Is the Fort Haunted?

Is the Fort Haunted?

Rising from the shore of the Penobscot River, Fort Knox is a sight to behold. The sheer size of the fort and the incredible workmanship it took to construct makes Fort Knox appear as the mid-coast Maine version of the Great Pyramid. The fortified design is a taunt to enemies that never came—dare to enter, dare to fire, dare to take away America’s freedom. The irony of Fort Knox is in what didn’t occur—no enemy ever fired on it, no soldiers ever died in combat, and no officers or soldiers ever even lived within its walls. It is as if the splendor of Fort Knox itself is a ghost, a duplicitous sister fort, a possibility of what could have been.  It is a representation of a bygone era in warfare—built a little too late, in a place a little too out of the way,

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Entering Fort Knox…

Entering Fort Knox…

Entering Fort Knox through heavy iron gates, under a massive stone pediment feels as if you are heading into a labyrinth. The stone is smothered with years of rust and dripping lime. Mold paints the monotonous gray in a greenish palette. This high above the Penobscot River there is always a breeze, the wind reinforcing the mournful mood of the fort. Footsteps echo on the perfectly pointed red brick and immediately the temperature drops.

There are hot spots of paranormal energy in this cavernous building and you need only  rely on the hair on the back of your neck to know where those places are: two step alley and long alley; the officer’s quarters; the casemates, where cannon once stood; and various storage rooms. Hundreds of visitors have felt this energy and experienced strange things while walking through the fort.

What is it about the fort that makes it a veritable ghost chamber? As we know, only three confirmed deaths have been reported, but dying at a location is not prerequisite to haunting there. Many experts in the field of paranormal research assert that there are conditions that make some places better for haunting than others. Certain geomagnetic forces converge to make a place susceptible to spiritual activity. Fort Knox stands at the confluence of swirling waters, vast stores of granite, and a generally cold climate, all triggers for haunting. Other spiritual practitioners, called geomancers, claim the earth has “ley lines” that carry energy in a grid formation. According to practitioner David Yarrow, ley lines are “long wave, extremely low frequency beams of earth energy that connect regional points of power.” Maine has a ley line running directly through the state and ending at the Canadian Island of Campobello. All of these elements together could make the fort a “warp.” Joshua Warren says that a warp is a sort of “paranormal catchall.” Warps defy space and time and may create “portals through which an entity might be able to materialize, or gain some kind of access, more easily and with more strength due to the thinned veil.”

Is the fort resting on some hidden psychic trigger that when pulled allows for spirits to pass through and walk its vast chambers? Are the ley lines pointing right at a portal opening to mass haunting? Many of the visitors, fort employees, area psychics, and paranormal investigators, believe this is so and in the following pages they will share their stories.

There’s Gold In There Hills…

There’s Gold In There Hills…

Gold Fever: Panning for Gold

“Playfulness is a prospector’s greatest strength when trying to unlock the mysteries on the next bend of the river.” –C.J. Stevens

Can you really catch a fever from gold? Or get a bite from a gold bug? Well, give yourself one day spent on a gold producing river, with a pan in your hand, and I guarantee you will know what these sayings mean. Calling up images of the Wild West, the gold rush, and pioneers, gold hunting is alive and well today and is a great activity for the entire family. Take a gently rushing river, a sunny summer day, and a bunch of kids on a quest for gold, and you have the ingredients for a day that you won’t forget and one that may even make you rich!

Just as any kind of treasure hunt demands patience, gold panning is no exception. Many start a day of panning thinking they are going to find chunks of gold to rival Indiana Jones. But any future gold hunter best set their mind to working because it takes a lot of digging around to find a real nugget and not just ‘fool’s gold’ or mica. Panning takes practice and grit. So, channel your inner ‘49er (which is what people from the California gold rush were called) pay attention to the following tips on panning, and you will have a head start in your quest for riches.

