches of a willow). My granddaughters are growing up on zoos and Disney World and suburbia, and I can only hope that visits to our pond will provide them with some of those opportunities to explore and build on their own imaginations.

    • Kathy says:

      It is sad to imagine this, Robin. You are now making me wonder where our grandchildren will grow up…when and if we ever have them. I thnk the visits they make to your pond will sustain and inform your grandchildren for the rest of their lives!

  19. Dawn says:

    This is beautiful. Loved the “of nature child of woods” best. And loved the matching outfits of “warriors of the woods.” I grew up with acres of woods two houses away. We spent tons of time there growing up. We were so lucky to have it. It’s all subdivisions now. I have urges to, of someday retreating to the woods. I’m sure your kids know how lucky they were to grow up the way they did.

    • Kathy says:

      The two photos you mention are some of my “all-time” family photos, Dawn. You were lucky to grow up with the acres of woods nearby. Barry had that in the suburbs of Detroit–near Rochester–as well. His sadness at seeing those woods torn down for houses and condominiums is partially what led us north.

  20. Marianne says:

    So very lovely, Kathy. Such a beautiful place to live and raise children.

  21. Kiah says:

    So sweet mama! We had the most wonderful childhood. When the time comes to settle in, I know I won’t be far from the wilderness (or the water!) xoxo

    • Kathy says:

      Hi sweetie… I am glad you enjoyed reading this! I KNOW you will settle near water, that’s for sure. We’ll wait and see if it’s near the woods, too. (Did you get teary-eyed reading this, too?)

  22. jeffstroud says:

    Kathy,

    Wow, great photographs, wonderful experience to remember and the gift that you have given your children and yourself. You have been blessed!

    • Kathy says:

      It was fun to re-discover these photos the other day, Jeff. One minute I didn’t have anything to blog about and the next minute all these memories appeared. Thank you.

  23. sonali says:

    The kids must have had a great time in the woods. I can imagine it must have been difficult at times when the weather is bad and things like that. But, definitely in many ways, nature does protect us. and, its a gift to be so very close to the nature. I miss all that here in the city!

    • Kathy says:

      Sonali, when the weather was bad, the kids usually–usually–stayed inside and played with books, legos, stuffed animals, drawings, whatever interested them in the moment. I am hoping you will get to enjoy nature many times this year–if only on brief adventures away from the city.

  24. Reggie says:

    Wow… everyone else has already said what I wanted to say, Kathy. What a beautiful, warm-hearted, nostalgic, generous post. Thank you for sharing.

  25. Susan Derozier says:

    Kathy – I don’t know how you keep “outdoing yourself” but this is a classic example. I’m sitting here all teary (happy tears) at this beautiful tribute to your family. It brought back so many memories of our cottage on a northern river and the kids toting wood, fishing with string and feeding chickadees from their hands at the picnic table. That fort is absolutely the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. Maybe this post will seduce your kids “back to the country” — one never knows. I feel such privilege at being allowed in to your family in this way. Thank you again! What gifts you have given your children!

  26. Brenda says:

    I loved the blog. No matter where your children live, the love and knowledge of nature will live in their hearts. What beautiful memories they will always have.

  27. Nye says:

    Kathy, these are beautiful photos, you’ve inspired me to take more photos of my daughter. I hope to venture out into the wilderness this Summer, like spending more time at the park. 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      Glad to have inspired you, Nye! The years pass too quickly. Even though when you’re in the midst of them, that always doesn’t seem so. Thank you.

  28. flandrumhill says:

    Kathy, your kids sure were cute. I think they will come back. But even if they don’t, they’ll always carry the woods in their hearts.

    When I first started blogging, I wrote a post about whether or not living in the country made children happier. I believe it does. You can read the post at
    http://flandrumhill.wordpress.com/2008/11/26/does-country-living-make-one-happier/

    • Kathy says:

      I thought of you several times after writing this, Amy-Lynn. Glad you were able to see it. I truly enjoyed your country-living post. I believe your thoughts ring true.

  29. Colleen says:

    Hi Kathy, what a wonderful, wonderful post!! I resonate so thoroughly with Richard Louv and his thoughts. His book is on our bookshelf. I grew up in a similar way, wide and open country to roam, not many restrictions as to where we could or couldn’t go. Our boys had similar freedoms growing up on Vancouver Island. And it’s so heartwarming to watch our grandchildren growing up with a love of nature and the outdoors…….especially in todays world of electronic kids games and computers and cell phones etc. It always startles me to see six year olds with their own cell phones and iPads (or the like!)

    And yes, I do believe our children will always find a way to stay connected to nature…..no matter where they live. It’s so much a part of who they are.

    • Kathy says:

      This was one of MY most favorite posts recently! I keep going back to it…thinking about it. I’ll bet it is heart-warming seeing your grandchildren growing up with that love of nature. What a gift their parents are giving them! (I must honestly admit that technology did co-exist in our house…I especially remember the computer games which Christopher loved as he grew older. But they weren’t all-encompassing…)

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