It seems that lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my mother. This week marks a year that she has been gone and so not surprisingly, I am flooded with memories of her and of my childhood.

I’m appreciating just how great my childhood really was. Not only did my mom spoil me, and more than a little, if you ask my older siblings, but I had the opportunity of growing up in a time when kids had the freedom to spend endless hours outside. And, I lived in a neighborhood with plenty to explore. Not only my own backyard where I learned the names of flowers and to garden, but in a neighborhood where I could walk or ride my bike to lakes, a ravine, swamps, fields, woods and swale. No wonder I feel so much better when I can get out and dig or hike or swim. Thank you mom.

After spending time with my mother as she required revolving hospital, rehabilitation and finally an assisted living facility for dementia, I realized that all these healthcare facilities were depressingly removed from nature. It got me thinking and so my mother’s declining health motivated me to move across the country (yet again) and get certified in Therapeutic Healing Landscape Design.

The first class writing assignment: describe your strongest experience with nature. Interestingly enough, the majority of people in the class, including me, chose positive childhood experiences in nature. A place. And in all the stories, the experiences were about discovery and freedom and play. There were fantastic stories of smells and sights and powerful feelings. There were no fond stories about playgrounds or organized sports. No one wrote of supervision of any kind. I wonder, would a kid today have this same kind of experience to tell, to be able to explore on their own? In my story, I wrote, “I am the master of my domain.”

This past summer, our friends visited us on the island with their two daughters. We had just returned home from a trip back to Michigan for my mother’s memorial. Both my husband and I were exhausted, and I was definitely, and completely, a wreck. Sometimes, it is just plain hard to get From There (the airport) to the car to the ferry to the car to the boat To Here.

We all made it to the island and in the next few days, I watched those girls exploring and collecting and fishing and simply playing. Seeing them, made me remember what an impression a swamp in Michigan made on me in the fourth grade. My heart felt so good and so big and so happy. Nature heals.

Kate, the master of her domain

Kate, the master of her domain