The purpose, for us, of going out into nature isn’t just to learn about nature. It’s to open our minds.
The other day, we were hiking up to a lake in the mountains, and though we noticed lichen on rocks and wildlife in hollowed out logs and streams that rolled down from mountain lakes, our biggest takeaway from the hike wasn’t anything scientific. It was the new ideas that came to us.
One of the coolest, by far, came from my little seven-year-old. As we hiked through the woods, she started asking me if college really is as boring as it seems in movies (sitting in a classroom, professor lecturing, etc.). I talked to her about how it is a lot like that, usually, but that if you want to learn something that is only taught in college, that’s what you eventually do.
As we walked, her little mind came alive. She came up with ideas that I was surprised to hear coming from a 7-year-old about a new way to do college and new ways to learn things that are typically only taught in a lecture setting. Since the hike, she has been making plans to start her own, new kind of college.
The woods had nothing to do with college, but it provided a place where her mind could come alive and explore freely.
Nature–the sublime, the harsh, and the beautiful–offers something that the street or gated community or computer game cannot. Nature presents the young with something so much greater than they are; it offers an environment where they can easily contemplate infinity and eternity…
Passion does not arrive on a videotape or a CD; passion is personal. Passion is lifted from the earth itself by the muddy hands of the young; it travels along grass-stained sleeves to the heart.
– Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods, p. 98, 159