Although scientists haven’t identified it yet, I suspect that somewhere in our DNA is the dirt gene. It is the gene that drives some of us to be outside, soaking up sunshine, playing with bugs and climbing trees. It is the gene that feeds our need to run our hands in soft earth, squish mud between our toes or race sticks in a stream.
There actually is a name for this need to connect with natural systems and other living things. It’s called biophilia, and it was discussed by Edward O. Wilson in the mid 1980s. Wilson believed that all humans subconsciously seek these connections. But even his theory isn’t new. Aristotle put forth a similar concept that he described as “a love of life.”
While everyone may possess this dirt gene, this biophilia, some folks’ genes express themselves more firmly than others.
Wyokiddo has the dirt gene. It’s sequenced somewhere between her gene that determines eye color and the one that gives her curly hair.
In the last few days, my child has asked to go fishing, hiking and catch bugs. At the park, she skipped playing dolls to have a sword fight with the boys and roll around in the grass. She climbs rocks, jumps off fallen logs, pokes sticks in holes and rubs her face against the bark of trees.
She doesn’t understand it, but feeding those dirt genes is making her healthy, happy and strong. She’s improving her powers of concentration, stimulating creativity and developing critical thinking skills. All this outdoor time also builds her confidence. She’s activating her senses in a way that a screen or a book never could.
Wyokiddo just thinks its fun to play outside.
So I’ll let her feed those dirt genes. I’ll let her bail off a 3 foot wall and roll in the grass. I’ll give her a net to catch butterflies and haul her all over this county to explore new areas and terrain. Because I know feeding the dirt gene is also feeding her mind, her body and her soul.
Besides, she got some of those dirt genes from me. I like to play outside, too.
Happy Earth Day.