Last Child on the River

We floated homemade skimboards across a chest-high channel into Boone Creek. That was the entrance to our after school and weekend reality. Park on the side of the lane and rescue the stashed boards from the brush, then spend the hours through sunset cruising atop what seemed an endless perfect sheet of water–water being the upside to growing up on the Eastern Shore.

The thing that takes me back there most quickly is watching the girls experience all the same things I loved.

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Seeing them on the water, exploring beaches, hunting for minnows, crabs, shells, sea glass, and found treasure. There is a simplicity that seems universal.

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The built world fades away.

We have such a brief opportunity to pass on to our children our love for this Earth and to tell our stories. These are the moments when the world is made whole. In my children’s memories, the adventures we’ve had together in nature will always exist. – Richard Louv, “Last Child in the Woods.”

These are the experiences I never want to stop having with the girls–when they are outside with friends, family, other kids, adults, lost in time and fun on a beach, on a river, or in the woods.

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The pictures here speak louder and more clearly than my words, which is as it should be. It’s a visual and tactile world. It’s a world we found as kids, discovered as if we were the first to come across it.

Prize the natural spaces and shorelines most of all. because once they’re gone, with rare exceptions, they’re gone forever. In our bones we need the natural curves of hills, the scent of chapparal, the whisper of pines, the possibility of wildness. We require these patches of nature for our mental health and our spiritual resilience. – Richard Louv

There is something to being outside on the water. There is something to watching the girls discover it with their friends, and seeing it become a part of who they are.

But in the end, and to the girls’ laughter,  those experiences just as easily beg the question of who is the child on the river?

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Author: Michael Valliant

I am a father, a writer, a runner, a hiker, reader, follower of Christ, a longboard skateboarder, stand-up paddleboarder, kayaker, novice birder, sunrise chaser, daily coffee drinker, occasional beer sipper. I live in Oxford on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, where I am the director of the Oxford Community Center by day. I am on a walk of faith, a spiritual adventure, following where God leads, trying to share my walk and story.

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