Sunday, March 18, 2012

Lone Wolf & Last Child in the Woods

Last week, when I was sick, I had the pleasure of guilt-free reading (my favorite thing! you can have your expensive vacation, give me my foam mattress, down pillows and a good book! I am such a homebody!)

I am a HUGE Jodi Picoult fan.
I love how she shows things from more than one angle and really makes you think about your feelings on a topic.
The book is about a man who studies wolves, he becomes so fascinated with them that he leaves his wife and pre-teen children to live in the wilds of Canada with the wolves for two years.  To research this, Jodi Picoult spent time with and interviewed Shaun Ellis,a man who actually did live with the wolves.  The observations and experience shared in this book about wolf packs was fascinating.
True to form, Jodi Picoult also focused on a family drama.  The son of the man who lived with wolves left home 6 years before and has had no contact with his father.  After he left home, his mother left his father.  His 17 year old sister is still living with the father and taking care of the bills and grocery shopping because the father is too wrapped up in his work to do those kinds of tasks.
The sister and father are in a near-fatal car accident.
The brother is called in Thailand and rushes home.
His father is on life support.
The brother and sister must hash out what their father would want--would a man who was so full of life as to live with the wolves WANT to be kept alive on life support or not?
The brother and sister each have a different perspective and you can see the story from each of their point of view in a way that really makes you think.

I also read this book.  It opens by reminding the reader of some experiences they may have had as a child, whether it was building dams with rocks in streams (as I did as a child) or raising pigeons on a rooftop in Queens (as my mom did as a child) goes on to say that nature soothes and comforts us and it is a place we can go when life gets confusing or overwhelming and just relax, get our bearings, remember what is important.  It reminded me of the old idea that the world is SO much bigger than your problems...the insects, the dirt, the stones and trees...they have all been here for hundreds of years and will continue to be there...when thought of that way our problems seem not as significant.

The author goes on to say that since the late 1980s, kids have spent less and less time outside.  I know my friends and I all talk about how we stayed out "until the streetlights came on" but nowadays you are afraid of your children being abducted and feel you need to be out there with them.  The author promotes and encourages a method of "controlled risk" in nature, he expounds on instilling an instinctual confidence.  He doesn't dismiss the idea of abductors, but instead tells the story of a father whose child was abducted, but who feels that rather than more laws on abduction, we need to teach children to trust their instincts.  The author gives examples of how we can hone those instincts in nature in a way that they will never be able to hone them playing video games, even Mortal Combat.  Hunting, fishing, ice skating, going to the ocean, boating, you name will learn to feel for things, the way things feel, the way they sound, smell, the way their air changes...whatever.  They will become more in tune with nature.

We have definitely always encouraged our girls to play outside and we limit internet and television, but this book inspired me to look for more ways that my girls can engage with nature this spring.  I have set up some nature play dates at local parks that don't have playgrounds - hikes, building a dam in the stream, catching tadpoles and salamanders - on our local yahoo groups webpage and Jason and I have made some plans with the homeschool neighbor dad to go camping this spring with all the kids.