My daughter is a child of the forest. She told me this over the weekend as we hiked through the woods in Northern Maine. She stopped and photographed fungi along the way, and collected leaves for identification. At one point she exclaimed: “Look! It is a nursery tree!” (A nursery tree is a dead log.) She made comparisons to the Michigan forest where she had lived and studied last summer.
I did feel a little bit like Hansel and Gretel as she lagged behind, exploring the forest floor while I had a goal of reaching the top of the mountain. Her red hair and decision to go barefoot along the path might have contributed to the feeling of living a fairytale, most of which take place in forests. But I did manage to slow down and engage in a discussion about types of trees we saw and asked how much she recalled about the New Zealand forests that we had visited when she was 10 years old.
I knew this might happen some day when I moved from Iowa to Michigan at the time she was four years old. But now the reality has sunk in. About that time I visited Chinese friends who had immigrated to Canada from Hong Kong. They talked about how their sons would not be Hong Kong Chinese. They would lose a part of their identity. At the time I thought about this in reference to my daughters who would inevitably not identify with the same place and culture that I had, and wondered about how I felt about this. It was unsettling.
My daughter is a child of the forest. It has happened. She has declared it to be so. I remain a child of the prairie.