I inherited a love of nature from my dad; he moved to heaven four years ago yesterday. I went on a hike in the woods. His favorite place, I think. My father was the one who brought me into the woods. He taught me a lot about nature and all things living in and around the trees. Thanks, Dad!
His last name was Holte. The name means “grove” or “wood.” It’s no surprise to me because that man loved the woods. No matter where we lived during my childhood, Northern Minnesota or the Twin Cities, he gravitated to the woods and brought his children with him. It was a well-known fact that if you walked behind my dad in the woods, you had to fend for yourself. He wasn’t one to hold back branches, so if you were too close, you’d inevitably get snapped with a twig. Ouch! I think it was one of the many ways he taught his children independence.
Walking through a dense forest is no easy task, but I’ve come to love it and learned to navigate through the underbrush. He used to say: “If there’s not a road in the woods, make your own.” He made a lot of roads. When I was a little girl he built a cabin way up north on a lake, deep in the woods. He cleared an area and built a cabin, and some of my favorite childhood memories are there, rooted in the forest.
My dad taught me how to berry pick amid the evergreens. Fresh and wild blueberries. We had to get them before the bears did and were instructed to pick without eating. He said if you eat one, your bucket stays empty. I berry picked with him into his old age. I still berry pick. I still refrain from eating any until my bucket is full.
I grew up on things he took out of the woods and water. He was an avid hunter and fisherman and had an ethic about nature I greatly admire. He cared for it – loved it – and enjoyed what it had to offer. He believed if he shot (or caught) an animal he should eat it. However, I do remember him straying from that belief at least once. One summer, a woodchuck was ravaging his garden and he went outside and shot it, right there in the middle of our suburban neighborhood. He was very serious about gardening, and my dad wasn’t one to worry about consequences, he simply acted. (Ahem, I’m not condoning his behavior, but he was who he was!)
When I was a girl, my father took our family on many trips that displayed some of nature’s greatest features: parks, lakes, rivers, and (of course) forests. He and my mom would pack all eight of us kids into one car and drive to a campsite where we would pitch one tent. Let’s just say things were quite cozy.
Camping with my own two children has left me with the impression my parents were either nice or crazy. I think they were a bit of both. While I love to camp, it is a lot of work. I can’t imagine the chaos of eight children in the woods for a long weekend (and frequently in a wet tent with damp clothing).
It’s hard to conceive someone so present and influential in my life no longer being on this earth. I like to imagine him out wandering in the woods, foraging for morel mushrooms or berries, or simply enjoying the wonder of all things living.
I sure do miss him! But every time I’m out amid the trees he is with me. He is the one walking up ahead, pointing out what is edible, what is not, and showing how to make my own road.