One of the best things about shifting my life to Evanston, Ilinois, each spring is the fragrance of lilacs that permeates the air. When I see and smell lilacs I become a young child sitting in my own special spot under the pale lavender lilac bushes, my bottom warmed by the sun-soaked South Jersey soil. Within the safety of my lilac bush everything else disappeared. All the childhood fears and anxiety were replaced with the joy of that very moment.

I was a princess preparing special “meals” for the prince! Plucking the perfect shiny green leaf, filling it with dark moist earth, folding it over into a little package and securing it with a well chosen speckled gray stick to create a lilac leaf “kabob” for my royal cat was the only task at hand and totally consumed all my senses. My old Persian cat barely tolerated my doting and most times would walk away before the meal was served to chase a fuzzy bumble bee. But I didn’t care.

It was all about the process of creating something all on my own from the natural substances within arms reach. I would sit there for hours. I was alone in my tiny backyard but there was the mulberry tree to climb, fall leaf houses to decorate, summer carnivals to plan, clothesline and snow fortresses to build.

Sundays were ravioli dinners and forest days at my grandparent’s house near Lake Gilman. The smell of those woods has lingered in my nostrils for more than 50 years.

Last summer I went back and found a tire swing in the exact same spot where my brother and I used to swing wildly, pretending to be Tarzan! My memories all rushed back and I couldn’t help feeling that this space in the woods of my childhood was sacred ground. Sacred ground for many children even today.

I’ve drawn often on these, and many other moments from my past, spent in nature. They’ve infused my thinking and carried me through all the difficulties, complexities and celebrations of my adult life. It’s not just that I remember. I AM all of these experiences. They are deeply a part of who I am. They are woven into the person I am and how I approach living every day. Who would I be if I had not spent those times in nature, with my whole being and senses fully alive?

This Wednesday (April 6), 4:00-6:00 pm, the Sunflower Roots & Shoots club is presenting our first ever G.O.! (Get Outside) event at Yamato Scrub Natural Area (701 Clint Moore Road), in Boca Raton.  G.O.! is a nationwide initiative led by Children & Nature Network, an organization founded by Richard Louv (Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder“) that encourages and supports people and organizations working nationally and internationally to reconnect children with nature.

Meet us on Wednesday at the start of the Cicada Nature Trail. Spend your first family “Green Hour” listening to the buzz of cicadas, watching osprey soar overhead, smelling the many Florida pines, gently touching the yellow blooming cacti and beautiful multitextured tree barks, while with every step truly tasting a delicious hour of nature!  First 50 families will receive a free family nature journal to document your experiences, a gift for participating in our first G.O.!

Register for our event here

Did you have your own special place in nature as a child? Share it with us on the blog! Post below.

Also, stay tuned… later this week we’ll share a list of our favorite natural areas in South Florida.

© Susan Caruso and Sunflower Creative Arts, 2011