Although the general public’s commitment to environmentalism and “going green” may be on the rise, the quantity and quality of many of our family’s interactions with the natural world are challenged by hectic schedules, lack of access, and the call of air conditioning on a hot summer’s afternoon, among countless other factors. To all who value the experiences that only the outdoors can provide, rejoicing is in order for Amy Lou Jenkins’ new book, Every Natural Fact: Five Seasons of Open-Air Parenting, a series of essays describing her outdoor adventures with her son in their native state of Wisconsin.
But really, this book is so very much more. At the base, Jenkins has written a book honoring the beauty and wonder of nature, and her writing style conveys a respect and adoration for this world. The graceful movements of a great blue heron hunting for his lunch are described with such beauty that I found myself holding my breath, as if my presence as a reader could have a disruptive effect on the scene laid out on the page.
In addition to the multitudes of wondrous descriptions of the environments she and her son explore, Jenkins also demonstrates a solid knowledge base of both the natural and man-made history of her state. She expertly weaves in information relating to the area and historical events and people who have affected the environment- from efforts to conserve land to literary creations honoring the natural world.
But what I found most compelling was the combination of those two aspects of Jenkins’ narrative with her reflections and insights on the responsibilities of parenting. She shares her personal history and describes her motivation to create these outdoor experiences with her second-born child in an effort to connect with him during the “tween” period of his life– a time that can often be challenging for mothers and sons. (This I can personally relate to. Definitely.) With an authentic voice and a sincerity that leaps off the page, Jenkins’ musings are sure to connect with many a parent, especially because of her honesty and openness.
Ratings that go above and beyond the standard five stars should be made specially available for books like this. Magnificent. Beautiful. Intelligent. Thoughtful. Touching. Exploring the natural environment while simultaneously creating a significant set of experiences with her son makes for an opportunity to contemplate huge issues like religion, spirituality, and personal relationships, and to continue to emphasize what she believes to be important for her son to know in his heart, while giving respect to the small details of the world that can be observed and sensed in the outdoor environment. Every Natural Fact: Five Seasons of Open-Air Parenting has jumped to the top of my list of books to recommend right now.
Seeing as I’m including this in our best-of-the-best list, 5 Star Reads, I’m really quite thrilled to be able to offer two copies of Every Natural Fact: Five Seasons of Open-Air Parenting for giveaway (giveaway at 5 Minutes for Mom closed).
Dawn may not have the wilds of Wisconsin in her back yard, but she certainly does have a ton of birds and bugs, both of which interest her children, and the stories of all their experiences are fodder for her blog, my thoughts exactly.