Like many parents of my undisclosed vintage, I raised my kids and grandkids on Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are. His books inspire imagination. They also encourage parents to value their children’s imagination.
And, not for nothing, they create an interest in nature.
Naughty Max is sent to bed without his supper, yet alone in his room he sails to places unknown, becomes King of the Wild Things and returns to find his supper on his bed, still hot. Maurice Sendak passed away this week, leaving us an awesome legacy of stories about chicken soup and monsters coming alive in the forest.
Where I grew up, houses were far apart and overgrown empty lots hid wild things like birds, rabbits, frogs, praying mantises and other species foreign to most urban youngsters. As girl scouts, we would push aside the overgrown honeysuckle and other wild foliage to find a clearing where we could practice our campfire skills, making doughboys.
Alas, vacant land has given way to development in the metropolitan region, so there are fewer places to encounter wild things, except maybe in a zoo or in a dream. In Westchester, happily, there are some.
Although, I moan about the deer who eat my rhododendron and the raccoons who strew my garbage, and worry about the coyotes and the red foxes, all things considered, I am happy to be able to point out the wild life to my grandkids, both flora and fauna alike. We don’t have many empty lots in Westchester, but we do have lots of natural parkland, historic properties, farms and other preserved open spaces where kids can find wild things.
The Wolf Conservation Center is one of them. There are no minotaurs in the hemlock forests and laurel groves at the 875-acre Teatown Lake Reservation, but stay tuned for their annual EagleFest, a celebration of the annual winter gathering of bald eagles in the Hudson Valley.
You can watch for circling broad-winged hawks with the Hudson River Audobon Society and visit their butterfly and hummingbird garden. There are woodlands and field habitats, unusual specimens of trees and shrubs and miles of wooded trails in Westchester County Parks, enough to stir the imagination. You can even find some wild things in museums and arts centers.
How were you inspired by Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are? Please tell me in the comments section below.