Every year, researchers add to the body of data indicating that direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development and the physical and emotional health of both children and adults. Being in nature at Tyler Arboretum is about having that direct experience as a participant in nature, as opposed to a spectator. At Tyler, we believe that being in nature shouldn’t be passive; you don’t make a connection merely by passing through the environment, googling data, or scrolling through photos. That content is a piece of the puzzle, step one of moving past nature in the abstract and into nature as a lifelong passion. Tyler invites all ages and every generation to participate with nature through what you will see, hear, touch, and even taste as you engage in all the interconnected communities of the natural world.
John Ewing first arrived at Tyler when he was seven or eight years old. He vividly remembers the feeling of adventure going down Painter Road, which was then a gravel road. After arriving, he made sure to stop and explore the old barn and the pond at every visit. He was brought by his mom, Anne, who used to plant the seed of love for nature in children like John and her Wallingford-Swarthmore classes. It was a seed that Anne hoped would grow to bear fruit for years to come. When John became an adult, he returned to Tyler where he would walk the trails alone or with his wife. In 1985, he moved to an old stone house off the now paved Painter Road, where he could then be five minutes away. John began to plant his seeds for the future when he brought his son Henry, who was just around four years old. Their trips began with Henry in a stroller and grew to much more. When Henry was able to walk around on his own little legs, he developed a strong tie to a little pine tree. Each time they would come to Tyler, Henry would make sure he did not leave without stopping to see the little pine. John shared this most precious memory of Henry with others at Tyler. So, upon the occasion of John being on the board of the Arboretum for 10 years, he was presented with a brass and clay plaque in triplet, which was placed next to the pine and it simply read, “Henry’s Pine”. With the triplicate came a new family tradition, for Henry, John, and Anne, who all hung the ceramic plate entitled “Henry’s Pine” on their Christmas trees every year. Henry is now a grown man in his early 20s who still loves coming to Tyler and is now in his third year as a volunteer at Lucille’s Garden where he helps twice a week. Anne, before her rather recent passing at 99 years old, still loved to come to Tyler and take a “tour” of the place where she planted seeds in the hearts of the young, that now are seen in the next two successive generations of Ewings. Such a wonderful harvest.
How else do multiple generations end up coming together at Tyler? One way is when the elders among us retire. When it comes time for retirement, some suggest you reflect on what you loved at six years old. The thought is that this might be a good thing to do in retirement. I loved playing in the dirt as a child. We built these amazing miniature houses of sticks and roadways with stones. In other words, we made whole communities. So, when I decided to retire in 2020, I remembered this advice and thus decided to bring my six-year-old self into my 62-year-old life and volunteer, helping to grow organic vegetables and fruits in Lucille’s Garden at Tyler. And I am not alone; many of the retirees at Tyler are returning to what gave them joy, awe, and wonder in their childhood.
This spring while in Lucille’s Garden, I had a wonderful conversation with a father and his six-year-old daughter who also loved nothing more than playing in the dirt, just like he did! In them, I found inspiration and hope. In them, I see once again the intergenerational spirit that fits so well with who Tyler Arboretum is and all they do.
Keeping the natural world for generations to come will take all the generations working together to observe, protect, and preserve this beautiful, amazing, and wonderful planet. Why not come to Tyler, no matter what your age, and be a part of this important work? Each of us has a significant part to play, as all ages and multiple generations work side-by-side and hand-in-hand.