As you start on this path, you are now called a prospector. A prospector is anyone who explores an area for mineral deposits. A “prospect” means that something might happen in the future and in the case of panning for gold, it means you might possibly find what is known as “the mother lode!”

Finding a Place in the River

The first step in your hunt is to find a gold producing river. Gold is a mineral that is found in sediment. Sediment is the crushed up remains from when rocks were dragged by glaciers, millions of years ago. Or when the bedrock, which is the solid rock that makes up the earth’s crust eroded. Bits of gold over time have been pulled out of this bedrock and can now be found in the sandy bottoms of rivers. How do you know if the river that runs near your house is filled with gold? Gold can be found in nature throughout all of the fifty states but not always in quantities that make it worth prospecting. The good news is that about half of the states have enough gold stores to dig in. The best source to determine if you have gold nearby is your state government’s website which should have a link to the state’s geological survey or Bureau of Mines. Ask around. Are there any mining or mineral shops nearby? Local rock clubs are a wealth of information. Do you know anyone who is into metal detecting? Talk to forest and park rangers. Does the river near you have lots of black sand on the bottom or rocks with a metallic sheen?

Once you find a river that has some history of gold discovery, you need to read the river for the spots where the gold likes to hang out. Often in rushing rivers, the bedrock is exposed along streambeds and shorelines. The cracks in the bedrock are where gold tends to pile up and get trapped. As you watch the river flow, look for areas where the water slows down such as the bottom of a rapid or a bend in the river. Gold is often found at the edges of whirlpools and sometimes gold streaks are found on a sandbar. Also, look for obstructions, places where a ledge or a big boulder juts out and the water has to move around them.

Equipment

Panning for gold doesn’t require fancy or expensive equipment and if you go to a river known for its gold production, chances are there will be a store where you can rent the pans and shovels you need. Keep in mind that given you will be knee deep in water for a good chunk of time, a good pair of water shoes or waders might be helpful. Sneakers you don’t mind getting wet are ideal because they have better traction than water shoes.

The most essential piece of equipment for gold panning is the pan. Some people use a pie plate or a frying pan. But these days, most prospectors use a plastic pan with a series of ridges or “riffles” on one side. The average size pan has a 12-14 inch wide bottom. The plastic pan is lightweight, durable, and is usually a color that provides a sharp contrast to the gold, such as dark green or black.

A small shovel or trowel is important to dig away bigger rocks and get deeper into the hidden gold stores. But remember to be gentle as you dig. The bottoms of rivers are homes to many small creatures so try not to disturb too much of their environment in your quest for the nuggets.

A glass vial is necessary to collect all of your gold flakes and some people like to have a pair of tweezers to put these flakes into their vials so they don’t fly or drift away.

As always, bring your keen mind, strong hands, and a curious heart and as prospector Sam Raddy says, “grab your equipment and let the gold times roll!”

How to Pan for Gold

The most important fact to understand as you begin your prospecting adventures is that gold is very heavy—even heavier than lead. This is important because when you are filtering the water and sand out of your pan, the gold will be the last thing remaining on the very bottom of your pan. As renowned gold prospector, C.J. Stevens says, “Let the weight of the gold work for you, and never forget that gravity is your friend!”

Step 1:

Pick some promising material to work and fill your pan about halfway.  Always pan in still or slow moving water that is about one foot deep.

Step 2:

Break up the material as if you are kneading dough and pull apart any materials that cling together such as chunks of clay.

Step 3:

Once the “pay dirt” is loosened up, swirl the pan in a circular motion and then shake it side to side. Make sure your pan is held flat and under water. C.J. Stevens suggests shaking the pan back and forth like a person saying no—to settle the gold at the bottom.

Step 4:

Pick the bigger rocks out and throw them back into the water.

Step 5:

Place the side of your pan with the ridges away from you and tilt it toward the water about 10 degrees. Most of the pan should be under water. When you raise the pan, the spilling action of the water will pull the layer of lighter dirt over and out of the pan.

