I started my career as an Arboretum educator knowing a fair amount about nature but not always knowing where that knowledge came from. I knew that cattail tubers could be roasted and eaten like potatoes, for instance, and that sassafras roots could be boiled to make a fragrant tea. I knew that acorns had to be soaked in water to rid them of inedible tannins, and that pine boughs would make a fairly soft bed.
But only a few weeks ago, while reading My Side of the Mountain to my son, did I realize that much of my early naturalist know-how was gleaned from its pages. My Side of the Mountain was one of my favorite childhood books, inspiring me to make forts in the woods, gather may apples, and, yes, run away from home (at least until dinnertime.) Obviously, the words of Jean Craighead George and her unforgettable character Sam Gribley had lingered long in my subconscious.
Books can serve as catalysts in many ways, and the Arboretum’s gift shop is full of wonderful nature books for both children and adults. Visit the gift shop Tuesday through Sunday to find literature that inspires your own outdoor adventure, be it gardening, foraging, birdwatching, hiking, camping, stargazing, or simply reading a good book under a shady tree.
by Jenny Houghton
Youth Program Coordinator