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.

Music From The Greenwood ~ Masque re-release

Hello, everyone,

I’m delighted to announce the re-release of my first CD, recorded with fellow Celtic harper Debra Knodel. We perform and record as the duo Spookytree. The album is Masque (originally titled “The Harpers’ Masque”), and Deb has created new art for it. Take a look!

Masque - CD cover art by Debra Knodel © 2012

Featured is The Green Man – an archetype of the wild intelligence of the plant realm, and much more. The Green Man has spoken to me for decades now, and I’ve written about this relationship in a few places, one of which is in this article:

May Day/Beltane & the Green Man In Our Time

The Green Man also appears (as the Leaf-face) in my children’s fantasy novel Because Of The Red Fox (by the way, I’ve just completed the second full draft of the novel, and it is posted in its entirety on my Foxtales – magical nature fun for kids blog – at least until July 20).

I invite you to browse the music of Masque – the entire CD is available to listen to for free, and the CD itself is a Set Your Own Price offering, starting at $4. And also give Because Of The Red Fox a read.

Then go outside (or do that first!) and experience the greenweave all around us, the abundant life in forest, field, and even bursting through cracks in the sidewalk, in abandoned lots, in the most carefully groomed lawn.

Enjoy!

Prayer-Book Making, And Update

First, the Update …

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted! Here’s a brief update on other writing I’ve been doing.

I’m finishing a draft of a children’s fantasy novel called Because Of The Red Fox, and am posting chapters of this work-in-progress on my kids blog, FoxTales. Characters from the book speak about what’s happening in the novel, as well as comment on the goings-on in their lives on an island called Yonder. I invite you to check it, and share it with the kids in your life!

My website Wise Child Learning is devoted to herbal learning and nature’s magic adventures for kids of all ages. I’m posting about plants, my own herbal adventures, sharing herbs and nature with kids, and more on the blog there. If you’re at all interested, check that out too!

… And now, Prayer- Book Making:

Another project that’s up are Prayer-Book Making  workshops that I am presenting with book making artist Julie Shannon.

As part of that project, I’ve decided to dive into an experiment in prayer-book making, which I’ve begun right on this blog.   Prayer-book making can look and feel like anything with which you might experiment with creatively, from your heart.  It is an expression of your journey with the Sacred, and how that looks and feels in your life.  Really, (I’ll repeat!) that can be expressed in anyway you like–as a scrapbook, a journal, a collection of quotes, photos of loved ones, some mix of all of those or none of them!

In upcoming posts I’ll share some past prayer-books I’ve created, and glimpses of prayer-books that speak to me.  But today I’ll just start by inviting you to view my new prayer-book, a web-prayer-book,which I’m calling Jane’s Book Of Deer.

Please don’t think that this web-book is any kind of expression of “how” one should create a prayer-book! It absolutely isn’t. But what I hope it does is invite you to view your life, your imagination, your heart,  through the lens of the Sacred–something more than yourself, however you experience that more/beyond/forever-deepening.

I invite you to step into your conversation with the miracle of existence, and begin crafting your own prayer-book, a whirl of that magic, in whatever form flows from your being. A garden can be a prayer-book. So can a dance. Our lives are prayer-books. How do we celebrate and honor this conversation with the Divine, the Universe, the beyond-ourselves that lies within and around us and includes us? Let your prayer-book be that  curious wandering and wondering!

Prayer Book - art by Jane Valencia (c) 2003