"We are all wanderers on this earth...our hearts are full of wonder, and our souls are deep with dreams." ~ Gypsy proverb

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Nature's weave

Welcome to the May Carnival of Natural Parenting: Growing in the Outdoors
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how they encourage their children to connect with nature and dig in the dirt. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


I believe it was in Richard Louv's book where I read that the greatest bonds we make with our childhood memories are somewhere between 9 and 14 years old (give or take a couple years).  At that time, I was in Ohio running in the woods and climbing the hills, playing in the snow and falling in the leaves, swimming in the lake and fishing on the dock, and catching fireflies or picking the peonies.  These are the things I remember and the memories I keep. These moments, though seemingly immemorable at the time, had marked me forever, and thus my weave with nature had begun. 

Since that time, whether it's an innate sense of longing, a strong need for clarity, or just a simple search for joy, communing with nature is as vital to me as breathing air.  Nature's weave runs deeply rooted to my spirit, with fibers that feel firmly planted, but always searching for room to stretch its branches. The hikes, the birds, the trees, sunsets and sunrises temper me with gratitude and peace.  I am grounded in an instant, and reminded of where I truly come from, and where I will return to when my life is done.  It is this grounding and earthly, yet spiritual awareness that I would want for my children. Whether it grows in them or not, is not for me to say.  But I can show them my own roots and offer to plant seeds, as they were once planted in me.

The only way I know how to build this bond is just by doing, grasping at every opportunity to explore our surroundings.  I have learned that going outside, just for the sake of going outside, doesn't quite entice my children (especially with all the technological distractions available). But to go outside to climb trees, hunt for butterflies, or search for snails, now those things spark their spirits and invoke joy. 

I spend time every week writing a list of places we have not been and want to visit.  Today, I added Jekyll Island to our list.  Opportunities abound if we remain open, and take them as they come.  I have learned to say "yes", "soon" or "someday" to every single one that comes our way.  In the past month, we have gone canoeing, picked wildflowers, visited a butterfly forest, rode bikes on the beach, swam in the ocean, and hiked in the woods.  Simply, I offer opportunity, facilitate, assist, try to answer questions, then I step out of the way.  Naturally, learning is a beautiful byproduct. Nature does the rest as she has a story all her own to tell, and children love her stories. They dive deep, live and breathe in them, just as I did when I was young.

Without opportunity for adventure and exploration, it's easy to miss all that is being offered.  But once my mind is open to meeting those opportunities, nothing seems improbable. Long drives mean little to see and feel something spectacular. Curiosity and passion will guide them in their weaving.  And the closer they draw to nature, the stronger she will rein them in. Maybe the ties will strengthen between them, permanently imprinting a craving and a need for more.  At least, that is what I hope for.

