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Nature Autobiography: Seaweed Life

Jenna Myers's picture

View of Lake Delavan

House that looks similar to my old one

Delavan Lake Yacht Club where I attended camp

When I was first born my family bought a house up in Wisconsin along Lake Delavan. My family and I would drive the two hours from Chicago to Delavan and drive down narrow dirt roads until we finally reached the home. The house was considered to be located on the Island of Lake Delavan. The house was located in a somewhat secluded area with only 2 houses located in the block of land. Even though there weren’t many people around for me to play with I still enjoyed exploring the areas around my house and I still had my neighbors. My sister and I would visit our neighbors often because the family had a son who was roughly my age. We would either play in the house or go outside and explore.

When I would explore I usually went into a section of the woods that was next to my neighbor’s house. I was never allowed to go too far into the woods, but I made do with what I was allowed to explore. I would sit on the ground and observe the growing plants and dig holes in the ground seeing if I could reach China. I would walk around the trees and tried climbing them if I could find a low enough branch.

If I weren’t in the woods I would explore the open area in my backyard. I would sit in the hammock with my sister and read, pick blackberries off of our blackberry bush, chase away the geese, or go swimming or tubing or fishing on the lake. The lake was used by all of the inhabitants on the “island” (roughly 30-40 houses), but you wouldn’t see many people swimming because in most areas the seaweed was so tall that it grew above the water level and frankly no one wanted to get tangled up in a web of seaweed. Though I still embraced the lake and all of the seaweed contents. On the lake was the first time my sister and I learned how to fish. One of my favorite moments from my house was catching my first fish, but unfortunately my dad released it before I could document my success. 

While I was up in Lake Delavan I also attended a day camp that was roughly a 20-minute drive from my house. There I learned the basics of being outdoors such as sailing, canooing, and kayaking. When I was at camp I almost felt forced to participate in activities that I wasn’t interested in, which made me feel uncomfortable. I enjoyed being in nature and the environment when I was on my own at home. 

Lake Delavan was a place that I could explore the nature around me and where the environment changed me. Lake Delavan was a second life for me. I had my city life and my nature life. Growing up in the city I was never around nature except for the park around my block. But at the park there were man-made things such as baseball diamonds, a giant playground that looked like castles, and statues of the characters in The Wizards of Oz. Going up to Lake Delavan I shed myself as the city girl and embraced the nature side of me. Even though I had restrictions of where I could go I still felt a sense of freedom when I was in the woods or playing in the seaweed water. 

Sadly I lost my nature/seaweed life when I turned 13. My family decided to sell the house because it was getting harder to visit the house. I said goodbye to my neighbors and childhood friend and said goodbye to my nature life for the time being. I always dreamed of regaining my nature life, which I have been starting to gain back more recently. 


jccohen's picture

seaweed life


Great title, “Seaweed Life,” and interesting because you and others on “island” (which I gather isn’t literally an island) tend not go in the water because of the height and pervasiveness of the seaweed and at the same time you note that you “embraced the lake and all of the seaweed contents.”  I see this lingering on the ambiguity of this kind of space for you as a child again in your descriptions of the woods, where you were not allowed to go “too far” but sought the world there through closer observation and holes to China! 

It’s interesting to me that when you talk about learning “the basics of being outdoors” at camp, it’s now about activities like sailing, which feels different an - d somehow more distanced or separate from the ways you describe interacting with the “natural world” on your own – what do you think about this, and might it account at least in part for the discomfort you describe?

It sounds as if your connection with nature was deeply intertwined with this place, so that when your family sold it, there was a kind of gap for you… I’m curious about how all this seems to you when you look back now.  Sobel makes two points that might be related to your experience: the first is that this kind of childhood connection is crucial to adults who care and feel connected to the environment in later life, and the second is that the essence of the experience tends not to be repeated in adulthood.  What do you think?