Tag Archives: nature

To Indiana

Not only will December mark the bicentennial of the Hoosier state, but this year, back in August, we also celebrated”making memories naturally” with the centennial of Indiana State Parks.  Our family did not specifically decide on a fall break destination based on these facts alone, but it serendipitously turned out that way. We gave the kids the choice between Chicago or hiking in Clifty Falls State Park in southeastern Indiana. They chose hiking. I don’t think they knew what they were getting into. We hiked over seven miles, two-thirds of which was on rather rocky, uneven and steep slopes. By the end, we were close to dehydration on a sunny “autumn” day of 80 degrees.

Although I am a transplant to the Midwest, I love the homey beauty of this state. It is good for my soul to be out in it.

img_6986

I have nothing to say in this post, except that I enjoy being outdoors. Here, I share with you my family’s hike – minus the whining at the end because we were thirsty and exhausted- and a bit of this 200 year old state. Happy Birthday, Indiana. Here, I share with you the state poem.

Indiana

God crowned her hills with beauty,

Gave her lakes and winding streams,

Then He edged them all with woodlands

As the settings for our dreams.

Lovely are her moonlit rivers,

Shadowed by the sycamores,

Where the fragrant winds of Summer

Play along the willowed shores.

I must roam those wooded hillsides,

I must heed the native call,

For a Pagan voice within me

Seems to answer to it all.

I must walk where squirrels scamper

Down a rustic old rail fence,

Where a choir of birds is singing

In the woodland…green and dense.

I must learn more of my homeland

For it’s paradise to me,

There’s no haven quite as peaceful,

There’s no place I’d rather be.

Indiana…is a garden

Where the seeds of peace have grown,

Where each tree, and vine, and flower

Has a beauty…all its own.

Lovely are the fields and meadows,

That reach out to hills that rise

Where the dreamy Wabash River

Wanders on…through paradise.

by Arthur Franklin Mapes

Advertisements

in Just spring: a photo gallery

 

During our “together time” today we read this poem.  After running around under bright blue sky, over squishy grass and with the birds all around us, it seemed like a great choice. We read it together from the computer screen so we could all see the poem as well as hear it. A and S were amazed more by the (lack of) structure to the poem, and the “created” vocabulary.  Why am I surprised that A instantly made a connection to Pan or fauns?

I have always loved it -and e.e. cummings- for the imagery.  Happy Spring.

 

in Just-

IMG_5113

spring                    when the world is mud-

luscious the little

lame balloonman

IMG_5045

 

whistles           far            and wee

 

and eddieandbill come

IMG_5074

running from marbles and

IMG_5131

piracies and it’s

spring

 

when the world is puddle-wonderful

IMG_5100

 

the queer

old balloon man whistles

far           and            wee

and bettyandisabel come dancing

IMG_5103

 

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and

IMG_5102

 

it’s

spring

and

the

goat-footed

balloonMan          whistles

far

and wee

-e.e.cummings

IMG_3038

 

Take care, little ones: a book review

I love October!

image

There is something magnificent about the season as its sunlight filters through the golden and fiery leaves.  There is something breathtaking in the blueness of sky and the earthiness of the russets and bark and dirt and hay.  I know it is not like this everywhere.  I grew up in the Southwest in the desert where you have to measure time and seasons by a different rhythm.  For this reason, I love autumn in the Midwest even more.

image

My boys are getting older, and with the privilege of being able to stay home alone, also comes the rarer opportunities for all of my people to be out in nature at once.

While at the library the other day, G found this sweet book.  Although it touches on each of the seasons, it seems to be a great one to read during the fall.

IMG_3962

Miss Maple is a tiny woman who collects lost seeds and matures them into the trees and plants they were intended to be.  She mourns their lost state, plans her action and sees them through their potential.  Wow.  Did you hear that?  This little picture book by Eliza Wheeler works on two main levels.  With its bright illustrations it teaches G about the seasons and the seeds with which he is becoming familiar.  And for me?  It focuses me on my delightful responsibility as a teacher and mom to help my precious child realize his potential.  I even suspect G was able to hear the words of encouragement Miss Maple had for him.

Take care, my little ones, for the world is big and you are small.

