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Remember To Notice The Little Things

In the near 100 degree heat last week my family loaded up the station wagon with our camping gear and headed out on an adventure. This would be my three year old's very first tent camping trip. Thanks to my wife's infinite wisdom - and my desire to watch the World Cup (Viva Espa a!) - we didn't leave until a little later in the day which insured that we would arrive at our campsite as the heat was beginning to break.

My excitement about this trip continued to build as we made our way through the city traffic, past the suburbs and then into the countryside. Upon arrival at Alum Creek we checked in and found our campsite. The day will come when I will introduce Sophie to my love of truly primitive, backwoods camping; however, for a first tent excursion the relative safety and sterility of a State Park seemed appropriate.

We spent a lot of time playing with caterpillars and centipedes. Sophie decided that the centipedes would be named Walter, and that the caterpillar would be her stuffed animal's best friend (they were both black and white and fuzzy so of course they'll be best friends).

Swimming in the lake offered up the chance to collect shells and feel minnows swim past our toes. On the beach we built our insect friends a grand castle to live in bejeweled with those shells and some goose feathers. We caught lightening bugs and watched bats at night while listening to the hoots of owls and foraging of raccoons.

Many people would suggest that these are simple pleasures and would only excite the simple mind of a child - but I beg to differ. Throughout our lives we have the chance to look at the details, to embrace all of the little curiosities and joys the world has to offer.

How many people create greater and greater complexity in their lives in an attempt to find happiness? Instead of enjoying the intricacies of what they already have most people believe they are missing out, that they need to buy something to fill that hole, or try something that is "bigger", "better" or "more intense".

On occasion I myself still fall into this trap which is why I know just what a trap it is. I want to provide opportunity to my daughter to experience the world around her; I want to teach her what I know and let her draw her own conclusions.

I'm not looking to relive my childhood through her but I'd like to recapture and maintain those important parts of being alive that so many of us turn off when we decide we are "adults". Namely, I want to encourage my daughter's curiosity and imagination by allowing my curiosity and imagination once again to flourish.

Andrew Miller hosts the blog Elephants on Bicycles