On May 18th, 1980, an explosion the size of 24 megatons of TNT rattled the northwest corner of the United States. Like the pyroclastic flows that rocketed outward just shy of 700 miles per hour from the once serene Mount St. Helens, the memory of mother nature's raw power would be burned into the minds of those who witnessed the eruption. A violent memory never to be forgotten.

Helping children learn responsibility in nature.

Not all memories of Mount St. Helens were violently made, though. For my brother and I, it was as simple as a spring drive in my father's little gray pickup. Having grown up in southern Washington for a portion of our childhood, my father made sure to expose us to the sights around. Misty mountains and towering trees. A bed of green ferns and rust red pine needles. The crisp morning air to greet our billowing breath. These were just a few of the memories stowed away in my mind. Then there was “match stick forest.” The wasteland of a forest left behind after the eruption. An unfathomable expanse of trees laid down as though blown over by the Titans themselves.

Helping children learn responsibility in nature.

A sight and moment with my father I will never forget.

There was an abundance of experiences like this for me to log away in my mind as I grew up. More often than not, they were simple. Looking back, a number of them were tag-along moments. Things he had to do and times he decided to bring us along to teach us things. Changing the oil on our '92 Ford Bronco. The warmth of the black liquid as it slid out of the oil pan and into an old milk carton. I remember it staining my hands and marveling at how it accented the cracks and creases in my fingers. The red rag which my father always pulled out for maintenance, and the feel of its course fibers grinding the slick prehistoric lubricant from my little hands.

Helping children learn responsibility in nature.

These were the moments that helped piece together my concept of fatherhood. Little hands learning big things. Little eyes seeing vast landscapes. Little hearts being filled with great wonder. That is exactly what I want to pass on to my children. My three boys will inherit all these things, just in different places.

The greatest gift you give your children... quote

Some Boy is almost five years old now. The oldest of three, I can see the pride of being first in his face. The responsibility as he helps his baby brother, Minion, up from a failed attempt at walking. He loves to be there to guide Sidekick along, laying out the best possible toy railroad track. “It has to go this way so it doesn't fall down” he says softly as his brother watches on.

Helping children learn responsibility in nature.

It's these little things that spark my fatherly desire to pass something special on. Something just for him. A responsibility and skill not too many fathers take time to pass on to their children. A commonplace tool almost forgotten in much more urban environments. The knife.

We've been working with Hart for awhile. Most people in San Diego would gasp if they saw Some Boy holding his Hart. I take care to teach him the ins and outs of the little tool. He's not old enough to care for it himself, but when “daddy” is around and watching, it is his to command.

Helping children learn responsibility in nature.

It actually came in a two pack, as if made just for us.

Helping children learn responsibility in nature.

Just teaching Some Boy how to hold the Hart knife safely took me back. I was both happy and heavy-hearted when I noticed his forearms flexing and moving. He's grown so much, yet I know at the same time that his little arms will soon become steady and strong. He'll get older so much faster than I ever wanted.

Helping children learn responsibility in nature.

Gently, I reminded myself, “This is our time. Our moment. My investment in the boy I love, so he can stow away this memory for when he is older.” Though the tasks learned are simple, the feelings are complex. Shaving a twig not only lets me pass on a technique and safety, but helps me shape my bond with my son. Little by little as we sit and whittle, I watch him grow.

Helping children learn responsibility in nature.

Time is always moving. Like the oil I helped my father change, and even the mountains once thought stagnant…it flows. In this small moment, I am glad Hart could help me shape the heart of one of my closest loves.

My son.