G laughed the first time he noticed how Miss Maple transported her seeds:  a boat made from a leaf.  She protects her lost seeds from the elements, cares for them against the weeds, and even tucks them in their cozy beds while she “reads flower tales by firefly light.”  While G talks and jumps almost incessantly, and more often than not, is engaged in tales of light saber battles, there was something about this fairy-like story which held his attention.

IMG_3963

As each season passes, there is a new way in which Miss Maple becomes a care giver.  “Don’t be afraid – raindrops help us grow.”  She tenderly reminds  her charges in the spring.  In this way, I was able gently to remind G of those past fears which brought him to where he is today.  Riding his bicycle.  Visiting a new class.  Introducing himself to someone new.

As we read through this book, it may reinforce G’s knowledge of trees and plants.  We can use the beautifully illustrated seeds to help us match them up with the leaves we encounter as we go out on our October walks.  We may spot different seeds, different ways in which the world is big and we are small.

IMG_3961

Until, finally, one day, Miss Maple sends her seeds out into the world for them to take root.  Sigh.  And this is what G will one day be doing.  In his mind, however, it is an eternity away.  In my mind, I wish it were so.

IMG_3964

A

Playing with Sticks

Every little boy (and girl) loves them.  In our house they are represented in varying sizes, shapes and textures.  Some are long, others are shorter.  Some are thin and rough and are bandied about in twirling, frenetic fashions.  Others, however, are stocky, smooth and are useful for solid, quick jabs and are more realistic for taking with you in the car, on a walk, and, yes, to a family photo shoot.  Sticks.

Here are a few of G's collection.
Here are a few of G’s collection.

Sticks collected from a nearby nature trail – around us they are plentiful and frequently visited.  Sticks nabbed from a neighbor’s or friend’s yard – a souvenir of sorts from a play date.  Sticks from parks and even a stick from a trip to Arizona – a stick lovingly and diagonally padded inside a checked suitcase and brought out of the toy box for special occasions.

Yes, I said toy box.  I know, a little boy playing with sticks may not seem particularly unique.  However, I am not sure how many treasure their outdoor finds quite like G does.  Every stick- well, every stick his mother allows him – he has kept from his ramblings and filled toy boxes.  Balls, plastic toys,and wooden blocks are set aside so that the go-to toy for G on any occasion is the stick du jour.

While playing with G yesterday in his pop-up tent, he began to collect a smattering of sticks from here and there, from a couple of stashes upstairs.  Somehow, he had the right job for each stick.  One was a fishing pole, another was a shovel.  A narrow, curved one was the obvious choice for a nimble bow.  The arrows were swift and imaginary.  G found a sword, a spoon for a stuffed buddy and a flashlight – all made from his imagination and sticks.

I began to make application.  Why are sticks such a big deal to G?  There are a few reasons, I think.

  • It’s personal.  He has found them all by himself and even more importantly, he has carefully chosen them for their intrinsic and special qualities.  Not just any stick comes home, only the ones which are specifically chosen to fulfill a task.
  • Sticks are infinitely malleable to any task at hand.  By malleable, you understand, I do not mean the sticks themselves are soft and pliable, but rather they are conducive for open-ended play.  His mind and imagination are malleable as he plays with a small piece of wood, once as a weapon, then as a flying broom stick.  The next time it is a musical instrument- a flute or an alpenhorn.
  • They are from nature.  They have texture.  They are real.  They are legitimate objects, not a toy or a modified version of something.  They are not fabricated in a factory.  They are from God.

And here, in G’s pop-up tent is where I began to reflect on this simple thought.  God offers us daily something real, not artificial, but authentic, created.  God throws blessings down upon us daily.  Thousands of little things for us to make use of, millions of tiny things for us to glory in.  They are a myriad of promises on which our imagination and gratitude may stretch and grow.  Why do I spend my time preoccupied with the artificially fabricated things?  Sticks.  Blessings scattered about on the ground.  G claims them as his own, takes them home and knows just how to appreciate them.

DSC_0018

Dear Father, thank you for providing G with sticks.  Help me to truly see as I gather together my daily blessings scattered around like the endless sticks upon the ground.

