A Nature Walk Through Bear Country

By Jeanethe Falvey

Having my father read the tales of the Berenstain Bears, night after night, left a few impressions on my developing mind. What really stuck were the examples he provided, much like the illustrated situations Papa Bear would end up in.

Life is an adventure and quite rarely does it go to plan.

One summer day when I was about seven, my dad and I were returning from one such adventure, soaking up nature, riding our bikes down a dirt road in Maine. As we were nearing home, he decided to show his little girl just how cool of a dad he was.

“Now let me show you something…”

With one swift maneuver he borrowed my blue banana seat bike and proceeded to announce that he could ride it backwards down a hill.
One of those moments where life rarely goes to plan.

I can still see his expression change as the bike veered to the left, into the ditch among the branches and bramble, feet in the air, finally coming to a stop against a mossy log. It was, to this day, one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. In between fits of giggles I managed to ask him,

“Is that Papa Bear lesson number 432?”

During a visit home a couple weeks ago, my mom pulled out a well worn book I hadn’t seen in years: A Nature Walk Through Bear Country by Stan and Jan Berenstain. Memories came flooding back when I opened it. On page seven, I could barely contain my excitement finding the words:

“What IS Nature?

It’s everybody and everything –
a peacock’s tail, a butterfly wing.
It’s snails and stones and dinosaur bones.
Volcanoes! Earthquakes…Cousin Liz!
That’s just a part of what nature is.
…It’s the Earth itself –
The rocks and soil.
And from under the Earth come coal and oil.”

I’m convinced that, two decades ago, that book shaped why I speak the way I do about EPA’s State of the Environment project. Why I keep challenging the notion that “environmental photos” are not just landscapes. Why Documerica, its early inspiration, was right on.
I hope as the weather warms you can enjoy a nature walk where you live. Have kids? Ask them what the environment is and have an adventure, even laughs, discovering it. It’s an opportunity to open their eyes for the rest of their lives.

About the author: Jeanethe Falvey writes from EPA’s Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education, as the project-lead for Pick 5 and the State of the Environment, two projects geared towards learning, sharing and gaining a greater collective connection to our environment.