I realize more and more that I have gradually lost touch with the natural world. This came home to me this week when I was working with some students in our library and I happened to notice a 6th grade class working on bird research. They had big, beautiful picture books spread out before them, and they were talking rather breathlessly about the wonderful things they were learning about birds. I happened to peruse one of the pages, and was immediately caught up in the striking descriptions of the birds and their behaviors. As I walked back to my classroom, I felt a trace of sadness, almost as if I had been absent from an old and dear friend for a long time. For indeed, the natural world was my friend for most of the early years of my life. I always found great wisdom and solace when I was away from civilization and wandering in places where wildness ruled. I used to love nothing better than to spend hours, even whole days, roaming the trails in woods and meadows. Now, though, I experience nature mostly from a distance, somewhat the way we experience it when we watch a beautiful film. I’m not “in touch” with the natural world, in the sense that its power, mystery, and splendor don’t really "touch” me, don’t overwhelm me with beauty, don’t transform my life the way they used to. Nature has incalculable gifts for all of us, but lately I’ve been on the outside looking in. When I got back to my classroom, I stood by the window and watched the trees blowing in a warming wind, and wondered when I would get to know it all again.