I have noticed that since moving to the country, my eyes and ears have started working better. I take more time to see and hear. The flock of birds that flies by above me makes a whizzing sound. The noises in the distant fields at night have names and strange faces. When I go on walks with my three children, we stop to look at little miracles on the ground, and then stuff them in our pockets to examine more closely at home. And while Christine doesn’t always appreciate the creepy crawlies that come as attachments to these treasures, she does display a “nature board” in our workroom – a large piece of foam board, with pine needles, leaves and bugs pinned to it in elegant display.
I don’t disparage city life, for urban areas are as much a mission field as any in our messed up world. We need good people everywhere, doing good things wherever they are. And as for that, my parents chose to raise their 6 kids in Pontiac, MI, instead of becoming missionaries in a foreign land. I have taught in city schools for most of my career, and my children were all born in the great city of Lexington, KY. I love the lights and the life and the wild Whitman spirit that pulses through a city’s veins.
But one can hardly visit our large and sprawling urban areas, and not think of Babel. And not think of the destructive pride that accompanies metal and glass and material growth. Again, I am no Romantic who believes a return to nature is just what mankind needs to solve all of its problems. No. Wherever we go, there we are – our own fallen-ness follows like a dog.
However, the vision of Whetstone Boys Ranch is that boys at-risk are much more likely to become less “at risk” if they can be surrounded by the beauty and timeless truths of nature. And while there is truth in the city – in museums and libraries and cathedrals…and yes, even universities – it is much harder to find. In nature, these truths abound, and boys don’t have to wade through anything but tall grass and sometimes a little cow manure, to find it.