When I was a boy, I used to play in "the gully," a wooded area near my Greece home. It was a sacred space where I saw my first Playboy, played with matches, and jumped bikes over a creek like EvelKnievel.
I remember those things fondly, but the gully also gave me a deep appreciation for nature. Often, while the boys shot BB guns, I would opt for solitude, time with frogs and salamanders, birds and butterflies.
As a father now, and a city dweller, I wonder what my kids will find to approximate the gully. That remains to be seen, but I plan to do all I can to help them appreciate the natural world around them. Here are a few activities available to us all:
-Feed the chickadees. Pick up the trail at the Mendon Ponds nature center, put some sunflower seeds in your hand, and wait for those ambassadors of goodwill to light and make you smile during the harshest winter days.
-Pick some fruit. Everyone's talking apples now, and rightly so. But our area is flush with u-pick farms for various fruits throughout summer. The kids love it, you get great eats cheap, and they learn that food doesn't always come from Wegmans.
-See stars. Every Saturday from April through early December, the Rochester Astronomy Club welcomes the public to use the Strasenburgh Planetarium's telescope at RMSC. What better way to show little ones that the world, indeed, does not revolve around them.
It's inevitable that I'll eventually have to compete with video games for my kids' attention. But with regular exposure to more pure and timeless experiences like these, perhaps they'll lead a richer life, and maybe even thank me for it one day.