“Travel schooling” : learning to relax

Many home school families have been amused by the term HOME schooling or HOME education, because, well frankly, we are not quite home as much as others may think.  We drive to co-ops and extra classes, drive to the parks, to social groups, and drive to countless field trips.  Perhaps we ought to call it car schooling?  But that concept might be for a different post.  Once or twice during the school year our family embarks on a major trip across country or states to visit family.  As we are out of our routine for one to three weeks, I never like to just take off all that time from academic work.  I am still quite caught up in counting the number of “school” days and making the most of every learning opportunity, besides the fact that it becomes increasingly difficult for my boys to jump back into books and studies when they have had a lengthy hiatus.  As I type these words in to my iPad, we are munching pretzels and sipping cranberry juice on the airplane while on our way back from family and friends in Arizona.  It was a successful visit in many ways.  Here are a few of the simple ways we maintained our learning while still having a fun vacation.

Make use of local museums-

While this may not always be possible depending on your budget and the affordability of your destination, museums are a wonderful way to experience new places while learning.  Although not necessary, if you can tie them in to your curriculum, even better.  This trip our family hit the art museum and science center.  On previous visits, we have explored children’s museums, geology centers and history or state museums.

Appreciate relationships as their own education-

Here is where the tired and trite socialization argument dies.  Before we officially began our home schooling adventure we comprised a concise list of all the reasons we wanted to keep our kids at home.  The freedom to travel and family closeness topped the list.  I love seeing A’s and S’s brotherly relationship solidify the longer we do this thing.  G adores being a part of his big brothers’ daily routines, and has learned an indescribable amount. Traveling only enhances this.  It is not only the relationships in our immediate family, however, that benefit us when we travel, but the relationships with everyone we meet.  This is particularly crucial for my guy with Asperger’s.  All three of my guys need to know their grandparents.  We live in a time when the value of family may be fading.  Unconditional love can be the greatest educational tool, not to mention all those extra life skills they may learn from being around different people from different generations.  Utilize them in your travels, or if you have the grandparents next door, be appreciative, and allow them to serve your family well.

Notice nature and take advantage of the outdoors-

DSC_0064_2778

Regardless where your journeys take you, there will be something new to see and explore.  Taking advantage of nature centers, hiking trails and parks only makes sense.  It can be as simple as photographing and observing the diversity in our world to something more intentional.  One year we spent two weeks walking about my parents’ neighborhood identifying various cactuses – saguaro, ocotillo, prickly pear, organ pipe, cholla, etc.  One of S’s favorite memories is chasing (and catching) lizards around the Sonoran desert.

Travel lightly-

Packing textbooks and heavy curriculum is not what you want to do.  Traveling with kids can be stressful enough. Simplify.  On this trip we packed The Story of the World, volume 3 by Susan Wise Bauer, and our read aloud, which currently happens to be Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.  That’s it.  We read the Bible together, we practiced our copy work, we watched a couple of science videos, and did some random math practice.  Supplemented by our museum trips, it felt like just the right amount without providing too many stressful expectations.

Let go.  Come to terms with taking days off.

Honestly, I only “counted” two-thirds of our travel days toward schooling.  The rest of the time I let the guys just be.  They laid around and watched far more t.v. than is usually permitted.  They played in parks, and threw rocks at each other in the backyard.  They ate far more desserts than was typical.  They relaxed.

Now, we are back in the Midwest buckling down once more to studies and winter.  Though leaves are sparse, we love them.  “Travel schooling” allowed us to go from summery hikes to craving peppermint mochas in a single day.  It was a wonderful break.

DSC_0102_2738

TURKEY RUN – part 2 of Touring the Trees

!

Turkey Run is a state park in western Indiana.  Founded in 1916, it covers over 2,300 acres and arguably boasts some of the state’s most breathtaking trails.  It is allegedly named after the wild turkeys which once thickly congregated in the warmer canyon bottoms.  The state park features an inn, cabins, campgrounds, historic sites, not to mention places for canoe rental and tubing.

Am I specifically advertising for the park?  No, but our family just recently spent an amazing day there picnicking and hiking.

G, trying to recall his last hiking adventure inquires,  “Mommy, do they have play equipment there?”

