We spent many days last summer sitting on the playhouse porch in the garden — sketching, having tea parties, watching the shaded garden beds slowly slide into sunlight and vice versa. The wind rustled the maple, birch and beech leaves most days and the near constant buzz of the bees often called us into action to check on the progress of the fruits and veggies. Petunia would gather mint and lemon balm for her special teas and snack on tomatoes. She’d clip zinnias and nasturtiums for her mud pies and grab sweet thin baby carrots when I wasn’t looking because that is how she likes them best. All this was done in concert with the bees and butterflies without conflict. She knows to steer clear of the hornets and wasps, but those honey bees and bumble bees are always too busy to notice our presence.
My mother has been in a moving frenzy, partially why I’ve been so removed from the blog recently, and in doing so we have unearthed troves of old boxes and bins of days gone by. Petunia calls these my “time capsules,” as each box tends to be from a certain period of my life. They are filled with old report cards, papers and trinkets of all sorts. I roll my old lucky marble in my hand and cry over letters from old friends. And then there are the books, the piles and piles of books. So many have left for new homes already, but there are so many I want to read again or save for my sweet girl to read one day. I peak inside a few each day, skimming through my old highlighted sections and notes.
Today, while sorting, I came across an old copy of Beyond Ecophobia: Reclaiming the Heart in Nature Education (Nature Literacy Series, Vol. 1) by David Sobel. In it I had highlighted this passage:
What’s important is that children have an opportunity to bond with the natural world, to learn to love it and feel comfortable in it, before being asked to heal its wounds. John Burroughs remarked that ‘Knowledge without love will not stick. But if love comes first, knowledge is sure to follow.’ Our problem is that we are trying to invoke knowledge, and responsibility, before we have allowed a loving relationship to flourish.
So, back to the bees and Petunia. She has expressed on some of the coldest winter days her longing for the dandelions and mayflowers to return. She loves to pick them for potions and bouquets for anyone in her path. We’ve talked about needing to leave some for the bees, as they are the first fresh nectar they’ve had in months, and she enthusiastically agrees. Had I asked her to leave the flowers without memory of those long summer days alongside her buzzing comrades, would she be so inclined to leave them be? So often we expect children to toe the line without even giving them adequate time to arrive at the line. I’m slowly learning, as a mother, that I need to scale back the structured days and let the whims of the bees be our guide more often. How do you encourage and support your child in developing empathy with the natural world? What do some of your best days spent cultivating a sense of connectedness to nature look like?