Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Playing and Learning in Nature

Let children walk with Nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life. -John Muir

Looking back on recent posts, I became aware of how much time Rafael and I spend outdoors. Having dogs means more dirt and more responsibility, but it also means being forced to get out into the fresh air, rain or shine, heat or snow, twice a day. This has been a huge blessing, a gift, for both myself and my son.

At the beginning of spring, everything in the woods was new and fascinating for Raffi. He got excited every morning, and it was hard to drag him out of the woods. He would go on and on about the things we saw, and wanted to learn the names of bugs and plants.

Now, nearing autumn, Rafael often doesn't really want to go on our daily morning walk in the woods. He would rather visit his grandparents who live down the road, watch television, or play with cars. At least, this is what he thinks he would rather do. I push him in the stroller down the village road, the dogs' leashes in one hand, getting us to the forest as quickly as possible, while Raffi complains and makes suggestions for other things to do. 

Then we finally arrive at the wide path leading into a cathedral of trees, and I set the dogs free, and let Raffi slide out of the stroller. Sometimes he'll turn back and say, "Let's go home," or "Let's go to Grandma and Grandpa." The dogs are already busy sniffing and running, and I am also hungry for the trees and wind. I search the ground, looking for something of interest. 

"Look Raffi," I'll say with enthusiasm. "Look what fell down in the rain storm last night: acorns! Let's gather them for our collection. Here's more!" Other things I show him that get his attention: a puddle. A feather. A tree trunk to balance on. Slugs. Caterpillars. Mud. Wild berries. Rocks. Dragonflies. The creek. Salamanders. Sticks.

Once one of these things has his attention, he forgets about everything else, and could spend hours in the forest (as long as I have snacks, which I always do).  

I wanted to share this with you in case you thought my child is a nature magnet that begs to go outside and has never watched a television series. No. I have often thought that I am lucky we have dogs who have to get outdoors every day, because this means that even if Raffi whines and says he doesn't want to go, we go, and we stay for a while, and he ends up loving it. 

As years go by, and his hours spent in the woods, in the rivers, and in the fields accumulate, I know that many of his favorite memories will be made out there. 

Please share one of your favorite memories of being in nature here. I just love reading them!



  1. These days I can't stay away from the sea! I spend almost half if the day there and then blog about it! It makes me calmer and happier...Nature at its best!

  2. I grew up in Anchorage, Alaska -- and we had a lovely forest (undeveloped) right next to our property. I have delightful memories of spending time in amongst the trees and ferns, making fairy houses and also stunning floor-plans for a few of my favorite Barbie dolls. Or just exploring (without getting too far from our home). I LOVE the smell of pine needles and sun on trees. And this delicious scent always takes me back to my childhood. I was blessed. I AM blessed.

  3. Ah I just love your pictures. I love watching my 2.5 yr old experience utter joy at just the smallest things on our walks ("Look an ACORN! And LOTS OF ANTS!!"). It makes me wonder when exactly we lose that innocence. There is nothing like seeing the world through a child's eyes.

  4. My favorite nature memories are of our trips to the beach in South Carolina. We take our canoe out into the sound and follow the dolphins as they swim, splash and play. Sometimes they get curious and come very close to our little boat. It's amazing to be so near to these wonderful animals. For me, there is nothing quite so peaceful and relaxing as a beach vacation.

  5. Being out in nature is always wonderful. My late husband and I spent many years camping and enjoying our times communing with Mother Nature. One time as we sat at a picnic table in a campground, listening to James Taylor and playing checkers, a squirrel decided he wanted to see what we were doing. He climbed onto the bench and then onto my lap! Soon he jumped up to the table, saw my husband's Pay Day candy bar and, in one quick movement, he grabbed it and took off! LOL
    Every where I go, my camera tags along. I feel exhilarated taking and viewing my photo's. You can see many of them on my website. I am now making greeting cards and selling them as well as framed photos of mine! It makes me smile.

  6. The picture where Raffi is hanging by his arms is hilarious!:)

    Growing up, I was the only girl in our neighborhood. We played outside all the time, but it was always "boy" games. Guns, forts, etc. I loved being out at night collecting lightening bugs. Our neighborhood was very safe and the road was private, so as kids we would run around during the summer at night from house to house, not a care in the world. And I had a very overprotective Mom, but it was OK with her. It seemed like during those summer nights, we had more freedom than at any other time and we loved it. As an adult, I realize how lucky we were to have such a cocoon of safety to play and explore in.


  7. A huge memory of my childhood is, that my Grandpa always went into the woods with me - explaining every tree, bird, flower etc. and pretended to stumble over stumps, which made me laughing my head off as a child. We picked flowers for Grandma or Mommy and, since I loved it out there so much, I devoured my books about gnomes ("Wichtel"), who live in the woods and live next to ladybugs and stag beetles. This also made me paint countless pictures with little fellows living in an old shoe next to a tree, or an apple, or a tree itself - and I always wished being tiny enough to live in such a cozy shack. Haha.

    Living close to nature is definitely a thing, what I miss with living in a big city - but there are pro's and con's, right?! ;-)
    You're blessed to live in such a beautiful corner of the world and Raffi will for sure build his own inerasable memories out there.

    ENJOY every second, Dawne (well, I'm sure you do...)!!!


  8. It seems like all my great childhood memories are of being outside! I'm glad I got to grow up without the Internet or I phones! But now as an adult I love being able to read stories from people so far away. Playing at the castle garden in Germany, catching fireflies at my grama's house in michigan, laying in the daisies at my grampa's house, climbing trees and writing, playing in the grass with my pet guinea pig, pretending a side yard of rocks was a river! The lucky times it snowed, rollerblading with friends, walking down to the bay. Childhood is nature!



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