Which way to the woods?

I was playing with the boys in the living room one afternoon. The TV was tuned to one of the cartoon channels they require, even when they are paying no attention to it. A Thursday afternoon in August is a pretty good time for a sports fan to watch cartoons, so I put up no argument.

I wasn’t paying attention to the TV either, until a particular commercial caught my eye. It was a Public Service Announcement extolling the virtues of exploring the forest. At least I assumed it was a PSA, unless there are for-profit forests springing up around the country, which there probably are. I’m inclined to conclude it was a PSA, as the forest visuals looked pretty generic, there being no water slides or Disney logos carved into trees.

I like the forest as much as the next guy, so I was all on board with the sentiment. I was just about to think to myself: “What a pleasant tribute to America’s forests” when I heard the final line of the ad. The voice-over advised me to go to a particular website to find a forest near me.

"Some day there will be some kind of talking box that would tell me what this thing is. I'll just poke at it while I'm waiting for technology to answer all my questions." (Image: Russell Lee/US Farm Security Administration)

“One day there will be some kind of talking box that will tell me what this thing is. I’d better poke at it while I’m waiting for technology to answer all my questions.” (Image: Russell Lee/US Farm Security Administration)

My jaw dropped. Really? I need to go online to find the woods? Is this what America has come to?

Okay, it is true that I practically grew up in the woods, so all I had to do was go out the front door to find acres of trees. But honestly, people in other walks of life are having a hard time finding the woods without the aid of computers? The very idea makes me sad.

My son is five years old. When he walks out the door of his house, he sees other houses all around. Yet, I am confident he can take me to the woods in any direction I choose. Yes, he might need the aid of a car to get there, but he doesn’t need the Internet. He is the Internet of finding the woods, because he’s a child.

If you’re having trouble finding a forest near you, you don’t need a computer; you need a kid. Kids have a strange and magnificent instinct for recognizing trees. If you are unsure what that clump of three-story-tall plants is, just ask a kid. They’ll help you figure it out.

camping online

A forest. I found it on the Internet. And I didn’t even have to put shoes on. That’s what I love about the Great Outdoors.

Or you could Google it. That’s probably more convenient, as it eliminates all that burdensome white noise of wonderment.

I don’t wish to leave the impression that children are good for only this one thing. They are not one-truffle pigs. In many respects, they are just as useful as computers. In case your search engine is giving you mixed results, here is a short list of things kids can help you locate.

  • Dirt
  • Mud puddles
  • Dog poop
  • Diamonds that are probably quartz but just might be shattered glass
  • Bugs (dead or alive)
  • The meaning of life

But there’s probably a web site to help you find each of these things, too. So, either way . . .