Mother Nature’s Playground

A family member recently sent me some photos of her husband sledding down a sand hill at Monahans Sandhills State Park in west Texas. This brought back memories of climbing up and sledding down the white, gypsum dunes at New Mexico’s White Sands National Monument. We humans love playing on Mother Earth. We have our special accessories: sleds for snow and sand; pieces of cardboard for tall, grassy slopes or ice covered streets; skis and ice skates for snow and iced over ponds. We let gravity and friction take us on a ride. We go to the ocean to surf and sail. We go to the lakes and rivers to canoe or kayak. And then there is the fun of tubing on a river using the flow of water to power our ride.

But, we also have fun on earth without the accessories between our bodies and the elements. I remember rolling over and over down grassy hills when I was a little kid. And I had great fun jumping in puddles and leaping into piles of leaves. Maybe you made angels in the snow. Have you ever climbed a tree or gone up a cliff with only your hands and feet?

Here is a photo taken by my mother as I went hurtling down a slick, limestone incline at Pedernales Falls State Park in July of 1975*:

Photo taken by Barbara Downes (author’s Mother)

Last year I injured my back and right leg. I spent 5 months in chronic pain and outpatient physical therapy. I am much improved and can go on walks as long as the terrain is fairly flat. But, I don’t think I can do much physical playing on Mother Nature’s playground anymore. Just the idea of climbing up a steep hill seems impossible these days. I am mortal and age has caught up with me. I can’t do all I could do as a little girl or as a young woman, especially without some arthritis pain. The water is still my friend though. I can still float down the river on the current and swim in the lakes.

It is said that we evolved from the oceans and became land creatures. If I am lucky enough to get down to the coast this year I will body surf in the Gulf of Mexico. Guessing how the waves will break, I will try to be in the right place to float gently over the wave and down the other side.

*Swimming is no longer permitted at that part of the Pedernales River

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Born and raised in Central Texas. Spending time outside brings me joy and I love to share my observations. I also belong to two writing groups and enjoy researching my ancestors. I find people interesting, but Nature keeps me sane.

11 thoughts on “Mother Nature’s Playground”

  1. Hi Betty – your posts always inspire me to get outside and be “in” nature. Science has proven that just being outside, with or without actually exercising, is beneficial to our physical and mental health. I try to remember that on the days when I can’t hike up a mountain. I can go to the picnic area and sit. From there I can take in the mountainside, the hills in the distance, the blue sky, the occasional cloud, bask in the sunshine, close my eyes and listen to the sounds. And, like you, I crave being in the water. You’ve reminded me why – it’s where we came from, it’s what we’re made of. It’s only natural that it’s where we feel whole and supported and refreshed. Well, it’s too cold for the pool but not too cold to sit in the sunshine in the yard. Like you, age catches up, much as we hate it. I am recovering from total hip replacement so a little time outdoors is what I need. I can still throw the frisbee for the dog from a chair! And those Gulf beaches are the best!!! Something to look forward to! As I will look forward to your next post.


  2. Ouch and ooooo all together … would so love to climb the sandhills again (I grew up in Monahans) but that ooooo would turn to major ouches well before I reached top. I was there last summer for a couple of nights camping at the state park … surrounded by the sandhills is a pleasure I CAN still enjoy … and I see plants and sunsets that would’ve been overlooked in more vigorous days. A trade-off I guess?


      1. Hi Jazz, I actually camped at Monahans back in the 90s with a couple of photographer friends. Did not slide the dunes then but got some nice photos and I remember it being pretty and peaceful.


  3. Yes, I loved climbing in trees. I could get in the highest position of the large Sycamore Tree, that is IF my brothers didn’t get there first. It was a favorite place where we could see downtown San Antonio skyscrapers from our way south neighborhood.
    About Pedernales State Park. I have walked all over the river area, stepping over small waterways and going the hard way around the large rocks and all that only about 6 or 7 years ago. Today I couldn’t do that. We change just as nature changes around us. We adapt to our disabilities. It’s life. Thanks for prompting my tree climbing memories and the photos of you at the falls slide at Pedernales. I can see how one could be injured there, especially at the bottom of that slide fall. I did dip my feet into the river while sitting on a large rock surface next to the river and where in flooded times the water would flow there too.


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