As the landowner talked about river ecology, the dynamism of streams and the importance of backchannel habitat, Harley squatted down to the gravel bar, picking up rock after rock, after rock (after rock, and rock) – each one then thrown with glee into the creek at his feet. The delight was contagious, as the adults in the crowd couldn’t help but divert their eyes away from the talk at hand, to rest on the cherubic youngster so satisfied with this rock-throwing business. Each of us laughing at the simple pleasures of life as a two year old.
A few hours earlier our group listened to a respected Geologist talk about geomorphology, the Tyee formation, and the impact of the Missoula floods on western Oregon as we perched atop a bald mountain overlooking valleys and rivers below. Out of the corner of my eye I spy Harley, with a well-traveled toy dump truck in hand, contentedly carting miniature loads of gravel up and down a 5 foot section of the imposing forest road, unaware of the science at hand.
This youngster does not need the facts and figures to understand the world around him. His life is still at the mystical stage of sharing discussions with bugs and beatles, fish and pebble. There is no need to rationalize the joy behind his life or of nature, it just is.
With rubber boots thwapping in the dense green grass, Harley runs to his mom, eager to share the flower he has found. Eagerness practically spilling out of his smile and squeal.
At Greenbelt we often talk about the need to protect land, water, and livability for ‘future generations’. However, it is in moments like this when it becomes perfectly clear who we really are talking about. The weight of the responsibility to steward and safeguard our natural resources becomes a little more meaningful, a little more imperative, for every Harley that we encounter.
Harley is swept up into his mothers waiting arms, unaware of the impact that his presence has made on us adults, who will continue into our day with the residue of the child’s innate joy left in our thoughts. Inspired, I can’t help but pick up one pebble and throw it into the stream as well, entirely pleased with the plopping sound it makes as it sinks down into the gravel bed.