I had no idea the influence being on the board of a lake association would have on our then pre-teen children until I overheard them talking one day.

One was telling the other the name of the species of water plant they were looking at using an aquascope one summer day during their first Invasive Plant Patrol on North Pond. The plant identification course the three of us attended at the Maine Lakes Resource Center in Belgrade Lakes in late spring that year ignited their sense of wonder and curiosity about what else was growing and living under the water in the lake they fished, tubed and swam in.

Their fascination with the carnivorous underwater plant bladderwort kept their attention the entire three hours on patrol. Was it because I too was fascinated with bladderwort and shared my enthusiasm with them as I explained how it ate? I am quite positive it did.

Before I had my own children, I was an elementary education graduate assistant for an incredible professor who gifted me the book “The Sense of Wonder by Rachel Carson.

Carson was a world-renowned marine biologist, author and environmentalist who served as an aquatic biologist and editor-in-chief for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. She had a summer home on the southern coast of Maine near where Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge is today.

One of her most recognized quotes is, “If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.” Those are words I chose to live by as soon as I read them, and I started by being that adult with my nieces and nephews.

I fondly remember the companionship of the adult who shared with me, my siblings and cousins and got our generation thinking about the natural world around us; it was my father’s mother.

Growing up in a small town with five siblings and 11 cousins who lived in close proximity, we were blessed to be exposed to the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we lived in through our grandmother, Nanny. Nanny’s winter nature hikes, with five or six of us with her at a time, were a highlight of my youth. She even made trudging through knee-high snow an exciting adventure, and I don’t remember anyone ever complaining about how cold it was.

Nanny knew just when to stop and have us build a campfire using the driest moss and twigs. She knew, but we were learning, thanks to her instructions. The hot chocolate made over the open fire never tasted so good, and I have a good idea she knew she was instilling a sense of wonder in each of us even if it wasn’t her intent.

It was always my husband’s and my intent, with a camp on the lake, to raise children who would become the adults who recreate on the lake and carry on with the plant paddles, secchi disc readings and plant identification. We also hoped to instill the passion to take action to improve the water quality of the lake, where their sense of wonder can be rediscovered over and over again.

What better way to keep their sense of wonder alive and strong by carrying on the conservation efforts their lake association puts forth year in and year out? Our hope is that the cycle will continue.

Our lake savvy preteens went on to become Courtesy Boat Inspectors two summers ago, at age 14. Donning their bright yellow CBI t-shirts and clipboards, they would hop on their bikes and ride off to the boat launch for their shifts.

Their father and I would get calls from time to time telling us to get there if we wanted to see hatching turtles, the otters crossing from one side of the road to the other, or the beavers slapping their tails. We’d be called to see the king birds building their nests, the blossoming rugosa roses growing wild along the ditch, or the spider webs created on tree branches, wet with dew, sparkling in the early morning sun.

Yes, their sense of wonder is alive and well.

Please join me, my husband and other conservation-minded adults who make that difference by keeping alive our children’s inborn sense of wonder. Be that adult and make a difference.

Jodie Mosher-Towle is president of North Pond Association. She wrote this on behalf of the Lake Trust, which represents The 7 Lakes Alliance of the Belgrade Lakes.


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