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Walking With my Father

I have a true love for nature. I soak it up and if more than a couple of weeks pass since the last time I was out in the woods alone, I find myself agitated, stressed and unhappy.

We are all programmed to connect to nature even though our modern civilization tells us it is frivolous and not really worthy. Work is key, earn that money to buy more and more and more.

Yet, my dad taught me to love this outdoor experience even though he was bound to expenses and charge cards by debt throughout his life. Even so, he always, almost every day went for a walk in the woods.

Every day after work, my dad would get home about 5:40pm. I'd be watching the clock and ready to greet him when he stepped through the back door. Then, he'd head upstairs with me following closely behind. He had no privacy. I was talking and asking him questions about his day the entire time he was changing his outfit from suit to t-shirt and khaki pants. It was kind of like having my own Fred Rogers changing his clothes when he got home from work. On top of my dad's tall dresser were some old family pictures in small gold frames, a shoe horn, his watch and a black, snapping turtle ash tray. I loved this ashtray because if you pushed down on the head, the shell popped open and that was where my dad emptied his change every night. If there were any pennies, I could take those for candy at a neighborhood five and dime, but nickels, dimes and quarters were off limits.

I can remember even following him into the bathroom and sitting on the toilet seat as the man tried to take a private shower. But, he didn't mind. It was our time together before he started talking with the rest of the family or he got tied up watching something on television. After dinner, dad would take our three dogs for a walk. We had mowed walking trails all over our 25 acres of land and unless the weather was really bad, he went for a long, slow walk every evening. And, I was right there with him the entire time.

Those walks taught me a lot about the land, even though I have a hard time remembering the details of the conversations today. But, I do remember his love for nature instilled the same value in me. If it was still light enough to see, we'd spot birds and challenge each other on the name. The summer breeze usually carried the sweet smell of corn leaves from a nearby field. If it was dark like you'd experience anytime after 4pm in the winter, he'd shine a flashlight onto different trees and talk about their age and how long they might have been growing there. Sometimes the trip was difficult, especially if the snow was deep. But, we'd always find something to talk about and it was usually always nature.

We walked slowly and the dogs would usually be way ahead of us, sniffing the ground and searching for raccoons or possums. Luckily, they never found any!

Once we got home it was time for homework and dad usually picked up the paper and began reading about the news of the day. Our time together was over, but guaranteed, the next evening at 5:30pm, I'd be listening for his car in the garage.

Today, when I alone in a deep woods or unfamiliar territory miles away from people, I can envision my dad walking with me. Stopping to look for arrowheads, to assess the age of a tree or to spot birds. It's a good memory and I am so thankful he took the time to instill a love for nature within me.


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