Amy Choate-Nielsen: How spending time in nature as a kid changed me as an adult

Amy Choate-Nielsen

Utah’s sandstone spires made a fitting backdrop for Amy Choate-Nielsen’s kids to explore.

Kids, I want to tell you a story.

Once upon a time, I was also a kid. I had a lot of time on my hands. I had access to a TV that required the proper adjustment of its rabbit ears — that’s what we called the antenna — and it had a knob that changed the channels. There was no remote.

We didn’t have a computer. Or cellphone. Or internet. Or tablet. Or hand-held gaming device. It was just that one big, glass television in my parents’ bedroom that played my favorite cartoons in color, which was better than the little TV in the kitchen that only played things in black and white.

So, I had a lot of time on my hands, and I was mostly on my own filling that time with things to do. I watched a lot of cartoons. I stole fruit roll-ups out of the pantry. I rode my bike all over the neighborhood, and I wrote.

I took a notebook to the woods for inspiration, and I wrote stories about what I saw.

Looking back, I can see that those moments shaped me.

I didn’t grow up camping, hiking or boating, but I did grow up with a wild backyard perched over the Arkansas River in Oklahoma. I let myself get lost in the darkness of the forest around me. I spent hours watching the water far below. I listened to the birds and the crickets and the sound of the trees. I…

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