Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Why we live in the middle of nowhere

Isla was begging me, as she so often does, more often than I care to admit, to let her "watch something" the other day. Like Pavlov's dog, the minute she steps over the threshold of this house, she begins to feel the pull of the screen, in our case, the computer monitor that connects her to the world of Netflix, or PBS Kids,or Scooby Doo reruns on YouTube.

I watched TV as a child. I have vivid,visceral, memories of staring, thumb in mouth, shoulder's slumped, glass of milk and pile of Oreo cookies by my side, at the TV screen as Bobby Brady attempted to run away but only made it so far as the back yard.

I'm nostalgic for the days of television now, what with the built in governor it had, given the simple fact that TV programming ran on a schedule.

You watched a show. The show was over. You turned it off. The TV stayed in one room. You went to another. Or outside, beyond the reach, and the pull, of the screen.

There is no "over" on the internet. There is no fixed place where we engage with hand-held gadgets. Today our screens follow us wherever we go, if we want them to. Unless, of course, you live in a place that still has no cell-service.

Anyway, even though I dreamed of getting something done, I bravely told Isla "no," when she asked the inevitable question. When the next question came--"then what can I do?" I was prepared.

"Read, draw, climb a tree, look at birds, go outside, watch the ants, ride your bike, go to your room and be bored, be a kid, look around you, life is full of things to do, or not do," I said.

A well- practiced rant.

"Hey, I've got an idea," she said.

"Let's go to Maria's pond and catch some frogs."

"Okay," I said. "Let's go to Maria's pond.

  And so we went.

And Isla leaned in. Unafraid of the muck and mire. And the frogs seemed to be waiting, for a fearless little girl, just like her.

To tease.

But Isla persevered. Did I spell that right? It looks funny.
And Isla was rewarded for her perseverance.

And she never tired of the sensation of slippery frog in the palm of her hand. The Vermont version of a hand-held gadget.

Over and over again. She let the frog go, she caught the frog. She let it go. She caught it again. I wondered if this frog might possibly be Esther's old friend, Bernadette.
She seemed familiar. And almost as if she was enjoying the game of catch and release.

She'd jump away from the shore, then swim back directly towards Isla. Several times she jumped right out of the water near Isla's feet on the grass.

I had the rare of experience of watching all of this, without once feeling as if I should be somewhere else. Without once saying, "C'mon, Isla. We'd better get back."

I squatted on my haunches, or sat on a rock, at the edge of the pond, and waited.

Until she was done. And we went back home again. 

Leaving the frogs, of course, behind. With the unspoken promise that we'd be back.

Oh, we'd be back. You can count on that.


Iris said...

I love this story! I can relate so much to the temptation to give in to requests from my children to "watch something" so that I can "get something done." But it's so much better to let the dishes pile up and reconnect with the vast world of discovery to be found in our backyard ponds and woods, here in the "middle of nowhere." And it's good for us grown-ups as much as our kids, to be in the moment as we join in something that we enjoy as much as they do.

wilma said...

Wow, does this bring back memories. I grew up on a farm, and one field had a little pond beside it, and during breaks (or when I was too young to really work), my brother and I would catch frogs, or we'd cajole and older sibling to do so for us--those frogs were usually rather unwilling to be our playmates :)
I hope my children will get to experience the boggy smell of the pond, the buzzing insects, the iridescent dragonflies, the chubby tadpoles...and the inevitable soakers!

Kathleen Trail said...

This post made me so happy – I foresee a trip to the greenbelt near our house this weekend.... And the frog action shot is incredible!

Betsy said...

Thanks Iris. "And it's good for us grown-ups as much as our kids, to be in the moment as we join in something that we enjoy as much as they do."
Amen to that. So true.

Betsy said...

Wilma: There should be a national "find a frog pond near you" website. Don't you think?

Betsy said...

Kathleen: That shot was pure dumb luck. Timing with digital cameras is so hit or miss. Usually miss.

Julie P said...

We live in the middle of suburbia. For the past 5 years my kids have had concrete all around them with little to no green space. A month ago we moved to a great community (still suburbia, but a different suburb) where they value and prioritize green space. We were very fortunate to find an end unit townhouse with a community pond just steps from our home! We've had fun watching the geese (and their babies), ducks, turtles and lots of other birds. My parents are coming for a visit tomorrow and my dad is bringing his fishing gear so we'll find out if there are any fish to be caught.

Anonymous said...

This is precisely why I wish we still lived out in the middle of nowhere! My younger kids don't know the joy of playing with frogs at the edge of a pond, or running barefoot through the grass. One day......


Kingsmom said...

Great post Betsy. We too live in the middle of nowhere and I had to force myself on a walk that my son insisted we go on yesterday. There is always so much to do when I get home that allowing the TV becomes routine. I catch myself sometimes, but not nearly enough.

mooserbeans said...

Great pictures, great story.