Lately I have read novels about the lives of people who grew up in rural areas. Water Witches by Chris Bohjalian was set in rural Vermont near my new school, Green Mountain College. It was modern day, so there lives had quite a bit of complications, but today I finished The Wolfling by Sterling North. It was a sweet realistic fictional story about the author’s father when he was twelve and thirteen years old, and his wolfing named Wolf. Although this period of time was after the Civil War and during during something called the Panic of 1873, Robbie (Robert North) and his family were not scathed so badly living in southern Wisconsin near Lake Koshkanong. Robbie lived next to and was friends with a famous ornithologist (bird scholar to put it more plainly) named Thure Kumlien. With the close knit community and schoolhouse more relaxed than any place I’ve attended, the story had a comfy feel to it. The nature was the best part of this plot however. Although farm work was hard for Robbie, the scenes of watching all sorts of birds and even the tale of how he found Wolf was enchanting to me. I looked up many of the birds, animals, and flowers to help me along because I’d never heard of such things.
I pondered the advocation of more technology and virtual reality; how people who live rurally are seen as lazy, uneducated, or “behind the times.” Then I thought, what is wrong with growing up in a simple time? Many boys today and from here on out will not grow up with challenging thrills and adventures in the woods. Sadly, they will be surrounded by more electronic entertainment and endless distractions to keep them away from the natural world. Many will never “visit” the natural world ever in their lives as they climb the accepted ladders to business, security, and financial gain in the city. Have you seen New York from bird’s eye view lately? It doesn’t even look like a part of the Earth anymore. Is it crazy that I feel that that is an aberration?
Save for my two times as an OSS camp counselor, two times visiting my Grandaddy out in Willis, Michigan, and a modernized camping trip in Temecula, I don’t know anything about nature. My first “real” winter in Vermont might even depress me a little (it often drops below zero, which is “normal”). Still, reading these stories makes me miss the natural world, always threatened and attacked by the ingenuity of human civilization.