I am thinking about nature and children and learning. I am thinking about why it feels so important to me to, above all other things, teach my daughter to have the greatest respect for the earth. I’m wondering; how did I get here? to a desire that I should meld with the grass as if we were one? It’s generational, I think… passed from my Grandfather to my mother, my mother to me, me to my daughter. It is a long process of time spent together; exploring, learning, loving, and despite all paths walked away from it during teenage years and suchlike, the love for nature is here inside, strong and beating hard. I conclude that once the seed is planted, you cannot escape the inevitable growth of life as it weaves its way around your body, entwines itself with your soul. Yes, that is why I am investing so much time now in fostering this connection with the earth within my daughter, I think; because I believe wholeheartedly that no matter what path she walks, she will always come back: come back to what is real, what is honest, what can truly satisfy. For in this world of material gain and outer perfection, I see vast voids within, empty spaces that can never be filled with a fancy car, a new dress or wrinkle filler, for the lines are too deep. I don’t want my daughter to be a victim of these false promises. And so, in my path as a parent it is towards nature that I turn; for enjoyment, for peace, for education, for is it not nature that is at the root of everything?
As my farming neighbour tells me of the dramatic problems in the rural economy this year; of failed crops, rising prices… as redundancy fears make a friend worry how he might make the large mortgage repayments on his house… and yet, how the quick fix highs of tanning salons, nail bars and beauty parlors lure people in with promises to make them feel better in the depths of all this gloom from street corners where once, fresh fruit and vegetables and old-fashioned bakery shops once stood, I worry. I worry that people are becoming so distanced from nature, from simple ways of living and finding joy, so used to shopping speedily and without thought at giant supermarkets, so marooned from the very core of all life, that they will one day find themselves floating, lost.
I am glad that the seed was planted within me many years ago and I feel comforted to watch my daughter picking blackberries, elderberries, rose hips and crab apples with such glee, before bringing them home to stand on her stool and help me cook. I have faith that she is learning so much from our abundant hedgerows, from running in the rain, talking to the sheep, reading to the pony, collecting conkers, picking flowers, making dens in the woodland. It is not an education I can prove on paper; but it is an education I feel confident in, in my heart. And so, under the warming rays of early Autumn as I wander slowly down the hill back towards my family, I feel contented that whatever other paths I walk in my life, I can be safe in the knowledge that I will always find happiness, contentment, and safety in nature.
“Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity; so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand.” ~ Henry David Thoreau
*My article on nurturing in children a love for nature and the countryside, will appear in Countryman Magazine in Spring 2013.