When my grandmother died in the 1960s, my mother cleaned out her house and brought home crates of her own childhood books. Two of my favorites were Maida’s Little Shop and Maida’s Little House. I read them over and over, immersing myself into a world where people treated each other with kindness and respect, and old-fashioned, hands-on pursuits were valued.
Recently, I read both books to my daughter. In Maida’s Little House, I was struck by how connected the characters are to nature. Maida, the once-frail daughter of a wealthy financier in the early 1900s, invites her robust friends to join her in housekeeping for the summer in a little house somewhere in New England. The grounds of the little house include a lake, woods, and access to the beach. The children are amazingly independent, and work hard in the vegetable garden and taking care of their house, childcare and cooking, but also spend significant hours lounging and talking, eating popcorn before a fire, swimming in the lake, canoeing and growing strong through contact with nature. The children know the names of every flower that grows in the garden, every tree in the woods, every fish in the lake. The children track down dear and watch them quietly, explore caves, wander off alone for picnics across the lake. It’s a beautiful world I enjoyed visiting again. And it reminded me why I became an environmental educator — to experience that connection in my own life.
The photo is of a garden flower I know and love — white yarrow.