Monday, August 2, 2010

Terrestrial life

From Bertrand Russell's The Conquest of Happiness:

I do not like mystical language, and yet I hardly know how to express what I mean without employing phrases that sound poetic rather than scientific. Whatever we may wish to think, we are creatures of Earth; our life is part of the life of the Earth, and we draw our nourishment from it just as the plants and animals do. The rhythm of Earth life is slow; autumn and winter are as essential to it as spring and summer, and rest is as essential as motion.

This just about says all there is to say about the worth of our week at Wellfleet.

It was a time for moving slowly, resting, and taking note: Walking and sitting in the sand, feeling its grit and its fineness, and its weight. Feeling the effects of sun and water on your skin. Feeling the surprise of losing your footing in the waves. Experiencing all of this with Beanie and Bubbie's hands gripped in mine - and occasionally, feeling their hands slip free to take hold of stones and shells.

I have a wish right now to take this holiday and try to make it live on somehow...

Wishes I make tend to be granted through books.

This morning, Beanie and I stopped at our excellent local bookstore and I found this book - The Nature Connection: An Outdoor Workbook for Kids, Families, and Classrooms by Clare Walker Leslie.

"I came to my study of nature knowing nothing," Leslie writes. "I spent my days indoors, not roaming about outside."

As a parent, this is a book that makes me feel like I can tell my kids to play outside - then follow them out the door.

The book is a guide to keeping a nature journal - drawing pictures, noting dates and times and writing short entries on "What I Saw" or "Enjoying Nature Surprises," and composing stories and poems. In short, it is about the kinds of things my kids already enjoy doing.

The first part of the book is called "How to Be a Naturalist" and suggests activities on keeping a nature journal. The second part is called "Learning the Sky," and moves from weather and the sun and the moon to the tides to constellations. I esp. like the "Moon Journal," tracking the phases, and the "Naming the Moons," explaining Algonquin traditions surrounding the cycles.

The bulk of the book is devoted to a month-by-month guide to "Exploring Nature," with activities particular to each season - like a "Snowflake Study" featured in January and a "Search for Water" in August.

Free worksheets for a number of the chapters are available, here, at the publisher's Web site.

The book seems to be part of a larger movement to inspire us all to see nature wherever it is.

As a cultural anthropologist, I could add "whatever it is," but I will restrain myself. For now...

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