I didn’t know what a riparian buffer zone was until I became an environmental educator, but those green ribbons of life surrounding streams and waterways were already written on my soul. They are the favored scenery of my childhood, recalling lazy summer afternoons spent with a best friend dangling our feet into cool ripples where minnows nibbled our toes. Skunk cabbage leaves—or elephants’ ears, as we called them then—brushed cool against our thorn-scratched legs, and may apples served as fairy food, their sharp smell released with a thumb nail.
Some of us are blessed to work in a field that allows us to pursue our passions. The pathway I followed from childhood to adulthood twisted and turned yet still led inexorably to the verdant waterways I have always loved. Spring is my favored streamside season, when the banks swell with growing things, and the rich smell of the forest floor rises with each footstep. Virginia bluebell, golden ragwort, and spring beauties dot the landscape, soon to be followed by that even rarer beauty, the pink ladyslipper.
Every childhood should have a stream running through it. Revisit yours along the Arboretum’s Blockston Branch, and be sure to bring a young friend along.
by Jenny Houghton
Youth Program Coordinator
photos by Kellen McCluskey