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
  • Get Out!Momma Jorje gives reasons she doesn't think she gets outside enough and asks for your suggestions on making time for the outdoors.
  • How Does Your Garden Grow?The ArtsyMama shares her love of nature photography.
  • We Go Outside — Amy at Peace 4 Parents describes her family's simple, experiential approach to encouraging appreciation of nature.
  • My Not-So-Green Thumb — Wolfmother confesses to her lack of gardening skills but expresses hope in learning alongside her son at Fabulous Mama Chronicles.
  • Enjoying Outdoors — Isil at Smiling like Sunshine describes how her children enjoy the nature.
  • Five Ideas to Encourage the Reluctant Junior Gardener — For the rare little ones who don't like to get their hands dirty, Dionna at Code Name: Mama offers tips for encouraging an early love of dirt (despite the mess).
  • Connecting to NatureMamapoekie shares how growing your own vegetable patch connects your child to nature and urges them to not take anything for granted.
  • The Farmer's Market Classroom — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction shares how the Farmer's Market has become her son's classroom.
  • Seeds — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment's hubby Ken shares his perspective on why gardening with their kiddos is so important . . . and enjoyable!
  • Toddlers in the Garden — Laura at A Pug in the Kitchen shares her excitement as she continues to introduce her toddler and new baby to the joys of fresh veggies, straight from the garden.
  • Nature's Weave — MJ at Wander Wonder Discover explains how nature weaves its way into our lives naturally, magnetically, experientially, and spiritually.
  • Becoming Green — Kristina at Hey Red celebrates and nurtures her daughter's blossoming love of the outdoors.
  • Little Gardener — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis looks forward to introducing her baby girl to gardening and exploring home grown foods for the first time.
  • Cultivating Abundance — You can never be poor if you have a garden! Lucy at Dreaming Aloud reflects on what she cultivates in her garden . . . and finds it's a lot more than seeds!
  • Growing in the Outdoors: Plants and People — Luschka at Diary of a First Child reflects on how she is growing while teaching her daughter to appreciate nature, the origins of food, and the many benefits of eating home-grown.
  • How Not to Grow — Anna at Wild Parenting discusses why growing vegetables fills her with fear.
  • Growing in the Outdoors — Lily at Witch Mom Blog talks about how connecting to the natural world is a matter of theology for her family and the ways that they do it.
  • A Garden Made of Straw — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy shares tips on making a straw bale garden.
  • The Tradition of Gardening — Carrie at Love Notes Mama reflects on the gifts that come with the tradition of gardening.
  • Gardening Smells Like Home — Bethy at Bounce Me to the Moon hopes that her son will associate home grown food and lovely flowers with home.
  • The New Normal — Patti at Jazzy Mama writes about how she hopes that growing vegetables in a big city will become totally normal for her children's generation.
  • Outside, With You — Amy at Anktangle writes a letter to her son, a snapshot of a moment in the garden together.
  • Farmer Boy — Abbie at Farmer's Daughter shares how her son Joshua helps to grow and raise their family's food.
  • Growing Kids in the Garden — Lisa at Granola Catholic shares easy ways to get your kids involved in the garden.
  • Growing Food Without a Garden — Don't have a garden? "You can still grow food!" says Mrs Green of Little Green Blog. Whatever the size of your plot, she shows you how.
  • Growing Things — Liz at Garden Variety Mama shares her reasons for gardening with her kids, even though she has no idea what she's doing.
  • MomentsUK Mummy Blogger explains how the great outdoors provides a backdrop for her family to reconnect.
  • Condo Kid Turns Composter and Plastic Police — Jessica from Cloth Diapering Mama has discovered that her young son is a true earth lover despite living in a condo with no land to call their own.
  • Gardening with Baby — Sheila at A Gift Universe shows us how her garden and her son are growing.
  • Why to Choose Your Local Farmer's MarketNaturally Nena shares why she believes it's important to teach our children the value of local farmers.
  • Unfolding into Nature — At Crunchy-Chewy Mama, Jessica Claire shares her desire to cultivate a reverence for nature through gardening, buying local food, and just looking out the window.
  • Urban Gardening With Kids — Lauren at Hobo Mama shares her strategies for city gardening with little helpers — without a yard but with a whole lot of enthusiasm.
  • Mama Doesn't Garden — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life is glad her husband is there to instill the joys of gardening in their children, while all she has to do is sit back and eat homegrown tomato sandwiches.
  • Why We Make this Organic Garden Grow — Brenna at Almost All The Truth shares her reasons for gardening with her three small children.
  • 5 Ways to Help Your Baby Develop a Love of the Natural World — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama believes it's never too early to foster a love of the natural world in your little one.
  • April Showers Bring May PRODUCE — Erika at NaMammaSte discusses her plans for raising a little gardener.
  • Growing Outside — Seonaid at The Practical Dilettante discovers how to get her kids outside after weeks of spring rain.
  • Eating Healthier — Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey talks about how she learns to eat healthier and encourages her children to do the same.
  • The Beauty of Earth and Heavens — Inspired by Charlotte Mason, Erica at ChildOrganics discovers nature in her own front yard.
  • Seeing the Garden Through the Weeds — Amanda at Let's Take the Metro talks about the challenges of gardening with two small children.
  • Creating a Living Playhouse: Our Bean Teepee! — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings shares how her family creates a living playhouse "bean teepee" and includes tips of how to involve kids in gardening projects.
  • Grooming a Tree-Hugger: Introducing the Outdoors — Ana at Pandamoly shares some of her planned strategies for making this spring and summer memorable and productive for her pre-toddler in the Outdoors.
  • Sowing Seeds of Life and Love — Suzannah at ShoutLaughLove celebrates the simple joys of baby chicks, community gardening, and a semi-charmed country life.
  • Experiencing Nature and Growing Plants Outdoors Without a Garden — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares some of her favorite ways her family discovered to fully experience nature wherever they lived.
  • Garden Day — Melissa at The New Mommy Files is thankful to be part of community of families, some of whom can even garden!
  • Teaching Garden Ettiquette to the Locusts — Tashmica from Mother Flippin' (guest posting at Natural Parents Network) allows her children to ravage her garden every year in the hopes of teaching them a greater lesson about how to treat the world.
  • Why I Play with Worms. — Megan of Megadoula, Megamom and Megatired shares why growing a garden and raising her children go hand in hand.


