10/16/2008

Through a Child's Eyes

Saturday I will be telling nature and environmental stories for family day at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum a pleasant drive away in St. Michaels, MD, on the Eastern Shore. Jim's going with me so that we can enjoy a leisurely "crab" lunch by the water. And, how good is this after so much time on the road - I get to tell stories, see a great place, and then we sleep at home in our own bed.

Thinking about the stories I will tell and the kids that are likely to be there I was reminded of a trip we made a few years ago with our daughter Robin and her family. It was a California nature holiday, thanks to Robin's research of the area and the wide-eyed wonder of our youngest grand-son. He is four years older now - but he has lost none of his interest in and wonder at the natural world. What a blessing.

I wrote about it at the time and am sharing it again.

Butterflies and Birds
"You don't take a trip - - a trip takes you." John Steinbeck - Travels with Charley


The Central Coast of California is also part of the Pacific Flyway - the migrating path of the Monarch Butterfly and many bird species. The warmth of the area is a protection from freezing and the instinct to survive draws them there.

I am not a naturtalist by nature but our daughter Robin's youngest son is. His excitement over and fascination with anything crawling, flying, nesting, and swimming is contagious.

Pismo Beach

We made a pilgrimmage to the butterfly grove at Pismo State Park where Monarch Butterflies nest for the winter. They arrive in October and stay until March. 100,000 or more each year. What is so special about this non-descript grove of Eucalyptus trees which borders a main highway that the Monarchs return here year after year? Who knows. The docent tells us the butterflies like the warmth and protection of tall trees not necessarily Eucalyptus trees. We walk along a path that circles though the grove peering into the trees at the huge mounds of butterflies nestled on the branches.

I breathe in and enjoy the faintly medicinal perfume from the trees. It reminds me of my grandmother's cough drops. I am glad they chose this place. Our oldest grandson points out what he thinks is another large clump of butterflies high overhead. It moves. Not a mound at all - it is a large owl. The boys finally get a clear fix on the bird in the near-by stationary telescope. Yep. An owl all-right, a horned owl.

Butterflies, a barn owl, and, oh, yes - red tail hawks circling overhead. This is beginning to feel like a set-up for a nature trip.

Morro Bay: When Robin read that the Natural History Museum at Morro Bay is the only one maintained by the California State Parks System we made it a destination. The smallish round building sits on the top of a hill overlooking Morro Bay. The wall facing Morro Rock has large glass windows which frame commanding views of the bay, the rock and the basin. The interactive exhibits are fun for kids and instructive for everyone. When Brad and I stand admiring a view of he bay, he tells me to look at the sailboats anchored below. "If the boat points left the tide is coming in. If it points right the tide is going out. If they are pointing straight it means the tide is changing.' News to me.

The docent points out a flock of geese floating below: " Those are artic geese. They arrived in November and they will stay til March. They come here because of the eelgrass - its the same grass they eat off Alaska." Another group taking refuge along the Pacific Flyway. Later than afternoon we spot twelve Great Blue Herons nesting in huge evergreen trees near the water. A white egret has sheltered in the same trees and is impressive as it takes flight. Red tailed hawks circling slowing over us, hunting for a snack.

The eight year old and I walk near the water's edge on a mucky stretch of shore to get a closer look at a Long Billed Curlew. The curlew pays us no mind and continues plunging its long beak deep into the gooey mud in search of food. We keep quiet and watch.

My grandson breaks the silence, "Its worth getting mud on your shoes to see stuff like this."

Exactly!

Now:
Remembering that trip and our grandson's wonder I am selecting stories that will prompt the children to take a second look and stories that will prick their imaginations.
A few of the stories I have selected:

How Raven Brought the Tides

All Things Are Connected

The Earth on Turtles Back

and, maybe I will tell them about our family "nature" trip in California,
or how I used to go crabbing in the salt marshes near my grandmother's house at Wrightsville Beach, NC
and don't forget the sand fiddlers,
or some of the stories I heard as a child about The Hubbard, a skipjack my grandfather bought in St. Michael's. He and my daddy sailed it down the in-land water-way to its berth at Wrightsville Beach.
I think I will call my aunt today and catch up on some of those stories.

Try " Nature of the Estuary: Chespeake Bay - a Field Guide." by Christopher P. White if you are interested in learning about the Bay. Its really fascinating.