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  • I've spent more time outside in the past year than I have in probably the past 20. And, thanks to my smartphone, I've learned much about nature in the process. For instance, I did not know that cow-killer ants are actually wingless wasps. Or that their sting won't kill you -- it'll just hurt like hell. Or that they lay their eggs in the nests of cicada wasps (which I never knew existed), or that cicadas nest in the ground. As do all other sorts of other stinging bugs. It's been an educational year in more ways than one.

    I look at the ground with a new respect now. Who knew so many things were living in it? I can't say I'm eager to sit on the ground these days, though. You never know what's lurking in the grass, and I'd rather not sit on something with a stinger.

    I'm also reluctant to let my daughter sit in the grass. I look at her tender porcelain skin and shudder to think of the slightest injury. She has my skin; each insult causes a red, angry welt to erupt. These marks, while they quickly fade, seem to scream at me my inadequacies. How dare I allow such pain to befall this precious child? So I waddle behind her, hunched, ready to rescue her from the stumbles and stings of childhood.

    One of my earliest memories is of laying in the tall grass of a field at the end of my street. My friends and I beat down a small area and stretched out to watch the clouds. It was like a fort roofed by sky; unless you were standing within pinching distance of us, you'd never know we were there. We spent one of the best afternoons of my life that way. When I related the afternoon's activities to my mother, she was horrified; snakes live in tall grass, you know. But we saw no snakes that day, only puffy clouds in a brilliant blue sky, and golden sunlight filtered through cool green grass.

    I did not understand her reaction then, but I do now.

    And, despite my pounding heart, I let my daughter sit in the grass.
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