This morning I went out with this preschool dropout for a "hike" (his idea) in the wetlands and woods . . .
and, as we were watching the geese and ducks and the turtles and frogs at the pond . . .
with the blue sky peeking through the thick trellis of leaves above us and the sunlight filtering through like a hard-won truth . . .
I realized that nature is the best school he could possibly be in, and that he is a perfect boy on this gloriously perfect day. And I am the luckiest person alive to be sharing this moment with him.
Afterwards, as we walked through the woods, I got to thinking about how gendered a place nature is. I think many people would identify nature as female. After all, "Mother Nature" is a fairly widespread cultural trope.
When I was growing up in rural South Texas, however, the outdoors was considered a decidedly masculine sphere of hunting animals for food and sport and trapping them for pelts. My dad--a hunter of deer, dove, and quail--took my brother along on his hunting trips but not me and my sister. We certainly took family hikes, but I think my father and I saw nature through different eyes. While I was admiring a deer or a family of doves, he was counting the buck's antler points and sizing up the dove family for that night's supper.
I asked my son whether the woods was a boy or a girl, and he responded that it was a girl AND a boy. I like that answer best of all. (The meadow, according to his scheme, is a boy, and the pond is a girl.)
And what about mushrooms, those decidedly phallic forest dwellers?
They are the fruiting bodies, or spore-releasing structures, of the underground parental unit called the mycelium.
The tiny, fragile tips of a mycelium reach out until they encounter the tip of a genetically compatible mycelium. They do a little mating dance and then, when conditions are warm and moist enough, up pops some mushrooms, which then release many spores, each of which can produce another mycelium.
If you look closely enough at the underside of these delicate mushrooms (which I think belong to the genus Coprinus), you can see the dusty, black spores ready to disperse and find a moist, dark place to grow into a new mycelium.
And felt another of Lil Fish Studio's acorns with the "mother" of all acorn caps we found on our walk.