We are delighted to host a guest post by Virginia Clay, author of Warrior Boy (see our review here).
In this blog post, Virginia discusses the concept of Nature-Deficit Disorder and how her new book Warrior Boy explores the gift of freedom offered by the natural world.
We are the Wildlife
Nature-Deficit Disorder* is a thing. Yes, I know, I was surprised to discover this too. But what was even more shocking was the piece of ‘nature’ I was watching when I first heard about it.
To soften the blow of a ‘significant’ birthday, my family had given me two nights at Lewa House (lewahouse.com), north of where we live in Kenya. We were hosted by the wonderful Calum and Sophie Macfarlane who took us, one morning, on a wild safari walk that I shall never forget.
We had been wandering for twenty minutes or so, with Calum identifying various spoors and scat as we went, when suddenly he raised his hand – bringing us to an immediate halt – as an enormous bull elephant came into view. It felt like an age before this incredible beast, the size of a standard council house, moved away and I had to try very hard not to leave my own scat behind for people to identify later.
Once there was a safe distance between us and the elephant, we were able to take a look at the rock upon which he’d been scratching his huge stomach. There we found a repulsively juicy mixture of ticks and blood covering the top of the rock and dripping down its sides. And that’s when Calum dropped the NDD bomb. He was saddened it seemed, that people are preferring to observe nature digitally, rather than experience it firsthand and consequently children are not making such astounding, horrifying but ultimately enriching discoveries as the one we had just encountered. And this is a big problem for mental health.
Ben Olmoran, the main character in my novel Warrior Boy, travels from inner city London, to the Maasai Mara. He is sent into the wilderness with his cousin and grandfather to accomplish seven tasks in order to prove himself as a potential warrior. Most of the tasks are difficult, some grueling, but all stretch him beyond his capability, whilst granting him the magical gift of freedom within a natural context.
I consider myself incredibly lucky to have grown up in the Lake District, where I was able to spend hours exploring the fells, rivers and woods with only my dog for company. Few children have that privilege now, and for some it’s hard to find so much as a patch of grass nearby. But Alan Rabinowitz, who sadly died earlier this year and was described as the ‘Indiana Jones of wildlife conservation’, grew up in New York with no wilderness within reach. Yet his perspective, which I admire so much, was that humans are wildlife too.
And perhaps this is what we need to reestablish the fading earth connection. If we were to consider ourselves an endangered species, then we would look to protect our natural habitat. We might begin to see the weeds and tiny blades of grass desperately pushing their way through the cracks of our city pavements, as vitally important sign posts back to who we really are. Wildlife.
* The term Nature-Deficit Disorder was first coined by Richard Louv in his bestselling work, ‘Last Child in the Woods’. But the happy news is that the writer didn’t just point at the problem and walk away, he has set up the Children and Nature Network (childrenandnature.org) to help us navigate it. There are wonderful networks and projects to connect with here, do take a look.
WARRIOR BOY by Virginia Clay is out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)
Connect with Virginia on twitter @VClayAuthor and find out more at www.chickenhousebooks.com
We have a copy of Warrior Boy to give away to one of our followers!
Read our review of Warrior Boy here.
Many thanks to Virginia for sharing this guest blog post with us and the publicist Laura for inviting me to take part in the blog tour. Do check out the other stops on the blog tour too!