This column, That Nature Show, is about the nature right under your nose: in our backyards, playgrounds and parks! Stop and look around, you’ll be amazed at what surrounds you.
My son, 9, is what teachers call “not academically motivated.” Bless them. What they mean is that he’d rather be fishing. Or collecting worms. Not sitting doing subtraction. In class he’s a pain in the neck, in other words.
I have the kind of kid who, 200 years ago in Greece, would have made a really excellent shepherd, wandering the lavender-scented hills, playing a flute while leaping over streams, and sleeping under the stars with a hundred other wooly animals.
He’s Natural Man (and trust me, his worn-out stinky Crocs demonstrate this. Our dog loves to roll in them.) He’d be really good at stamping the juice out of grapes to make wine. A class-act honeycomb collector. An osprey-nest finder. He likes to haul rocks and ride his bike over logs — the kinds of a talents to which the modern classroom caters not. His teacher, whom I love, said, “When it was snowy, he liked to walk right into the snowbank and make a shape like a cartoon, which was funny, but it was time for music.”
So I convinced Husb. to start work on a tree house in the mimosa tree in the backyard. “Every kid should have a tree house! Our son will form such great memories!” I said, laying it on thick, feeling Husb.’s triceps admiringly through his work shirt. “Babe, you can do this, babe. Wow! Are you strong?! Can I help you by nailing this piece of wood to that piece of wood? This is so fun! Where’s the electric drill?” He waved me off. “Honey, quit Tom Sawyering me.”
The tree house looks more like a platform, the kind you would shoot deer from, but no one is complaining. My son yelped and skipped with joy when he came home from school and found the thing. “Mommy! Mommy! Can I bring the dog up there?!” “No.” I said. I ungracefully hauled my middle-aged bulk up, “I’ll come up with you.”
We sat up there five feet off the ground but in rarefied air. I felt like a kid again. “This is my kingdom,” my son said, royally waving his hand at the winter wheat field, and beyond. “Fartlandia.”