By Patricia Drackett, Director Crosby Arboretum
The Picayune Item
Where did you play when you were a child? Was your back yard only the beginning for day-long neighborhood explorations? Perhaps your natural “range” was one or two, or more, miles from your house. Only when the bell rang, or the whistle blew, did you head home for dinner, maybe carrying back an occasional frog or a handful of dirt embedded with ants to seal in a jar wrapped with paper, peeking each day to monitor the progress of the elaborate cities of tunnels these insects would form.
Many of us remember evenings spent gathering lightning bugs, often with a willing accomplice, loading a jar as full as possible for the maximum effect when placed on our bedroom nightstand. And, if you captured them in your hands, do you remember that smell?
What odors remind you of childhood? If your parents enlisted you to work in the family vegetable garden, it may be the smell of rain-moist soil, the scent of tomatoes when bruised, or an ornery stink bug discovered under a squash leaf. A favorite memory of mine was standing in my grandmother’s garden shed, a magical place full of the smells of earth and sun-baked wood.
If you have memories like this that define you, could you imagine what your life would be like without them? Opportunities for today's youth to form similar memories are not as common. One doesn’t have to look far today for articles and editorials that point out the increase in time spent daily indoors by today’s youth interfacing with technology. Urban populations are also on the increase, and correspondingly, rural areas are undergoing a decrease in population.
Books such as Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, and The Nature Principle (www.richardlouv.com) have focused on the many positive benefits of spending time in nature, such as a reduction in behavioral problems, improved moods, and scoring significantly higher scores on tests of attention and short-term memory after spending time outdoors (or even viewing outdoor images).
One excellent opportunity for improving your life and health, and creating lasting memories for you and your family members is found right here in Picayune at the Crosby Arboretum. Through our quarterly schedules of programs and events, we offer a multitude of ways to learn more about the natural world. We also offer MSU Extension publications to aid homeowners in being better stewards of their property, whether that consists of thousands of acres of forest lands, a backyard vegetable garden, or a new home landscape design.
But these are only a few of the ways that the Arboretum can improve your life. Last week we were asked by a visitor to provide a summary of we were all about. Now, that is not a simple matter. We are much like the many layers found in the proverbial onion. At first glance we are a public garden, but we are a very unusual concept for a garden because we display native plants - those found in the Pearl River Drainage Basin.
In this current day and age when sustainable, eco-friendly landscapes are all the rage, we can look back to the late 1970’s and early 1980’s to the time when the arboretum was conceived and developed. At that earlier time, the concept of a facility based on ecological principles was a radical concept in a world of traditional public gardens. And while the Crosby Arboretum is highly respected in the design world, how can we successfully convince our local public in this rural county that what may look just like their own backyard is in reality bursting at the seams with secrets and surprises waiting to be revealed? One person at a time, I believe.
Parents, we have heard it from your children when they visit on school field trips. We have heard them sigh and say they wished their school was here. How fortunate we are to have the chance to be a part of their excitement and discovery as they walk our trails. They tell us that they are having the best field trip ever. And each time so far, this has come from a child who has not yet made the first bend around the pond. Many times we are told that when they get back home they can't wait to tell you how great a time they've had and that they are going to bring you back. So, we sure hope they do.
Two programs in August will offer opportunities to explore and learn outdoors. Form lasting memories with our children’s clay class Saturday, August 11 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Children will gather natural materials and use them to make impressions in self-hardening clay. Cost to members’ children is $5, and $7 for non-members’ children.
A summer Arboretum field walk will be held on Saturday, August 25 from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. Trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plant material native to the region will be discussed, including how to use these plants in your home landscape. The field walk is free to members and $5 to non-members.
Reserve your space now in these upcoming programs by calling the Arboretum office at (601) 799-2311. For more information on the Arboretum, visit our website. We’re open Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and are located in Picayune, off I-59 Exit 4, at 370 Ridge Road (south of Walmart and adjacent to I-59).
For further exploration: If you know a pre-teen or adolescent who loves to explore nature, they may enjoy the book, Girls Who Looked Under Rocks: The Lives of Six Pioneering Naturalists, which tells about the lives of six renowned and award-winning naturalists, including Anna Botsford Comstock, Rachel Carson, and Jane Goodall. An excellent, timeless book for nature exploration is Anna Comstock’s Handbook of Nature Study, 100 years old in 2011, still going strong today. Anna was the founder and head of the Department of Nature Study at Cornell University.