Early in his 1836 essay, Emerson observes that there is a difference in the way a man regards nature as he moves from childhood to adulthood. The relationship is still there, but it evolves from the delight of a child to the deep curiosity and appreciation of a man. He writes,
The flowers, the animals, the mountains, reflected all the wisdom of his best hour, as much as they had delighted the simplicity of his childhood.
In other words, the relationship deepens from simple delight to a deep recognition of the majesty, profundity, and sustaining qualities of a bond with the natural world.
Emerson acknowledges that there is a certain loss of wonder that comes with maturity. He believes that there is an aspect of the experience of nature that only children can access; he expresses this sentiment when he avers "To speak truly, few adult persons can see nature" and "the sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and the heart of the child." The awareness of and love for nature begins in childhood when the mind and heart are open.
In adulthood, a different kind of appreciation sets in that goes beyond the emotional and experiential, even though those things don't entirely disappear. Man begins to realize that his relationship with nature is seamlessly and permanently interwoven into his existence.
What changes, Emerson argues, is that the relationship becomes more profound and elemental. Nature is a place to recapture the wonder of one's youth with an adult awareness and appreciation that children lack. This is evident when Emerson observes that
in the woods too, a man casts off his years, as the snake his slough, and at what period so ever of life, is always a child. In the woods, is perpetual youth.