My Grandfather Henri used to sit for hours in a folding beach chair outside my parents house, no matter the season. I would watch him as a child and wonder why. Was he annoyed by the banter of 5 grandkids? Was he catching some alone time? Now that I’m older I have better insight to his mysterious getaways on the front patio. He was communing with Nature, being in Nature was his way of washing away conflict, stress, boredom… It was his way of centering himself. I remember the special relationship he developed with all wild things, the bird seed he would sprinkle on his hat brim for the chickadees, the handful of peanuts in his pocket for the squirrels. The animals came willingly and peacefully to his presence, they ate out of his hand (as well as off of his hat). He would find 4 leaf clovers easier than anyone I’ve ever known.
I often wonder if my Grandfather was alive today if he would still be sitting outside in his rickety folding chair feeding the chickadees, or would he be sitting indoors with a tablet playing solitaire or doing electronic crossword puzzles. It’s more important than ever that we take time to be still in Nature, to listen to the sounds that fill the quiet – birds calling to each other, crickets in the grass, the leaves rustling softly when the wind blows. Its important to teach our children how to quiet themselves and hone their skills at finding 4 leaf clovers, to have an epic moment of communication with a wild animal. We give them 4 wheelers and smart phones, electric scooters and electronic card games.. It takes a commitment to change the way we relate to Nature, we have become so comfortable in our indoor electronic lives. It takes commitment to turn off the t.v. and fend off the whines and eye rolls. It takes commitment to take the kids to a mountain trail instead of the movies. It takes commitment to teach your kids to appreciate quiet instead of the endless background noise of video games.
Here are some ways that you can teach yourself and your kids to develop a closer relationship to Nature:
- Turn off all electronic for at least a few hours each day. Once you develop the habit of going without the time fillers you and your children will look for healthier ways to fill your time.
- When you feel stressed, anxious, angry- go outside and take ten deep breaths. You would be amazed at how good it feels to get out into the fresh air, it will change your attitude!
- Take time to walk, ride a bike every day. Its not only great exercise for your body but its fantastic for your mind.
- Find the wild animals in your immediate area and make a point to visit with them. Whether it be a squirrel, or a nest of birds in your shrubs every animal has it’s own unique personality. As a wildlife rehabber I can attest that even the smallest animals can have big personalities. Once an animal learns to trust you, you can develop a personal friendship with them. It’s a great lesson in patience, compassion and kindness.
- Go on visual nature treasure hunt with your kids. Make a list of things you might see in the woods, or in a park, or on the beach and try to spot all the items on your list.
- Make a habit out of picking up trash on your nature visits. My kids and I still make a competition out of finding trash at the beach every year, I started when they were little by asking everyone to pick up as many pieces of trash as they were years old. Of course everyone got a giggle at Mom picking up so much trash.
- Go camping! My husband has never been big on roughing it so his version of camping is an air mattress and grill.. But whatever camping looks like to you- go do it! Set up a sheet over a tree branch in the backyard and make smores.
- Be a star gazer! There is nothing like watching stars to connect you to the infinity of Nature.
- Volunteer at a park, or sanctuary.
- Have a picnic!
These may seem like simple concepts, but how many of us actually take time to do these things. The more connected to Nature we become , the healthier our body and mind will become. Let your kids get dirty, get them outside and take time to breath!