  1. Beautiful post MJ. The world is a better place when we all realize nature is a part of us and we are a part of nature.

  2. Absolutely beautiful! Something tells me you aren't too far off from the unschooling philosophy ;) I love those perfect moments where Kieran discovers and makes connections - all without interference from me. What joyous aha moments those are for both of us. Thank you for sharing!

  3. "Simply, I offer opportunity, facilitate, assist, try to answer questions, then I step out of the way. Naturally, learning is a beautiful byproduct. Nature does the rest as she has a story all her own to tell, and children love her stories." So true, and so wise! Thank you for another beautiful, beautiful post!

  4. Awesome! Well said and beautifully executed. It's the same for us - going outside is "boring" but "exploring" "adventuring" or "hunting" for things is an entirely different matter :-)

  5. Wonderful post MJ and you will just love Jekyll Island; it is a fun place to visit!

  6. beautiful post! We are headed down to st simons island next week and the kids always go to the sea turtle center on Jekyll island.

  7. great post. I think my strongest memories as a child were outdoors ones too... building forts and jumping in creeks...

  8. I love these adventures and explorations. We're crossing the continent and spending the summer outside this year to see what else is out there. Hope I'll remember to step out of the way once the adventure is begun.

  9. Beautiful post! I too feel that connection with nature because growing up my parents encouraged us to play and be and feel the bond with nature. I hope to one day do the same for my kiddos!

  10. Even in the heart of a big city we have been able to create a safe haven in our yard for our four children to enjoy. And they do enjoy it--by practically living outdoors for the entire summer! A connection to nature is certainly as basic a need as food, water and love, isn't it?

  11. this is so well said. really enjoyed your story.

    "Nature does the rest as she has a story all her own to tell, and children love her stories."

    i grew up in the 'burbs, but some of my fondest memories are playing in the creek, catching taddies (tadpoles) and that sort of thing, with my younger brother. there was a freedom we just sensed that was completely different to being 'free' in the city. it was pure wild freedom.

  12. Such a beautiful post! I agree completely Lovely pics! Thanks for the links too. Those are very interesting.

  13. These are such beautiful, thoughtful words, MJ. I've read them three times now. And still getting so much with each passing!

    What you write resonates so deeply for me. I have decided that even though we're going into winter, I want to spend as much of it outdoors as possible, even if our noses grow icicles!

    And I agree with the part about stepping out of the way. I love the idea of taking your kids somewhere Out, for an Adventure of Some Sort, then seeing what happens! I learned very early on in our homeschooling journey that the best kinds of discoveries happen once you stop showing and start watching. Yes, and thankyou, and amen, sister, and I can't wait for more of your words :)

  14. that second photo makes me want to jump right into that forest! I LOVE IT!

  15. Phew. What a collective list of goodies. Important message, for sure. Way to go, MJ. Learning is just outside our door, waiting for us.

  16. Your photos really, really struck me, particularly the second one; it just took my breath away. I'm sure that nature will weave her way into your children's hearts.

  17. I love the idea of staying prepared to share something in nature with them. I rarely give them an idea of what we will be doing. We are currently battling too much screen time and I know this will fit nicely in my arsenal. thank you :)

  18. Your pictures are GORGEOUS.

    I think the idea of ~9-14 being so meaningful sounds right to me. I love the idea of setting up spaces and opportunities to connect with nature to fill that timeframe (and now, for my little ones). I remember a weeping willow tree my friends and I had a fort underneath, and the food we would forage from local wild plants. It's a magical time. Thank you so much for this post.

  19. What a beautiful post! Love this in so many ways.

  20. Great, great post. Thank you. Immersing our children and ourselves in mother nature is just so important. Jade x


“Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
~ George Bernard Shaw