By Jim Goulet
My first love in childhood was nature. In my childhood my family moved around a lot. From age three to five, I lived in the projects in Woonsocket, Rhode Island. I had trouble fitting in with the other children, since I was shy and dreamy, so I turned to nature.
I would go into the woods behind the Project buildings and explore the rich landscapes of soft mosses and beautifully delicate little blue and white flowers. I would keep these adventures to myself, since others (even my family), would not understand the joy I felt in exploring this secret world of nature. I felt that these walks in the woods brought me such relief and were a refuge from my wounded childhood.
I was a sensitive child with a harsh father, whom I could never seem to please. I guess I wasn’t the tough kind of boy he would have preferred; hence the woods were a means of escape form the drama of this dysfunctional relationship.
In Catholic School, I found more of the same disapproval, the teachers said that I did not pay attention or follow directions. I felt I was not meant for this world of cold hallways and stone faces. I would play in the leaves in a make believe world, like the story of the “Secret Garden,” by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
One day there was a fire in the woods, and my heart fell as I watched the fire trucks and firemen trample the delicate beauty of those precious woods. It had been ruined, burned and trampled, the plants, mosses and little flowers were all but gone. Sadly, as far as I know, it never grew back the same.
Then it wasn’t long before my family moved to a cabin in the woods of Box Pond in Bellingham, Massachusetts. Again I found sanctuary in the woods, though it was different, there were beautiful wild lady slippers tucked away among the leaves under those tall pine trees, and I was grateful. I still missed my trampled little flowers and mosses back in Woonsocket, but I had to move on. The lady slippers captured my imagination with their incredibly gorgeous, delicate and endangered flowers. I would often walk through the woods and connect with nature as Henry David Thoreau advised. On the first day of school, I remember being so nervous that I got sick waiting for the school bus, then I got on the wrong bus coming home, perhaps it was symbolic of being a lost boy. My memory is full of loud, scary thunder storms and the roof leaking in that old run down cabin. Life must be examined backward, but lived forward. My family and I only stayed there for about a year, and then we moved to Point Judith, Rhode Island, where I fell in love with the ocean.
I loved to swim in the clear water and loved making sand castles in the soft sand. The beauty of long walks on the beach and seeing the colorful sunsets filled me with awe.
A few years ago, while watching the movie, “Into the Wild” I really identified with Chris McCandless in his journey of exploration, openness and aliveness. The movie seemed to put so many expectations and illusions into perspective. Through the years my life has taken many twists and turns, but I’ll never forget my first love of nature, which continues to enrich my life and awareness.