The Wide View

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When I think about great outdoor experiences, my default is the place where I grew up. Our little corner of Washington state is called the Grand Prairie, though the landscape is also scattered with forests, farms, and small towns that form an abstract connect-the-dots drawing between Seattle and Portland.

I try to stay present in our current metro-Denver reality, but I still romanticize the 60-acres of fields and woods that defined my childhood. When I take the wide view, of where I’d like to be in the next five or ten years, it’s the Roth Farm, every time.

My dad and step-mom still live on the farm, creating pottery, maintaining the farm footprint, and raising a small herd of cattle. They’ve been able to take a wide view, as they’ve imagined how to create a sustainable space, that will remain a family and community resource for years to come. They’ve planted hundreds of new trees to maintain the forest on the south and west sides of the farm. My dad has repaired countless miles of barbed wire fence over the years, and we’ve all pulled our share of tansy and thistles from the fields.

Now they’ve embarked on their biggest project yet – with the help of a grant and many collaborative architects, builders, and carpenters, they’re restoring our barn that was built in 1917. You can see in the photo above that the red roof is newer and in great shape, but the rest of the building has seen a lot of wear and tear.

I’m still trying to figure out when and how my family will be able to return to the farm, to put in our share of sweat equity. In the meantime, I’m working from afar, to provide a little virtual support. You can follow the process of the barn restoration at Roth Heritage Barn, and you can keep up with the pottery side at Grand Prairie Designs Pottery. Both spots are works-in-progress, but I hope they can become avenues to share these magical outdoor spaces that are worth saving.

What outdoor spaces are important to you? Do you have a wide view, when you think about maintaining those spaces? 

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Imagine Childhood

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“Of all nature’s materials, dirt is possibly one of the most underrated (except by those of you out there who are gardeners and know dirt, or rather soil, is kind). It’s a nuisance that’s tracked into the house, making your floors dirty; it’s the sand in your spinach that you couldn’t wash out completely. It always ends up somewhere you don’t want it. Yet for all its ability to be in the wrong place, when it’s in the right place, there’s no denying its versatility.”

-From Imagine Childhood, by Sarah Olmsted

I’m enjoying this book and the Olmsted family’s accompanying blog and web-site very much. I was reminded of this short passage about dirt, when Sam finished school today covered in mud, stripping off water-logged boots and socks before jumping in the car. We both smiled all the way home.

Imagine Childhood is a collection of nature essays, ideas for play, and simple projects. Sarah has divided the book into three major sections: nature, imagination, and play. The three areas are intertwined by her thoughtful text and beautiful photographs contributed by  many members of the Olmsted family.

Setting Intentions: A Hard Re-Start

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Somehow I fell off the planet, during the month I thought I’d be the most grounded. The plan was to focus on documenting and writing about our time outside. March is often the snowiest in Colorado, so consciously making an effort to spend more time outside was (and still is) a good plan for our family. We’ve had some beautiful snow, as well as balmy 60 degree days, and we’ve thoroughly enjoyed our time outside so far.

Which is an excellent reason for not blogging very much, so I could just stick with that story. But like any good story, there’s more to it than that. Really I’ve been in a process of realigning myself with the world – trying to dig deeper into what really matters to me, rather than just going through the motions. Slowing down to ask myself what matters, and then actually listening to the answers.

My work colleague and I presented at the Rocky Mountain Early Childhood Conference here in Denver, which re-grounded me in my love of process-focused-art and Reggio-inspired systems. Re-grounding which has me floating up in the air, and re-launching the old Yo-Yo Reggio blog. The conversations we had with teachers were fascinating to me, and I realized that I need to continue to pursue ways to further that conversation, both in relation to education systems and to creativity in general. My focus on the Reggio-inspired blog will be the idea of “provocations” particularly within the visual arts.

I’ve also been immersed in the world of children’s literature. I’ve been busy writing about titles for our district library review committee – work that I love. In an effort to align all of my loves, I’m going to start posting more book reviews in this space, though I’m sure you’ll still find photos, quotes, resources, recipes and on-going projects.

Finally, I’ve been working on some children’s lit writing projects of my own, with encouragement from new friends at the Lighthouse Writers Workshop. I’ve always had a million ideas to write about, but have rarely created the time and space to commit ideas to paper. And even when the words have made it to paper, I haven’t committed myself to the hard work of sharing, revising, and editing within a community of writers. Shyness is a formidable opponent, but I’m starting to stand up to that nemesis of mine.

So there you have it, my hard re-start (i.e. shutting down the entire system, counting to thirty, and then rebooting) has served me well. I’m back on the bike and ready to roll.

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What are you up to? How do you restart, when your system is overloaded?