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Closer to the Ground: An Outdoor Family's Year on the Water, in the Woods and at the Tableby Dylan Tomine
As parents, Stacy and I are just starting to understand how active participation in food gathering and production affects our children. When six-year-old Skyla and three-year-old Weston eat the tomatoes they grew, fish they caught, or berries they picked, we can see the pride that comes from contributing to family meals. When the kids serve these same foods to guests, their pride grows exponentially. The biggest surprise, though, is that our children have come to view healthy food – salmon, oysters, homegrown broccoli – as delicious treats. It could be their involvement in bringing these foods to the table, but it also might be the simple fact that fresh and wild foods taste better than what’s available at the supermarket.
Another factor here is our search for ways to deal with the onslaught of electronic communication that seems to define modern life. It’s not that I’m against technology. In fact, last year I learned text messaging so I could stay connected with our small fleet of anglers who share on-the-water reports. But not long ago, Stacy and I were at a barbecue hosted by friends with teenage kids. When I came inside to grab some fish for the grill, I saw two kids sitting at opposite ends of the couch, furiously texting away. It was sunny and warm outside, and here they were in a dark room, staring at cell phones. I asked with whom they were communicating, and without even glancing up, they pointed to each other. I couldn’t help but feel this wasn’t the future I wanted for my children. Perhaps in vain, Stacy and I hope that outdoor pursuits might balance the inevitable technological “advances” that are sure to be a part of their lives.
The process of finding or growing food with our kids provides learning opportunities for all of us. Of course, there are specific skills and knowledge, which accumulate over time, leading to better results and more consistent success. But there’s something beyond that as well. Any student of Zen Buddhism can find valuable lessons while following a three-year-old as he moves through the woods searching for mushrooms. Everything – and I mean everything – along the way is significant, interesting, and fun. The actual picking of mushrooms is almost beside the point.
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