thomas m wilson

The Child is Father to the Man

March 1st, 2007

Why do some people love nature and some people are just rather indifferent to it? Developmental psychology tells us that early exposure – as we are growing up – to woods, fields and animals encourages biophilia, the human tendency to affliate with wild nature.

In some families there is a tradition of owning animals and of regularly spending time out in nature. My mum comes from England, and her family have always been nature lovers. What follows is a snap-shot of how one family carried its love of nature down through the generations.


This is my great-grandfather and his children – my grandmother and my great-uncle – somewhere in England about 1904.


Stepping down to the next generation, my grandfather, Ralph, loved to walk in nature, up fell and down dale. His favourite writer was William Wordsworth, the poet from who wrote the words which are the title of this blog entry. My grandfather and grandmother lived first in the Welsh border country, then on a Cornish dairy farm, and then on a Spanish island. Clearly my mother was influenced by some of these environments – not to mention the constant companionship of various dogs – as she grew up and turned into a woman.


She moved to Australia and had two sons, me and my brother. For a while we lived in Denmark, a small town in the south-west corner of Australia, surrounded by towering karri trees to walk under, sun dazzled inlets and grassy fields. My mum and my dad took us on plenty of camping trips and we were always accompanied by dogs and cats while at home. One of my mum’s favourite poets is Gary Snyder, and her favourite novelists, Wendell Berry.


I and my brother both love nature as adults, and I think our parents actions when we were young may have had something to do with this. I thank them for imparting a love of nature to us. The child is father to the man.

I am writing this retrospective blog entry in 2007, and very recently we human beings tipped over the point where there are now more people living in cities than outside of cities. As Gary Snyder has said, what we need now more than anything is people who love the world. Knowing this, I hope most fervently that all these new urban citizens take their children out into the world beyond the pavement.