Mothering in Mother Nature

Written by Laura Cook, Volunteer Stewardship Coordinator

Elizabeth with Mussel
(C) Terry Cook

She crouches low, slowly raises her net, and swiftly, with the skill of an experienced hunter, scoops out a 3” crayfish from the river. Success.  A huge smile.  A triumphant yell, “I caught another one mommy!”

Her 5-year old twin brother, just 30 yards upstream, repeats the triumphant yell with a 2’ crayfish…or as they are affectionately known in our household – a crawdaddy.

One day, I have no doubt; they will be able to identify each species of crawdad they catch. But for now, nothing makes my kids happier than spending a day on a river – exploring every gravel bar, searching under rocks for baby salamanders, and watching the dragonflies race above the water. What my kids don’t know just yet is that with their love and obsession with crawdads, they are lucky to live in Kentucky where we have one of the richer freshwater crayfish faunas in North America with 54 species – 7 of which are native or endemic only to Kentucky (

There is a line in Animal Dreams by Kentucky’s very own Barbara Kingsolver that has always stuck with me: “It’s surprising how much memory is built around things unnoticed at the time”. So I savior these days. I soak the images into my memory while my children giggle with delight as minnows brush by their legs or their shocked expression as a crawdad pinches their little fingers. And I hope they will look back on these days spent discovering the secrets of a river or a forest or a meadow with warm memories. But more than that, I wish for my children a love of wild things and fearless exploration. I think we are off to a good start.

(C) Terry Cook