When I recall some of my treasured childhood memories, I picture myself either surrounded by trees and mountains or sand dunes and an ocean that stretches out as far as you can see. Parks and beaches were the best playgrounds and I was lucky to have them so close, as well as parents who exposed us to the great wonders of nature and taught us to appreciate and respect the wilderness.
It was a childhood packed with outdoor adventures. When I go back as far as I can remember, I’m at a park near our house feeding ducks and walking through the woods to climb a tree we named Irving. Our family’s summer vacations were camping trips to state and national parks, where we played in lakes, rivers, and oceans and hiked the Appalachian Trail. The rest of our summer days were enjoyed close to home at the beach, splashing in the white water then learning to jump waves and swim out past the breakers.
We went to the beach even during the colder months to walk the boardwalk nature trail. I didn’t know then that the area—the Otis Pike Fire Island High Dune Wilderness—was protected as part of the Wilderness Act, which was passed 50 years ago today. It was right down the road and also housed a nature center where park rangers would answer questions about the displays on the barrier island ecosystem. What a gift.
Here’s the ID bracelet mentioned previously in a post on things I wear that make me feel young. I made this bracelet when I was a teen, using the glass turquoise beads from a broken set of rosary beads and lettered beads I got from a shop on Long Island called Fantasyland. My mother shopped at Fantasyland for all her crafting needs—and it was one of my favorite places for tagging along. Mom went to the section with dried flowers and other materials for her wreath-making and flower-arranging; I went to the bead section and marveled at all the colors and varieties. On a counter in the jewelry section was a large fishbowl filled with hundreds of lettered beads and I remember digging for the letters in my name. The first bracelet I made was by stringing those lettered beads with colored plastic ones on elastic thread. Later I taught myself to cut and twist wire to make chains of beads (using rosary beads as my model), but the elastic bracelet was a hit with junior high friends who paid me to make them similar bracelets and necklaces. I was happy for my own reason to visit Fantasyland and to collect some cash for doing something that was so much fun. Making stuff, including jewelry, still ranks as one of my favorite activities. When I recently consolidated all my beads and jewelry-making materials in plastic bins, I found the pictured Fantasyland postcard and other beads acquired way back when—including the remaining beads from the rosary used to make the ID bracelet, which I put to use by making the dangly earrings seen to the right of the bracelet.