This piece has had a lot of positive response and since it is not posted online by the Cape Codder I am posting it here.
Every year we hear the same complaints about the over commercialization of our winter holidays and yet every year folks still head off to the mall and fill bags full of all sorts of things they hope will make their friends and loved ones happy, even if it is only for a minute or so. We all hope to find a gift that is meaningful and that will stand the test of time but it seems to get harder and harder to do so.
Maybe we’re just looking in the wrong places. It really isn’t all that hard to find long lasting, meaningful gifts, especially if we just look outside our own back doors instead of in the advertising flyers.
It’s true that technological gifts are tops on many people’s lists but these days most of the nature guides come in an “app” or application form that can be loaded up on a phone, tablet or laptop. Many birders carry all sorts of reference materials on their phones these days, including e-books that help them find great places to hike and look for birds. Young people love these sorts of things and since many of them are doing their learning on computers and tablets in school they are more likely to look for info there than in books. I know, I know, we old school-ers love our books and thumbing through pages but as a now aging man once said, “The times, they are a changing…”
For those looking to give nature books as gifts there are many good ones to choose from, whether you are looking for a classic like Henry Beston’s “Outermost House” or Bob Finch’s wonderful new pocket sized book “A Cape Cod Notebook” there’s lots of good fireside reading out there.
But what about a gift that actually includes getting out in nature instead of reading about it or watching a video about it? Family memberships to any of our nature related organizations and museums make great gifts and are often something young families put off because they can’t afford it. Don’t forget that many local land trusts also offer memberships and also offer free walks for families throughout the year.
There are books filled with maps for bike riders and walkers, kayakers and hikers as well. Why not add a gift certificate for a walk or bike ride once a month? A friend of mine does something like this for her parents with home cooked meals and I thought, what a great excuse to get together once a month and have a great meal as well as a nice visit. Why not do the same sort of thing with a grandchild or other child? Imagine if they were taken on a different nature walk with a favorite adult throughout the year? That would be fun and enriching for everyone.
Nature is filled with free gifts right outside our doors and windows. You can buy a family, child or older friend a bird feeder or bird house or better yet, make one with them to hang outside their window. Teach a child how to make prints from leaves, grasses and seeds or learn together to make pictures with seaweeds, using their natural glues to adhere them to paper. Make a calendar using photos of your favorite outdoor places, plants, butterflies or birds. This would be especially nice to do with photos of your year’s walks so maybe plan this sort of thing for next year.
While you’re at it, why not make plans to take a special walk in a new place each month with your sweetie? Leave the phone at home and enjoy a special time together. Take your mom or dad, your grandma or your uncle. Explore a town conservation area you’ve never been to. Exploring nature together is truly a gift that keeps on giving. And, it’s free. Imagine that.