Bringing Healing Nature Home

Recently I viewed a screening of Play Again, a documentary exploring the consequences of a childhood removed from nature. For me it was a sobering film as I recognized aspects of what is presented (kids and teens using media 5-15 hours daily or more), in the lives of some youth around me.

Reflecting on “my generation”, I’ve long felt that we’ve been placing responsibility on the next generations to reconnect with nature, and “clean things up”. But, frankly, it’s up to us parents and caring adults to fall in love with nature ourselves, and include the kids in our lives and anyone else in our journey of rediscovery.

This doesn’t have to mean throwing ourselves into the wilderness and dragging our kids along (though it can). It can be as simple as deciding to take family wanders on a regular basis in open space preserves, or even just down the street in the evening or in local parks. It means being willing to be captivated by earthworms in the grass on a wet morning. It means taking time to slow down and have an outdoor fire of some kind and hearing each others’ tales.

It means being brave enough to tell our kids (and partners and spouses) that tonight we’re going to go for a walk outside instead of stay inside each watching or playing or listening to our respective medias. Or maybe we’ll play a board game, or drop by to say hello to a neighbor.

Rediscovering (or discovering for the first time) the comfort of climbing into a tree, or walking barefoot on dirt, or just touching a fluffy pussy willow catkin, is not just about connecting with nature and discovering that we are nature–it’s about rediscovering community, valuing community. The human relationship with nature is about experiencing it with each other (as well as alone). Healthy, resilient community is an expression of nature, and interwoven with an awareness of and relationship with nature.

When we discover ourselves to be at home in nature, whether we live in a suburb, city, or in a rural area, or enter as a traveler, we discover the true nature of ourselves. Nature speaks it, our true selves, all the time.

We are never truly separate from nature. The earth nourishes us, the air is our breath in each moment. The water of ancient seas cleanses and nourishes our bodies. The stars continue to offer guidance and wise story, even when we don’t see them, or think to look for them.

When we make a wish on a dandelion, when we nibble a wild berry, when we dip our toes in the sand or the waters, let it begin anew a conversation, if it’s been a long time for you. You’ll figure out what to do next. Draw in the sand with a stick, perhaps, or weave a daisy chain.

With a child who has never had the experience of climbing trees or building shelters, or hurtling down a “kid’s” trail through shrubs, be as quiet and patient as you would with a bird you’ve found fluttering on the ground. Discover where the child is truly alive and awake. Be open to where you might find an opportunity of the natural world reaching out to that child. You may lead by example, and depending on your relationship with the child, you may be able to coax them quickly to do something fun and wild with dirt or water or mud or shrubs, to notice the birds, or smell the trees and flowers. You may be able to dive right in and that child is right with you and quickly moves past you.

With other kids it may be much harder. So many messages abound right now to be careful, be clean, stay safe, don’t trust. With a child who won’t touch dirt, who is afraid of spiders, who is fearful of the trees, just take that perceptive, open approach, noticing the child herself. Be respectful. Maybe you notice the patterns of the clouds, maybe you notice the patterns in a flower. Maybe you tell a story about finding a treasure in a forest, or a magic stone on a sidewalk.

We can learn to be wild, or learn to be wild anew. I mean “wild” as in fully alive, experiencing the liveliness of the world all around us, the vigor that can be found anywhere–even between concrete slabs. Believe that you can find the heart of nature for yourself and in yourself, and believe that it can awaken for children who seem to you the most closed.

We are wired for nature! We all have a place within its story, and its story can always be found within ourselves. Believe in that, and then find out the first place where it is true. And go from there.

Nature And The Human Soul ~ Book Group

I’m going to be leading a book group starting in Feb.  Here are the details.  If you’re on the island or in the area, please join me!

Nature And The Human Soul ~ Book Group

Jane Valencia of WiseChildLearning.org and your fellow community member
will be your guide!

3rd Wednesday each month – Feb through Oct, 5:30-7:30pm
Location: TBA
First mtg: Feb. 15 – Chapters 1-3
Info/to join in:   Contact Jane

This book, Nature And The Human Soul, by Depth psychologist and wilderness guide Bill Plotkin introduces a model that maps how fully and creatively we can mature when soul and wild nature guide us. The SoulCentric Developmental Wheel offers a hopeful understanding of how we as humans best thrive that we can apply to nurturing our children, families, and communities, and to understanding the yearnings that move through our own lives.

This book is quite a tome, and not the easiest read!  If you find yourself going cross-eyed, or just not finding the time to read the section we’ll be discussing, please come anyway.  It is my intent that you won’t actually have to read the book to gain a visceral understanding of its concepts and immediately begin applying its lens to aspects of your life (if you’d like to do so!).

Our time on this journey will include:

~ presenting a “cliff notes” version of the month’s reading (50-70 pages
distilled to a 10 min. telling — woo hoo!)

~ reading aloud passages that speak to us in some way (whether in revelation or confusion!), plus space for silent reflection  (kind of a “leccio divina” approach to book reading!)

~ discussion

~ activities that connect with some of the concepts of the reading, including presenting some particularly appropriate nature-and-community “core” routines to play with at home

~ some questions for reflection at home that you can journal about, muse over, or just have available should you want them

~ and probably more!

Most of all, my hope is that this book group will be exciting, intriguing, and fun! I’m curious to see what happens when we begin sharing a perception of this kind of blueprint for whole human–and community–development.  Where do we feel it resonates powerfully for us (or does it?). Where do we disagree with it?  What are we willing to take of it and live in our own lives (and how might we easefully, naturally do so), and what just doesn’t really make sense to us?  Where is whole nature alive and well (even if hidden) in our extended families, communities, and surrounding world already?

I have no doubt that you’ll have many thoughts, wonderings, and observations of your own!

I hope you’ll join in the journey!

Yes, I am an affiliate of Powell’s Books ~ an amazing independent bookshop.  I’m providing these links for convenience.  I do get a small percentage from each book sale through links on this site.  ~ Cheers, Jane

Where Are The Elders?

Okay, storyteller and mythologist Michael Meade has another blog post with Huffington Post, this time on the lack of elders  in our culture: “Where Have All The Wise Men Gone?”.  Read it, and check out the other posts he’s written there (one which I mentioned previously).   Meade’s mythic sense, intelligence, and insights on the problems facing us today always resonate profoundly with me.   Please share your own thoughts here!