Step 6:

The material left in the pan ( about a couple of tablespoons) will be the heaviest—black sand, pink garnets and hopefully, gold! Pull the pan out of the water but make sure there is still about an inch of water left in the pan. Slightly tilt the pan and swirl to see if you can spot any shiny bits. Place the pan in the water one last time, gently shaking and swirling to get the remaining sand out. Be careful because if you are too rough with your shaking, you might lose precious gold flakes. Drain out the rest of the water and see if any tiny flakes of gold are hanging out on the bottom just waiting for you! If so, get out your tweezers and place them in your vial.

Repeat as necessary!

###

If on the first day of panning you walk away from the river with pockets full of gold nuggets, chances are that some of it might have fooled you. Pyrite, also known as “fool’s gold” and mica have a strong resemblance to gold and are plentiful in gold producing rivers but have major structural differences. First, both pyrite and mica are lighter than gold so they won’t stay on the bottom of your pan. And if you hit pyrite and mica with a hammer, they will shatter but gold will flatten. Once you have sifted the fool’s gold from the gold, you can take what’s left and yell “eureka” all the way to the bank!

Rocks, Gems and Minerals – Oh My!

Rocks, Gems and Minerals – Oh My!

Do your coat pockets weigh ten pounds because you can’t bear to leave any newfound rock specimens behind? Perhaps you have an entire drawer filled with rocks from different places you’ve traveled or a collection of crystals and mica that has grown since you were old enough to know not to throw rocks at your little sister or brother. Well, then this is the chapter you have been waiting for! According to a young geologist I know, holding a rock in the palm of your hand is like “holding a piece of time.” While holding this record of time, questions immediately arise, what kind of rock is it, how old is it, and where did it come from? These questions form the basis of the scientific process and by asking them you are following in the footsteps of geologists and earth scientists everywhere. Geology, the study of the origin, structure and history of the earth, is a complicated field and people study it for their entire lifetimes. For our treasure hunting purposes, we will glaze over the science focusing more on how to gather cool and perhaps even valuable rocks and minerals and be able to tell what they are.

The hobby of gathering rocks and minerals is known as rock hounding. Younger rock hounds are sometimes called “pebble pups” but basically you are hounding, like a dog, for rock and mineral specimens worthy of your collection. What is amazing about rock hounding is the incredible variety of colors, textures, and shapes that are created from the earth. That these glittering gems and bold specimens are pushed up through the ground is nothing short of magical. When mining the earth for a rock or a mineral, you are pulling something out of the earth’s dusty chamber that no one else has ever seen or touched. This unearthed treasure could very well be a valuable piece of jewelry. But keep in mind the advice from rock hound, John Allen May, “It is a hobby without parallel…you may become rich but you are more likely to become happy.”

 

Geocaching 101

Geocaching 101

With clues, a trail to follow, a creed, and even some Harry Potter terminology, geocaching is the latest treasure hunting craze. Geocaching started in 2000 as an offshoot of letterboxing, which we will discuss further on in this chapter. This hobby is truly taking the world by storm as more than six million geocachers worldwide have hit the trail in search of the 2,249,535 active geocaches. There is even a geocache in space! So what is all the fuss about and what exactly is geocaching? Anyone who has ever found a cache while holding a handheld GPS unit can speak to the suspense, the thrill, and the treasure awaiting at the end. The word “geo” means earth and the word “cache” (pronounced cash) means a place for hiding things. Which means you will be exploring the earth for hidden containers bearing treasure. Caches are what explorers, gold miners, and pirates have used for centuries to hide their loot. In this case, the cache you will find is hidden on a certain set of coordinates, the set point that locates a position on a map. The cache is filled with cool trinkets and a log book to sign. But how exactly will you find these hidden caches?

