Sunday May 23, 2004

Enjoying the outdoors

Contributing Writer

We were driving slowly through Callaway Gardens when I asked him to turn off his Game Boy. I insisted that he look at the trees and plants and watch for wildlife. Without a whine, whimper or complaint of any kind, he turned it off and began to observe the captivating scenery.

My multitasking champion 10-year-old grandson does not readily part with anything that keeps his hands busy. I mean if he is awake, those hands are doing something. He does not just watch TV, just play a game, just sit and talk with friends and family, or just do any one thing.

Doing many things at once and never missing a word of the conversations going around you has got to be a good thing – to a degree. I remember when I could do that. It was nice. They say the other end of the spectrum is nice, too. Just recently, my brother-in-law asked me if I could not think about anything.

I told him no. He said he could. Could just prop back by a stream and let go of everything. Empty his mind. Think about nothing.

I insisted that he had to be thinking about the stream. Or the sound of the water. Or the blue of the sky or the number of stars at night. No, he insisted, he could think about nothing.

I did not believe him. Not that I think he would lie, but I just don’t believe it’s possible to think about nothing.

I was elated when Dylan did not complain about giving up his Game Boy and very readily allowed himself to meld with the gorgeous and peaceful scenery all around him as we drove through the winding roads of the gardens.

During this quiet time neither he nor I saw a single critter. His sister and granddaddy repeatedly were spotting squirrels out their side of the vehicle, but Dylan and I were just looking at the trees.

And oh, what trees. I suspect that God only knows just how many species of trees grow within the confines of Callaway Gardens. I know only that I am as close to Heaven as I believe one can get while on earth when I am in a beautiful forest.

I’ve been told that Virginia Callaway thought of trees as individuals. I like that. I, too, believe that each tree does indeed have a life of its own and stories to tell to all who will pause to hear.

While on our Callaway outing my granddaughter suddenly said, kind out of the blue, and sorta dreamily, “You know, I think I could take a vacation here.” I gotta tell you, that comment made this grandma proud. Proud to the bone.

At almost six years old now, she loves the outdoors. Traipsing through the woods. Playing in the dirt. Cooling off in a stream. All these activities really mean a lot to her.

Oh, yeah, in this present world where so many tech gadgets, computerized toys and new movies every week are aimed at their age group, I am absolutely elated when the plain old outdoors can entertain my grandchildren.

I skipped last year. I did not buy an annual pass to Callaway. It was the first year in along time that I did not and I missed my outings. It’s not that I have to go to the Gardens to enjoy the outdoors. Not at all. But I do love going there.

Nowhere else in Georgia can you observe an ever-evolving year-round vegetable garden (to the tune of 7.5 acres, no less). You can even buy freshly picked vegetables there! And you might even get to watch the filming of “The Victory Garden,” as the Callaway Vegetable Garden is the Southern setting for the popular PBS television show.

Would you believe we spent two hours in the vegetable garden area this past Sunday and never once did the kids say, “Can we go yet?” I was the one to call it quits for the day.

My granddaughter has a good idea about a vacation spot this year, especially with gas prices being what they are. I hope to have her and her brother with me a couple of days each week and I just might take them to Callaway all summer. With a long list of day camp activities, circus performances, campfires, fishing excursions, arts & crafts, Birds of Prey shows to choose from I can’t go wrong, and we can give that Game Boy a well deserved rest!




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