"Catch it before it hits the ground! Be the first human being ever to touch it!" I called out as I leaped for (and missed) one maple leaf. It landed on the ground just beyond my fingertips. Moments later, my friend, Julie, and her two young boys joined me in chasing falling leaves on this breezy autumn afternoon in their backyard. "I caught one!" Charlie yelled with pride. He held the red leaf up like a trophy--it was as big as his hand.
Nearly two decades have passed since then. Because he lives several hours away, I hadn't seen Charlie until a few weeks ago when I had the chance to see him "all grown up" and meet his sweetheart, too. He mentioned that one thing he remembers about the first time he met me was that we chased leaves together in his backyard.
I had forgotten that memory until he mentioned it. This was a simple game that I used to play with elementary school children at the Central Wisconsin Environmental Station where I was an environmental educator. It would tap some of their excitement about being on a school field trip to the woods for the day while it connected with their lesson on trees.
Does Charlie know that I keep Nature central in my life? You bet he does. And I couldn't be more honored that a young man remembers our impromptu game with falling autumn leaves. Will he play this game with his own children someday? I'd put my money on it.
Keeping Nature Central doesn't need to be complicated. It's about sharing the simple joys you feel about Nature wherever you are. Over 50 years ago, Aldo Leopold wrote: "Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them. Now we face the question whether a still higher 'standard of living' is worth its cost in things natural, wild, and free."
Today is the day to share your outdoor joy with a child. It gives you a chance to show them how you value your connections with what is "natural, wild, and free." It also helps you plant seeds for the future among the lasting memories. Isn't there a tree dropping its leaves somewhere near you?