The first step to geocaching is registering at one of the many geocache Websites such as geocaching.com. To do this part you will need access to the internet. You will also need a hand held GPS unit. GPS stands for global positioning system which means the unit is able to give you your exact position in longitude and latitude coordinates at all times. Once you register on-line, you will need to choose a special geocaching name for yourself like “Raider of the Lost Cache” or “The Cache Kid” or even “Mad Dog.” Provide your zip code and all of a sudden a list of every geocache located in your area will pop up. You might be surprised that there are caches located in places you go all the time! As you look at the list of nearby geocaches, you will see that they are rated on how difficult they are to find and how challenging the terrain is by a five-star sytem—1 star is the easiest and 5 is the hardest. You will also learn how far away the cache is, the size and type, when it was placed, and when it was last found. And last but not least, you will find a clue. Many geocache clues are in code like this:

Decryption Key

A|B|C|D|E|F|G|H|I|J|K|L|M
————————-
N|O|P|Q|R|S|T|U|V|W|X|Y|Z

(Letter above equals below, and vice versa)

Or the clue might be a riddle. Whatever form the clue comes in, decipher it and write it down. If your parents have a smart phone, you can download a geocaching app that will have all of this information to  bring with you on your hike. The app will even guide you to the cache. Note: Do not rely solely on the smart phone app to find the geocache because depending on where you go, cell phone signals get confused or weak, especially in dense forests or on top of high mountains.

Once you’ve chosen the geocache you want to locate, it’s time to get ready for your adventure. Sometimes you will find the geocache quickly and easily while other times it might take all day. Prepare for the second reality. Pack a backpack with water, snacks, an extra layer, sunscreen, bug spray, a map of the area, and most importantly a compass. Even with your GPS, you still might need help heading true north. The last thing to pack is a treasure to leave in the geocache. An important rule in geocaching is if you take a treasure, you must leave something of equal or greater value. As John McKinney, author of Let’s Go Geocaching says, “Remember the golden rule, leave for others what you’d like others to leave for you.” The stuff inside a geocache is called SWAG, which stands for “stuff we all get.” Examples of good geocache swag are small toys, crystals, key chains, bracelets, or outdoor gear like carabineers. Never leave trash, food, things you found on the trail like pinecones or rocks, or broken toys. Another good rule from John McKinney is “if you can’t bring it to school, don’t leave it in a geocache.” No knives or firecrackers!

Once you are packed and armed with your GPS, the coordinates, and your clue, onward! Yet only when you arrive at the coordinates does the hunt truly begin. Think about the clue then look up, down, and around every square foot within about 16-20 feet of the coordinates. Geocaching.com warns that “geocaches are hidden in plain sight and never buried, but they are often very cleverly camouflaged.” This part of the hunt can be tricky and now is when you need all of your observation powers, persistence, and stick-to-it-iv-ness. As one of my young friends said about this stage, “I wanted to give up and not give up at the same time.” Sometimes you feel like you are going in circles and most likely you are. I have circled within five feet of a geocache for more than two hours before screaming, “I found it, I really found it.” In this particularly tricky case, the cache was designed to look like a rock and so it blended in with the other rocks it was wedged under.

After you find the cache and have a “eureka” moment, reign it in and look around. Are there other people nearby casually enjoying their hike and not geocaching? If so, button it up. Those bystanders are known in geocaching circles as geo-muggles. Remember that word “muggles” from Harry Potter, meaning people who are unable to use magic? Try to be discreet so the geo-muggles don’t come over and potentially move the cache from its vital coordinate location.

The reward of a well-found geocache is an actual reward. Dig into the cache and see what goodies await. Don’t forget to put the treasure you brought inside, and make sure you sign the logbook where you can record your name, the date, and any notes that you want to share. Some caches even have a camera so you can take your picture! After you have explored the contents of the cache, put everything back in, seal it and place it exactly where you found it so the next round of geocachers can enjoy it the way you have. In fact, that is one of the guiding principles in the Geocacher’s Creed which follows:

When placing or seeking geocaches, I will:

  • Not endanger myself or others.
  • Observe all laws and rules of the area.
  • Respect property rights and seek permission if needed.
  • Avoid causing disruptions.
  • Minimize impact on the environment.
  • Be considerate of others and animals.
  • Preserve and care for other people’s caches.

