Nature girl

For years, I’ve known that my daughter Olivia, more than the average kid, loves bugs, flowers, birds, and trees. My husband appreciates nature, too, but his interest veers toward the scientific— “How much sun exposure do we need to optimize our strawberries, raspberries, lemons, and tomatoes? What level of water?”—while, I alas, remain hopelessly suburban: the one who hikes on the marked trail that ends at the warming hut, and opts for the cabin instead of the tent.

No, Olivia’s love of nature is DNA-deep. It comes from her biological family. On one of our first visits with Olivia’s birth mom and grandma, I watched with delight as three generations laughed out loud at the antics of a small hopping sparrow, and clapped their hands at the beauty of a rock formation. One possible explanation is that, in the small highland village where her relatives have lived for centuries, careful observation equals survival. Another could be that they are a family of natural-born artists. Whatever the reason, that keen ability to see is hard-wired, and Olivia possesses it.

I became more aware of this special talent last weekend, when my friend Nina invited us to Slide Ranch, a self-sustaining farm perched on the jagged cliffs of the Northern California coast. We kids and adults enjoyed running around, checking out the chickens and goats and bee hives and compost pile, and searching for hidden objects on Nina’s scavenger hunt. But as Nina observed, the wild, dramatic setting and fresh salt air opened up something new and different in Olivia. It felt as if  simply being there allowed my daughter to settle into a place of deep peace, a reverie of happiness.

As an adoptive parent, I’m reminded often that our children are who they are. They come to us that way. Part of the joy of being my children’s mother is discovering, and honoring, each new layer.

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