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"Every child should have mud pies, grasshoppers, waterbugs, tadpoles, frogs & turtles, elderberries, wild strawberries, acorns, hickory nuts, trees to climb, animals to pet, hayfields, pine cones, rocks to roll, sand, snakes, huckleberries and hornets – and any child who has been deprived of these has been deprived of the best part of his education." -Luther Burbank 1849 - 1926
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Backyard Blessings: Pathway Snakes

"I made a decision in those early days from which I have never wavered: I would not go all of my life in the bondage of treading only a known path lest I step upon a snake. I would go through untrodden country toward the goal of my choice, whether or not I trod upon a snake." Agnes Sanford of the scariest parts of nature for me.

I was reading in Agnes' autobiography recently and this quote caught my attention. It followed the thought, "I loved to seek, out upon these far mountaintops, a certain height or rock that I could reach, simply setting out toward it without benefit of path. It amazes me now to remember the great freedom that my parents gave me..."

I remember exploring what were to me "far away places" during my childhood in the country, too. The neighbor's ponds -- one with well mown banks...and the one just across the fencerow that was surrounded with scrubby willow trees and wetland plants and ... snakes. It was frequently referred to as "the swampy pond" with water moccasins in it.

My fear was a bit higher than Agnes' regarding snakes. One had chased me along the garden pathway when I was about 5 years old...and that innocent episode remains burned in my fear-chamber even today!

But over the years, I too have determined not to let the fear of "snakes" stop me from exploring life. And snakes can take the shape of many different kinds of danger...with many different kinds of freedom and wonder awaiting on the flip side of facing that fear.

Just accepting a non-popular way of life can be that fear-chamber for some. Talking with your husband/wife about a scary "hot button" that causes you great anguish can be another.

But when you bring the concept of snakes on your pathway back to the backyard, there are even challenges there. Especially for children. The fear of dogs. The fear of caterpillars. The fear of wet grass.

As adults...and wise persons who have overcome our childhood fears (well, some of them at least), it is easy to gloss over such fears in young friends. But should we?

What process brings us to the determination, "I made a decision in those early days from which I have never wavered..."?

It is a personal growth process...outside forces have little effect. It is one's own spirit that determines the timing of our "decision" to live more fully.

And as family and friends surrounding a journeyer -- we can provide hope and wonder...solid reasons for taking life's "snakes" in stride, as part of the living journey of discovery.

"Yeah, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil...for thou are with me..."

Togetherness in the face of fear. A passport to adventure...and growth...and love. And freedom!

For more articles about NATURE & KIDS

Young Birders Get Serious About Birding Fun
The Squirrel Family 0 Backyard Nature Safari
Hamsters are rodents and cuddly pets
Kids Learning Links
Buddy's Diner (for the birds)
Bird Profiles for Young Naturalists