Happy Father’s Day! (Almost…)

My dad, Paul Lightfoot, with one of his favorite tree climbing buddies.

Somehow, I let Mother’s Day slip right by on the blog. It was a busy weekend — two nephews got dedicated in their churches. Lots of time with family. Good times.

But the fact that Father’s Day is coming up got me thinking. You know, my family loves the Smokies. We love to hike, play in the mountain streams, etc. But that’s our Tennessee alter-ego. In “normal” life, we are really more city-people.

In fact, my husband and I live in a townhouse, to avoid lawn work. We don’t mow the lawn. Or shovel the snow. Or remulch in spring. We don’t have a garden. And we don’t spend a single minute in the spring working on the landscaping. But we do love the outdoors.

And I know right which direction to point to give credit to the fact that I don’t mind spending a sweaty day on the trail. Or the fact that there are few things more fun to me than balancing on a fallen tree.

The credit goes right to my daddy. He has 3 daughters, but he was determined to get a bit of tomboy in them. And I’d say it worked, in each of our cases. :)

Some of the things my dad did to ensure we’d love nature:

  • We kept “pet” daddy long-legs. We’d name them and claim the corner of the porch that “our” spider lived in. :) My kids are terrified of bugs. I broached this idea with them once and they looked at me like I was crazy. I don’t have the same knack, I guess.
  • We climbed trees. But we could never keep up with our dad. He’s still (at nearly 60 years old!) the best tree climber I know. He can scurry right up a tree like a giant squirrel. My daughter might be the second-best tree climber I know. I tell her she has the climbing gene.
  • We pressed flowers. My father is a botanist. He would help us find the most beautiful flowers, then press them between the dusty pages of heavy old books. The funny thing is, I don’t remember ever doing anything with them once they were pressed. In fact, I’d bet at least a small amount of money that there are old books with pressed flowers permanently smashed onto the pages in my parents’ house today.
  • We went on wheelbarrow rides. And I got to re-experience this through my children’s eyes. My dad would lovingly get an old bedspread and stuff it down in his trusty wheelbarrow. Then load in my kids, side-by-side. Then they’d take off, around his 5-acres of land and into the woods. He’d show them flowers and trees and probably spend long amounts of time whistling and not talking much, if I know my dad. He did it for us and he did it for them. Sadly, I think they are outgrowing it now. Not enough room for those long, spindly legs in the old wheelbarrow.
  • He had a respect for all living things. When we’d scream, “Daddy, there’s a spider in the sink!!!” my dad would calmly come and scoop up the spider in his hand, and pretend to eat it with a twinkle in his eye (EVERY time! Dad’s nothing if not predictable). Then he’d take it outside to release it. We’d complain, saying it was just going to come back in, and he always told us how the spiders eat the mosquitoes, so we don’t want to kill them. Well, I confess that I killed a tiny spider in our house today. But I never kill one without at least thinking about how I shouldn’t. :) And wondering how many mosquitoes will bite me because I killed a spider.

Just a few of my memories of my old (but not too old!) dad to brighten your Friday. Thanks, Dad, for giving me a love for nature. I may not know the difference between varieties of pine trees or be able to tell you what the orange flowers growing in your yard right now are called, but I’m not afraid of bugs. And I can cross a raging river on a fallen tree. And it’s all because of you.

Check out some of the great nature posts written by Paul Lightfoot: Fire in the Southern Mountains; Green All Winter Long; Magic on the Balds.

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