The Cure for Anything

 

Watching for Arthur, By Michael Edwards

Watching for Arthur, By Michael Edwards

“The cure for anything is salt water – tears, sweat, or the sea.”

-Isak Dinesen

Spending time at the shore did feel like a cure, and we would have liked to stay. Back in land-locked Denver, we have tears and sweat at our disposal. I have to believe that fresh water will cure us just as well; the inundation of late afternoon thunder storms, the rushing creeks and rivers, even the left-over mud puddles, open for one last splash.

I set my computer screen with a Hokusai wave painting and we pore over our shells that still carry Atlantic sand. Is this attraction to big water just the yearning for something different? At the shore we still fought and fussed, grew weary of the wind and the sand that infiltrated our lunch. Wherever we go, we’ll be tethered by our bodies and brains, but when I dive under a wave some knot inside begins to loosen. I see that in the kids too – the sand and the salt and the sky bring something new to the surface. Their shoulders are more relaxed, their faces calm, hands and feet more sure.

Save that Water!

Photo by Michael Edwards

Photo by Michael Edwards

This is the second summer that Sam has attended day camp at SPREE (South Platte River Environmental Education). I’ve been consistently impressed with their program, which involves lots of time playing in the river, as well as lessons in conservation, natural history, and environmental science. The campers are constantly learning, but without the constraints of traditional classroom structures and norms.

Today Sam came home with a ‘nature invention’ – a bug catcher made of two plastic bottles, connected by a cardboard tube, so that he could observe the bugs in action, but also give them a place to escape for shade and privacy. I love his invention because it’s an echo of his own personality. He loves action, but also needs quiet time for recharging his batteries.

Each day he’ll share some new bits of information about water conservation or animal behavior. And this afternoon, when his sister was repeatedly dumping her water bottle out on the sidewalk, he had no problem telling her that she was wasting water, and exactly why she should be more conservation minded (have I already mentioned how much I love eight-year-olds?). We also now know exactly how many gallons of water we go through with each load of laundry and running of the dishwasher, so all of us are working to make sure we run full loads.

The kids are all about the idea of wearing their clothes multiple times before washing them, but we’re treading a fine line between being environmentalists and being just plain stinky. At any rate, I appreciate Sam for reminding us to be more conscious of the resources and energy that we’re using each day, and I appreciate SPREE for helping him learn in a way that’s engaging and meaningful.

it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

The poem and the photo sum up our trip to the ocean perfectly.  Ocean waves, sand, shells, clouds – every element reminds me of how small we are. Thank you to Michael for the photograph that captured it all.

Atlantic Beach, North Carolina

Atlantic Beach, North Carolina

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach (to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

e.e. cummings

 

April Loves May

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I thought I’d check in and write a wrap-up post for April.

What?

It’s not April anymore?

Huh.

I guess I’m in calendar denial; I wanted to stick with April a little longer. We’re still into our recycling and reusing projects, and we’re watching the world turn green, so April and May are combined in my mind this year. Mapril. Aprilay? Whatever the name, both of the months are flying by.

We haven’t planted anything, but we like seeing the perennials come back. The rhubarb has survived a a few unexpected snowfalls, and the mint is poised to take control of the entire garden.

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The kids have been obsessed with cracking rocks in the back yard. They’ll disappear for an hour, to search for crystals and sandstone, taking turns with the hammer, both wearing sunglasses to protect their eyes. Sam reminded me that he wants to go to the mining school some day (Colorado School of Mines), so these backyard excavations could be a great foundation.

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If geology doesn’t work out, I think he could be an inventor. Divergent thinking is always a favorite pastime. He’ll look at random objects and come up with a dozen possible uses. My favorite is the   Bubble Gum Nose Protector.

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It’s not a safety device. The Bubble Gum Nose Protector was designed to be worn when taking out the trash or the recycle bin, because protecting yourself from bad smells is very important.

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If Isabel looks skeptical, it’s that she really wants a Bubble Gum Nose Protector for herself.

So that’s Mapril. Coming back to life, spending more time outside, and stretching our wings a bit. We may need to extend into June. Who’s with us for Maprilune?

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? 

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?