Another important rule, despite not being in the official creed is “Cache in, Trash Out,” known simply as CITO.  This rule pretty much goes without saying but the point is to leave the area where you are geocaching better than how you found it. Keep the scene clean so geocachers don’t get a bad reputation.

Mud Pies!

Mud Pies!

Few things in the wonderful world of mud capture the imagination as much as a mud pie. Perhaps because you are combining two of the best words in a kid’s vocabulary—mud and pie. The beauty of mud pie making is that it can start simply and be added to over time with elaborate recipes and kitchen set ups. But to start all you really need is a good patch of dirt, some water, and some meal ideas—pies, pizza, tacos, muffins, soup. Ask your parents if they have any old kitchen items—empty spice jars, mason jars, rusted muffin tins. If not, see if they can take you to a yard sale or a thrift store as a little investment in your mud pie kitchen can go a long way. Recyclable containers, such as the bottoms of old milk jugs and plastic salad containers, also work wonders with mud cooking. That is all I will say. I am not going to tell you how to do this, I only want to give you pointers for some of the great things to keep an eye out for to add to your mud kitchen. Remember that word instinctive, meaning you were born to do this, well, mud pies, my friend are every child’s birth right. And I have to tell that some of my favorite dining experiences ever were when my children served me at their mud cafes. Menus were passed out with such items as mud puddle soup, grilled mud sandwiches, grass gumbo, mud loaf, and mud pies a’la mode for dessert. Delicious!

If, when you get started, you are hungry for other ideas, you need to check out the best cook book ever, Mud Pies and Other Recipes by Marjorie Winslow. This book is intended as a cookbook for dolls in “kind climates and summertime” and “it is an outdoors cookbook, because dolls dote on mud, when properly prepared, they love the crunch of pine needles and the sweet feel of seaweed on the tongue.” And as she so wisely advises for your mud pie kitchen, “You can use a tree stump for a counter. The sea makes a nice sink; so does a puddle at the end of a hose. For a stove there is the sun, or a flat stone. And ovens are everywhere. You’ll find them under bushes, in sandboxes or behind trees.”

Some Items for Your Mud-pie Kitchen

Large buckets of water

Smocks

Recipe cards and pencils

Pots, pans, cooking lids,

Large metal or plastic bowls

Cooking utensils

Dirt

Pitchers of water

Recycled spice jars: Fill empty spice shakers with toppings such as crushed eggshells, tiny pebbles, saw dust, dried coffee grounds, and crushed dried leaves.

Sifter or colander

Towels and pot holders

SIDE BAR

Recipes from Mud Pies and Other Recipes

Boiled Buttons

This is a hot soup that is simple but simply delicious. Place a handful of buttons in a saucepan half filled with water. Add a pinch of white sand and dust, 2 fruit tree leaves and a blade of grass for each button. Simmer on a hot rock for a few minutes to bring out the flavor. Ladle into bowls.

Bark Sandwich

Make a buttery mix of dirt, lake water and pine needles. Heap this on a piece of birch bark and serve.

Back Yard Stew

Mark off a big square in your back yard by walking 8 giant steps in each direction. Into a large stewpot put anything you find in this square such as grass, leaves, stones, twigs, berries, flowers, weeds, and so forth. Season generously with white sand and dust, and add puddle water to cover. The longer this dish stews the better it is.

Forts

Forts

“I love the sweet, sequestered place, the gracious roof of gold and green, where arching branches interlace with a glimpse of sky between.”—Anonymous

Sometimes you need a place of your own. Maybe your little brother or sister keeps breaking your toys or your older sibling won’t let you play with anything at all. Maybe if you stay inside your mom will make you sort all the socks in the laundry or your dad will make you help him clean out the attic. In these times of trouble, a fort is like a lighthouse in a storm.

