Lamenting the Ugly Mood in America is a “Good Walk with My Young Son Ruined,” So I Left…

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…America’s current state of political rage behind as we entered North Park Village Nature Center on a just-right, late-fall day—the sun shining brightly, the trees a beautiful leafy tapestry of bright reds, oranges, and yellows, the wind blowing softly.

My eight-year-old son had a rough week, and so had I as I watched the level of discourse in America plummet hundreds of miles past rock-bottom.

“A walk in nature has often served as a reset for me amidst the storms of life,” I told him in the hopes that he might apply this lesson to summer showers, tornadoes, and hurricanes in his own life once I’m gone.

My “Mike Brady from The Brady Bunch meets Henry David Thoreau moment” complete, I jumped off the dad soapbox, and we just walked and talked, and sometimes just paused to enjoy the sounds, colors, and smells of fall, and each other’s company.

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Birds were on my son’s mind as we hiked the trails. After viewing a photo of a red-bellied woodpecker in a display near the nature center, he began searching the woods for this pretty bird. We climbed North Park’s big hill and he called out, “there’s a really big one!” I scanned the woods, but didn’t see a red bird. The wicked grin on his face told me that he was referring to the tall man wearing a bright red jacket who was walking through the woods below us.

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At the bottom of the hill, a boardwalk winds its way over beautiful wetlands on the southeast side of the nature center. In the summer, the wetlands are filled with frogs, turtles, water beetles, and other creatures. Once, we were surprised to see a deer wending its way through the 10-foot cattails. But not today. The water was still, the frogs were already sleeping in the mud deep beneath the surface, and the formerly green cattails had turned bright yellow. No deer parted the cattails, which waved softly in the breeze.

We walked down the trail toward the pond that connects to the wetlands.

The trees—with their vivid fall colors—created a beautiful reflection on the water.

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The sun shone, and it’s rays bounced off the water.

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We both took photographs of the pond and fall colors. My son’s careful attention to photo composition and lighting tells me that he might be a professional photographer someday.

And then he was a little boy again—asking to walk in the muddy shallows in his boots and wondering if deer hibernate in the winter.

I treasure my time with my son. Our time together is priceless—and finite. A boy and his father during late fall on the shore of a small pond. A moment savored and then gone like the fall colors and leaves from the trees in a few weeks.

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We walked on and the real world came roaring back. We came upon a time immemorial interaction between mother and children. Two kids were fighting over a stick and not heeding their mother’s call to join her. Mom walked up, grabbed the stick and tossed it into the pond. I’d like to tell you that hundreds of migrating mallard ducks alit from the water in a beautiful choreographed symphony of nature—but that would be fake nature news. But crying chaos did ensue. The mom said to her kids, “Yes, crying louder will get that stick back!”

My son and I walked down the trail. We glanced at each other and started laughing. He kept repeating the harried mother’s comment. No judgment from me regarding the mom, the kids, and the stick. As parents, we’ve all been there.

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We left the prairie and pond and headed into the woods—an oak savannah filled with beautiful old trees that tower over the forest floor. It felt good to be in the woods with my son, doing nothing but wandering and loving nature. Not in a car, not in a crowd, not on any technology.

We walked the trail, commenting on the stunning fall colors, milkweed pods, and the habits of wildlife.

My son flipped over cut tree stumps to look for bugs.

We reveled in the sunlit-red-glow cast by a beautiful 50-foot oak.

We spotted two deer.

Then two more.

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I’m glad my son couldn’t read my mind.

I wanted to warn him of troubling times in America.

That a fierce fight is being waged for its very soul.

I wanted to tell him that the environment and our very health are under attack by short-sighted people who’ve never spent a day of their lives in nature.

That our president is sending an army to meet a caravan of people with strollers seeking a better life.

That, every day, our world seems to be losing more of the tiny pieces of kindness and tolerance it once had.

I felt the urge to get back on my soapbox, but that’s not what this day was about.

I kicked it aside mentally, and we continued to walk.

We walked deeper into the woods.

We took the path less traveled, and it felt good.

Copyright (text/photos) Andrew Morkes

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4 thoughts on “Lamenting the Ugly Mood in America is a “Good Walk with My Young Son Ruined,” So I Left…

  1. Loved the article. First off that you take your son into nature and show him how wonderful it is. Secondly I loved the article, because that’s where my mother-in-law and I go birding every Saturday during the Spring and Fall migrations. It’s a little oasis of nature among the chaos of the city.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad that you liked it. It’s a beautiful place, and we’re lucky to have it in our high-density city. Thqanks again for your kind words. I will have to try our birding at NP next spring.

      Like

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