(Unnatural) nature

Last week, I took my granddaughter and her best friend to the local swimming pool. The aroma of bacteria-killing chemicals assaulted us as we entered the pool area. Within about a half hour, one of the girls came to me.

“Do my eyes look red,” she asked.

A few minutes later, we picked up our gear and went home. It’s a little less fun swimming in water that makes your eyes burn.

Granddaughter Ari  is more into physical stuff than her elder cousin. She likes bicycle riding and wading in streams, finding snails and snatching lightning bugs in mid-flight. We lay on the hammock one recent evening and watched a couple bats flutter around for their evening meals.

“Do they bite,” Ari asked.

“Not unless you catch one,” I said, “but you can’t.”

Bats are extremely good at catching, and possibly even better at remaining uncaught.

And Ari likes swimming. It is great fun sitting at poolside, watching her toss a set of plastic sinking torpedoes into the water, then dive down to find them. It is even more fun to get in with her and take turns, each of us scattering the toys for the other to find and retrieve.

Early in the game, it’s easy, but the longer she is in the water, the more difficult it gets. A concrete swimming hole full of chemical-laced water is not easy on the eyes. It’s not easy on anything, though I suppose it helps keep swimming goggle makers from the unemployment line.

A few years ago I wrote a story about a brand of commercial apple sauce, which was treated to such a degree that the company spokesman proudly proclaimed it incapable of supporting life.

The bottom of restaurant menus warn us that insufficiently cooked food may be hazardous to our health.

By the time much of what we partake is safe, it is not fit to eat. Or swim in.

I visited my son in Cincinnati awhile ago, and drove to the market for some “fresh” apples. When I bit into one, I discovered a strong reminiscence of a bowl of wooden fruit that decorated a dining room table of my youth. The edible fruit was in the kitchen, where everyone gathered to eat except on very special holidays, when the wooden fruit would be replaced with the best china.

There is a lake near my home – a reservoir full of clean, clear drinking water. We are not allowed to swim in it, in part, we are told, because people exude pharmaceuticals treatment plants cannot remove.

The argument almost begins to make sense, until we realize we already have the chemicals in us, much of them from drinking water someone else already has used. We ban gasoline motors from the lake, but the road grime we wash from our canoes and kayaks is probably worse than any drugs we might sweat from our bodies.

Clearly, we are part of the environment in which we live. We breath and exhale the air, drink and exude the water, and otherwise share and reshare this planet we call home.

From the perspective of a young fellow who has swum in a 500-acre wild pond, watched Common Loons “fly” underwater and swum up the entrances of beaver huts, it is easy to see why our offspring fail to discern the connection to their surroundings, from which we make every effort to pretend to keep them separated.

We keep them “safe” at home rather than afford them the opportunity to experience the forest or swim in free-flowing water?

How should they realize what we are destroying for them when they have never experienced what we had?

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