Look, my friend, you were born with the ability to make yourself a simple fort that gives you a place to escape. A place to hold secret neighborhood meetings. To have picnics, to read, to draw, to think, to plan. What it comes down to is creating a place where you can get away from it all, a place where you can go to listen to what an amazing woman named Rachel Carson called the “insect orchestra” or the chorus of the birds. A place where you can hear your own thoughts and where you can just be. In the book, A Kid’s Guide to Forts, author Tom Birdseye says a fort “is a place built using easy-to-find materials, a few tools, and some imagination. It is not made by dad or mom with wood from the lumber company. It is not ordered out of a catalog and delivered by two men in a big truck. It is yours, created by you.”

Anyone can build a fort. Think about it—a few walls, a roof, maybe a swept-out floor or one covered with soft pine needles and a moss carpet. But keep in mind, any kind of building requires caution. Wood is by its very nature splintery stuff. Moving big sticks and piles of wood can often result in some bumps and bruises. Anytime sticks are a part of an activity, slow and steady is the required speed. Basically all I am asking is that you pay attention and handle large, sharp objects carefully. Grab a grownup for help when you feel overwhelmed. In this chapter, we will look at making stick dens, igloos, teepees, lean-tos, sunflower houses, and more. But remember that sometimes the best retreats are simply underneath a favorite willow tree or on top of a special lichen-covered rock. I hope you will make lots of forts and that you will let yourself dream. I hope that in your fort you will catch hold of your deepest wishes and listen to the world around you telling you that you are home.

Important Fairy Rule

Important Fairy Rule

The biggest, most important, and maybe the only firm rule in fairy house building: fairy houses must be made from materials found in nature. You got that? Sure, fairies love glittering gems and shiny marbles but not in their houses! They like admiring these things in the human world but bring it into the fairy realm and you are guaranteed to make a fairy mad. And a mad fairy is not a good fairy. Don’t worry, this is not a problem. The list of materials to build with is long because there are endless supplies of natural materials to choose from.

So, now that we have that covered, here are the most important things that you need as you begin your career as a fairy house builder: a good imagination, an ability to work in the woods for long periods of time, a bag or a box to collect things, a pair of binoculars in case you see something hovering around you while you work, respect for fairies and the natural world, and a good dose of curiosity and inventiveness.

Signs of Fairy Visitation

Signs of Fairy Visitation

In no time at all you have mastered the basics of fairy gardening. As each of your tiny seeds took root, the fairies took notice. The more you tended your garden bed, the more the fairies tended to you. I’ve probably said this more than one hundred times already, but the fairies love your garden and they are no doubt helping you along. One surefire way to tell if the fairies have visited is if the garden is lush and vibrant. If for some reason your garden hasn’t taken off, don’t despair, sometimes environmental factors like wind, heat, drought, or too much rain, make it hard for even seasoned gardeners.

If you find that certain things disappear from your garden, like a trowel that you just set down, or a packet of seeds fresh from the garden store, maybe you have some mischievous elves, trolls, or even naughty fairies counteracting your efforts. To protect yourself in this event, there are very simple steps to take. First, wear your clothes inside out, then put a pinch of salt in your pocket, a red ribbon in your hair, a sock under your bed, and make a daisy chain. After doing all that you should be fine!

But back to the good stuff, whether those friendly, non-troublesome fairies are visiting YOU! This is where all of the patience you developed from watching seeds grow into plants comes in handy, because to see signs of fairy visitation one needs to take, what they call the “long view.” Taking the long view basically means knowing things might not happen right away.

But there are certain clues of fairy visitation to look out for. If you are ever in the garden and see out of the corner of your eye, a flicker or a glimmer, almost like a firefly, around a plant, and if you see it and then you don’t, well, that surely is a fairy. If you see a little globe, pearlescent perhaps, in the heart of a flower, that may be a baby flower fairy. Tinkling of bells where there is no known source of music is another common sign. Many fairy seekers report seeing wind eddies or whirlwinds, or the bending of grass blades with no perceptible cause. Sometimes, the chills or goose bumps, or even a rise in the hair on the back of your neck, may mean a fairy is nearby.

