When was the last time you read a book that truly changed the way you looked at fly fishing?
Perhaps an author explained a technique in an original, helpful manner. It could be that a fly tyer developed a pattern that you’ve employed to great success. Or, a narrative might have been so engrossing that it propelled you to undertake an adventure of your very own.
The last book that I read that had a significant impact on the way I think about fly fishing isn’t a fly fishing book. In fact, it isn’t a fishing book at all. It is a book about the outdoors, and it is something that every parent who desires to foster a love for nature in their child should read.
The Sense of Wonder is a little book that will undoubtedly shape the way you see your own time, and the time with you spend with children, in nature. The Sense of Wonder is a posthumously published essay written by conservationist Rachel Carson. Carson, a revolutionary in many ways, is best known for her longer book Silent Spring. This work was instrumental in raising awareness to the ecological threats posed by chemicals like DDT and was part of a greater grassroots movement that culminated in the founding of the EPA.
Carson’s love for nature is on display in virtually all her writing. The Sense of Wonder is perhaps the most vivid portrayal she crafted regarding the intimacy between people and the environment. In it she argues for letting children explore the natural world as children. Their time overturning stones and balancing upon downed trees is more important than learning Latin names for insects and staying on the path.
We follow her as she follows her grandnephew Rodger’s exploits around the forests and tidal marshes of Maine. His perception is innocent and refreshing. Carson is convicted by it.
I am convicted by it.
So often we can take a pragmatic, journey is how you get to the destination, approach to outdoor pursuits. The fish is the goal of angling, the peak is the result of hiking, and so on. Boys and girls aren’t motivated by those same desires. They want to watch where the frog hops. They want to hop like the frog hops. That slows down the hike and it scares the trout.
But they remember those moments. They talk about the frog, and surprisingly, about all the details surrounding the frog in its habitat. Admittedly, I remember the frog and those moments with fondness as well.
In just over 100 pages (over half of which are photographs) Carson makes a compelling case for the inherent education within the natural world. Children, who are often more sensory driven than stodgily logical adults, perceive with amazement those things we often blaze by en route to something “better.”
As a parent, grandparent, or important person in a child’s life, The Sense of Wonder is a valuable lens through which you can see the world through new eyes. Eyes that are more perceptive to what a child will appreciate. But also eyes which will help view those enchanting things which you should be celebrating as well.
“Exploring nature with your child is largely a matter of becoming receptive to what lies all around you… ask yourself, ‘What if I had never seen this before? What if I knew I would never see it again?’”