The natural world has always been dear to me. I think there are few who cannot say that being outside in the elements awakens something in us. For me, now, it is often a sense of peace and contentment. But I remember what it was like when the world was relatively new and everything was adventure. Nature meant play. It meant discovery. It meant deep appreciation for the matter we are made up of. It meant connection, without having to define it or analyze it. It was the simple sensation of cold soil and warm air. The smell of mossy decay. The bumpy backbone of a leaf. And sometimes the taste of mud.
I'm not going to lie. I wish very much sometimes that it were still appropriate to pick up a handful of plant matter and shove it in my mouth, just to see what it tastes like (Matt would be horrified to hear that). To not have to worry if something is gross or poisonous or "dirty". To not have to think at all, but just be in it. To feel it. To not need some adult excuse, like "exercise" or "fresh air" (it's good for you, don't you know) to go out and play. But the beautiful thing about children is...they are my scapegoat for adult inappropriateness. If I let Violet smear a handful of muck on my cheeks, it is for her benefit, of course. I don't want to let her down. I don't want to limit her creativity. And when you have a toddler at your heels you have far less excuses to make to others.
Not that you ever have to. I say go out and get filthy, child or not. Eat dirt. Jump in the lake in your clothes. Walk in the grass with your shoes off. Feel what's around you. We all take so little time to do it these days.