Some of you lucky few might one day even see a fairy ring. A fairy ring is a circle of mushrooms, stones, or grass that is taller than the rest of the grass. Just remember, do not step inside as you may be whisked to fairy land with no chance of return. Dew tents, the little wispy canopies over the grass in the morning are always a good sign that fairies have had fun the night before. And if you ever come across broken twigs arranged in patterns, that usually means a fairy is trying to tell you something. Pay attention!

Another sign of fairy presence is unexplainable losses of time but childhood is filled with those and it might be hard to differentiate when those times are caused by fairies. I sure hope you lose track of time plenty, because that is when magic happens. Think of all those times when you are playing with your best friend afterschool and in what seems like five minutes your parents are there to pick you up. Talk about unexplainable losses of time!

The best sign of all that fairies have found your garden delightful is uncontrollable laughter. Side-splitting, deep-down, snorting, tear-inducing, pee-in-your-pants-by-accident, yeah, you know, that kind of laughter. The best kind. That is what the fairies will do to you if you are not careful! And that is what I wish for you as you garden—laughter and a sense of time slipping carelessly away as you tend to all the beauty around you. May your garden grow strong and your roots delve deep.

A Note to Parents

A Note to Parents

“If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength.”—Rachel Carson

We all feel it—that sense of panic that our kid’s eyes are turning into squares from watching too much television, that they are missing the essential piece of childhood that we had growing up. We can’t help comparing the way we spent our youth to the way our kids do. How we were left to our own devices and not to our electronic devices. We sit at playgrounds together and talk about how we never even wanted to be inside, that as soon as the bus dropped us home, we were off on wild adventures. But the reality is that our kids live in a very different world today and let’s face it, we didn’t have I-pads. Regardless, there is still the wonderful enticement of getting dirty that we remember and want our kids to experience. This book is a reminder of things you probably know, but I hope by showing them in a different format something might spark for you and your child. It is a book about getting dirty, getting a little wet, but mostly it is about being engaged. It is about taking simple natural materials and turning them into activities that will hold any kid’s attention for more than five minutes—activities that will not only get them dirty but hopefully will pique their curiosity and creativity, allowing them to slow down. Having these experiences together, to wonder at things together, to ask how something happens and then look for answers together, these times are the antidote to that earlier fear I mentioned. Just a few of these experiences will cement a love of the world outside your door. All you need to do to “keep alive his inborn sense of wonder without any such gift from the fairies,” as Rachel Carson advises,  “is to provide the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with them the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.”

Some of you might worry when you see a book called Muddy Boots that the mess will be too much to deal with. But heed this advice given to me by my daughter when she was about eight: “Mom, you need to stop cleaning all the time and make some memories.” Some of us have inherently high thresholds for chaos and others score very low on the mess-o-meter. But helping kids learn how to get really dirty and then how to clean it up promotes independence and self-care. Plus, there are all those studies now about how dirt is good for the immune system. So go ahead, let them get dirty, and, as authors Jo Schofield and Fiona Danks wisely advise, “Let children become completely immersed in nature. Allow them to get soaked to the skin in a summer rainstorm or plastered from head to foot in mud; let them stain their hands and arms with blackberry juice or have play fights with newly mown grass. Give them the freedom to muck about, get dirty, and generally have fun.” And as you let them get dirty and play with this amazing world around us, I hope they will help you reconnect with your younger self. I hope that you will watch your kids and remember the forts you built, the long summer days chasing crickets and fireflies, and again to cite Rachel Carson, “Exploring nature with your child is largely a matter of becoming receptive to what lies all around you. It is learning again to use your eyes, ears, nostrils, and finger tips, opening up to the disused channels of sensory impression.”

Liza Gardner Walsh

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