Richard Louv, who wrote the book Last Child in the Woods (which helped inspire our decision to “skip middle school”) has written a new book The Nature Principle: Reconnecting With Life in a Virtual Age, which I just placed on hold at our library. From the title you can probably guess that his new book is about how we might feel better if we spent more time in nature than most of us currently do. He believes it is so vital for our well-being that we should think of it as “vitamin N.” The benefits of vitamin N? University of Michigan researchers have demonstrated that one-hour of nature time led to a 20% improvement in memory and attention span. In 2012, University of Kansas researchers reported a 50% boost in creativity for people who spent a few days in nature.
We just spent four days in one of our favorite nature havens: Cambria, California. Tucked half-way between Los Angeles and Santa Cruz off of Highway 1, it is where we go when we want to breathe fresh air that reaches the deepest part of our lungs, stare out at the wild sea and feel our brains relax, and walk on nature trails that allow us to slow down and notice beautiful details. During our Applewood School adventure, Natalie and I were lucky enough to spend an entire month in Cambria focused on nature studies.
On our most recent walk in the Cambria woods, she thoughtfully rescued me from inadvertently touching some poison oak, which is widespread this time of year. We both nearly stepped in horse poop (for more on poop identification read “Who Pooped in the Park?” by Gary D. Robson & Elijah Brady Clark).
This is where I was going to insert a photo of the “poop” but Natalie convinced me that it was unnecessary. However, she does recommend the book mentioned above.
Each and every day during our month in Cambria, we walked on the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve Trail. Natalie now knows its nooks and crannies, and “middens.” Here she is pointing to a midden, which is an ancient American Indian refuse heap containing small pieces of shells, bones, and broken tools.
The soil here is different, rich with decomposed material. Pieces of broken tools can be found.
Although the midden is surrounded by forest, trees don’t grow in the midden due to the soil composition. It’s wonderful to stand here and suddenly see and feel the cool mist of the sea waft over us.
William wishes he could begin each day like this…