I love walking through the woods – they are always changing. When I go with my 4-year old sidekick, we ask each other a lot of questions and take the time to explore whatever we stumble across. We have learned that we have more fun when we stop and take the time to observe nature.
She likes to collect nuts – I identify them for her and I often end up holding them.
“Grandpa. Hold onto these nuts.”
“I want to save them.”
You can’t argue with that. In fact she has small hordes of nuts and rocks stored in the cubbyholes in our cars and around our house. She always checks them out and entertains herself a lot by going through her collections when driving in the car or staying overnight.
When my pockets are full on hikes, we try to find a hole in a tree and put them in the hole – helping the animals who live in the tree build up their food storage for the winter. We know better than to reach into these crevasses, knowing there might be a hungry squirrel, raccoon, or snake nesting in there.
Speaking of snakes. My little friend and I found a snake lying on a gravel road.
“Is it alive?”
“I don’t think so. It’s not moving. Let’s take a stick to see.”
“It must be dead.”
“Yeah. I see three puncture wounds near its head. I wonder if a hawk, a fox, a coyote, or a cat killed it or was it just run over by a car?”
It was beautiful creature. Long stripes lay along both sides. We had seen garter snakes and black snakes before but this was more colorful. We determined that is was not poisonous because its head was not triangular or coppery. It was a sleek Eastern ribbon snake.
“Can I touch it?”
I thought about this for a moment and agree. So a certain 4-year old was authorized to pick it up. It was about 20 inches long. We took it home and put it in a ziploc bag and showed it off to all the people who came by over the next few days. After a week, the other residents of the house started complaining.
“What is that smell?”
We just looked at each other. “What smell.” We were instructed to bury our treasure. We discussed how it would make the soil richer for new life to come.
As a grandparent I want her to be aware of and respectful of nature. I want her to love the outdoors and to always be curious. I also want her to learn to think logically and creatively when it comes to how she interacts with all of life on this planet.
Most snakes in this region are beneficial and not poisonous. For example, black rat snakes are quite common and play an important role in keeping the ecosystem in balance. They also get to be 6-feet long and so they can be a little scary. In all my hikes I have only seen a single poisonous copperhead. It just lay there, it was not aggressive at all. But I did make a wide circle around it.