By Candy Venning

Nature Deficit Disorder is. Please feel free to look up various definitions online – The title is fairly self explanatory and I’m hesitant to start my little garden musings this way because we’re all weary of being bombarded by new ailments, labels for assorted human conditions, and to be honest, weary of bad news about ourselves and our environment.

In my opinion, further shaming isn’t helpful or engaging; If I present a problem I always want to offer solutions. So stick with me for a few paragraphs – I’m going somewhere with this.

My childhood was half urban downtown kid, living in a warehouse and half farm freedom, tree climbing, snake catching, muck filled fun. Like many – I thought this was how other kids were living (except the warehouse part, naturally I wanted to have in a ‘real’ house like other kids and did not appreciate the ‘cool factor’ of climbing up a ladder to a platform built from scaffolding to get to my bed)

When our family hit the road to leave the city and drive out to ‘the farm’, a rented brick house with fields and marshes all around it, I was always eager to go.

The times spent dissecting owl pellets, watching tadpoles change, catching snakes and witnessing the fantastic flights of fledgling barn swallows each spring were formative. Learning some of natures secrets and cycles, aka spending time flopped out in a meadow, forged a deep connection within me, to our place on and as part of this world, an ease with the woods that is missing more and more for city dwelling humans.

Childhood is absolutely imperfect – nobody needs anyone else telling them how to raise a child and I would not dare to presume but here are some solutions I hope can benefit all creatures on earth. After all, an earth without caring humans who consider all the other creatures will become an increasingly disconnected and desperate place (many, many studies show that trees and time spent outside/near to nature as well as ‘free play’ are highly beneficial to everyone, young old ill or strong)

Please go outside, please pack drinks & food to spend time wandering a trail, exploring a waterfall and if you bring a plastic bag use it to pick up garbage if you see any – instilling a responsibility to care for wild places and enjoy them simultaneously. Kindly let your children run through a meadow or play in the ravine (definitely teach them what poison ivy looks like though!) Allow random, unplanned, screen free, eventless meanderings through trails, parks, beaches and backyards. Should you be lucky enough to know someone with a farm or cottage, go and visit, disconnect the wifi for a bit, leave the camera on the couch and enjoy these moments.

The memories of times amongst the snakes, toads, flowers, ducks, barn cats, chipmunks, bats and dragonflies remain far stronger for me than any gifts, parties, theme parks or team sports – maybe I’m wrong, perhaps I’m the exception but I don’t think so.