BY JANN BALL, DIRECTOR OF THE COMPEER PROGRAM, CHAUTAUQUA COUNTY
One day as I was looking through a book on creative journaling, I came across this quote: “Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.” ~Rachel Carson. Those words really resonated with me. It got me to thinking about our “natural resource” for enjoying life and finding personal fulfillment.
I am always in awe and wonder of the world, nature as well as gifts of creativity. The quote brought to mind such things as a baby’s wonder and enjoyment of a simple blade of grass and the countless hours my children spent catching crayfish, relishing the chase as they would try to capture the illusive crayfish from under a rock in our creek. I pondered the many opportunities to experience the wonder of nature such as trees that provide shelter and beauty, rocks to be collected and admired, mud, oh the wonders of mud, (need I say more)? I thought of flowers to be picked roots and all, dandelion puffs to be blown, growing an already overgrown “garden” of dandelions, ants to be studied, lightning bugs to capture, snakes for the boys to find and torment the girls and wild strawberries to pick, such a delicious taste treat. A downpour, sans the thunder and lightning is a great way to get refreshingly soaking wet. The anticipation on a brisk fall day, of running and jumping in a big pile of leaves and come winter, falling snow to catch on ones tongue came to mind. All these things are wonders of the earth. There is so much more, but these were my first thoughts.
Thinking about “never being alone or weary of life” was the incentive for my conversation with you. We may not consider the implications of sharing our appreciation and enjoyment of the world with our children, but in the long run it is something that will never wear out, become outdated, get lost or break. It is helpful for our children as well as ourselves to have a healthy source of comfort especially in the chaotic world we live in.
There are many things we cannot control, such as loss. And there is a great deal of it in a child’s life. A friend moves away, a grandparent dies, the family breaks apart, there are moves to a new home, loss of good health, so many things that we have no control or seemingly no control over. How do we give our children something that can’t be taken away no matter the circumstance, something that could be a touchstone during difficult times? Of course our love is the first thing we can give our children that comes to mind. Something else that we can give our children that can never be taken from them is the value of appreciation for nature. That
appreciation is something that we can share and encourage in our children that ultimately will become theirs to keep and shape according to their own perceptions and needs.
My mother-in-law delights in watching the birds at her feeders and she shares the abundance of her flower and vegetable garden with everyone. As she has aged, and life is more limited, we can see how much the value of these simple gifts of appreciation adds to her life. Her grandchildren will always remember, among many other things, her enjoyment of the simple things in life and I believe, as they grow older, they too may be drawn to the beauty and delight of nature.
We have become such a consumerism society that we may have lost what is beautiful and free for all, the gift of nature. Stress and anxiety doesn’t seem to show in a child’s face as they build sandcastles for hours. That meditative activity has a natural calming effect. Helping our children to feel at home in the natural world may be as important as helping them feel comfortable in their community. We need people, friendships, community, but we also are made, I believe, to experience “friendship” with our natural surroundings and to develop a sense of community with the world around us. Nature doesn’t judge nor have expectations, it is just to be enjoyed and cared for. In return we have at our disposal such things as the happy song of birds, (depending on the time of day ?), the welcome respite of a cool breeze on a hot day, the sensual delight of soft grass on our feet and the fragrance of flowers.
“The never weary of life” part of the quote is so important to me because it does seem that we, along with our children, get stressed, or bored or just wearied. The antidote for these feelings, the natural prescription, is right out our front door. When a child is overwhelmed with emotions they may not even be able to identify, engage their minds and bodies with experiences in the natural world. One of the best ways to learn how to just “be” and unwind is to be the child again that is delighted with all the pretty stones they found. Let us teach our children to stay “childlike” in that regard, so they “never weary of life.”
We can encourage our children to embrace appreciation of nature that will deepen as they grow into adulthood. Of all the things we want to give our children maybe one of the best gifts…appreciation for nature…is for free.
Jann Ball is the Director of the Compeer Program in Chautauqua County that provides friendship to youth and adults experiencing mental health difficulties. Jann resides in Falconer with her husband Marshall and son Michael.