 

Suspension bridge
Suspension bridge

 

Rung ladders - good thing he had been practicing at play grounds all summer.
Rung ladders – good thing he had been practicing at play grounds all summer.

Lots of stairs and climbing on trail 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DSC_0032_2585

Punch Bowl-  "splash pad"
Punch Bowl- “splash pad”

The big brothers at Turkey Run

Just a little help to the car from a brother.
Just a little help to the car from a brother.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, G, they do!

This is what happy looks like.

 

 

Touring the Trees

After the winter of continuously plummeting temperatures and persistent ice, came the message of the harbingers of doom for the summer: it would be unbearably hot and sticky.  And yet, the last few weeks have found the Midwest enjoying gorgeously mild temperatures and azure skies with only intermittent days of storms and rain.  Beautiful.  Gently breezy.  Lush with leaves.  Let me just walk into my flip flops and I am out the door.

Both with and without my children I have been on walking trails, about the city, in parks, through mature neighborhoods, and sightseeing about the town I now call home.  A tour of the trees.  Here are a few I share with you all.

I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way they have to live than other things do.

-Willa Cather in O, Pioneers

DSC_0006_2546

119. Trees

I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest

Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,

And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that that may in summer wear

A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;

Who intimately lives with rain,

Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.

– Joyce Kilmer

Enjoy the various locales about the greater Indianapolis area through the trees.

Traders Point Creamery

DSC_0033_2459

If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you – you of little faith!

– Luke 12:28

DSC_0035_2461

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and the one who is wise saves lives.

-Proverbs 11:30

Holliday Park

Why must people kneel down to pray? If I really wanted to pray I’ll tell you what I’d do. I’d go out into a great big field all alone or in the deep, deep woods and I’d look up into the sky – up- up-up into that lovely blue sky that looks as if there was no end to its blueness. And then, I’d just feel a prayer.

-L.M. Montgomery in Anne of Green Gables

 

DSC_0028_2519

Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy. Let all creation rejoice before the LORD…

-Psalm 96:12-13

DSC_0012_2551

Why are there trees I never walk under but large and melodious thoughts descend upon me?

– Walt Whitman

 

Grounds about the IMA (Indianapolis Museum of Art) and 100 Acres

DSC_0036_2527

I couldn’t live where there were no trees- something vital in me would starve.

-L.M. Montgomery in Anne’s House of Dreams

DSC_0015_2553

The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.

-John Muir

Around my suburban trails

American Sycamore

That each day I may walk unceasingly on the banks of my water, that my soul may repose on the branches of the trees which I planted, that I may refresh myself under the shadow of my sycamore.

-Egyptian tomb inscription, circa 1400BCE

DSC_0075_2502

 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.

-Psalm 100:1

DSC_0086_2510Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.

-Psalm 90:1

And for those ultra-local….

DSC_0001_2542

Can you name this location on a windy road?

 

NATURE boys

Admittedly, I have been complaining with the majority of my region about the harshness that has been this winter.  I do hate to complain, given the fact that I live in a home which protects me from the elements, and is more than adequate in size.  My family has not missed a meal, nor have we suffered from any illnesses.  However, it has been a trying winter, the winter of our discontent, if you will.  (Here, I give a nod first to Mr. Shakespeare, and now to Mr. Steinbeck.)  We have been outdoors far less than is typical for us, even in the winter season.  The constant battles with snow and ice, coupled with some ridiculously frigid temperatures have taken its toll on us.  The fact that the five of us have been living nearly 24-7 under one roof is another tale.  Remember, my husband works from home?  Enough complaining, right?  What do they say?  If you can’t beat them, join them.  So, out we go to find the trees.

DSC_0086_2171

All three of my guys love being outdoors, which was why it was surprising when A started balking at my proposal for a nature walk in nearby trails.  I was also more than a little annoyed, because I genuinely thought all three would jump at this idea after being cooped up, and frankly, I have already had to deal with too much whining and bickering this winter.

“WE ARE GOING.  GET YOUR NATURE JOURNALS.”

Of course, once we were all out the door and in the car, spirits rose.

Here is the profound lesson I Iearned while on this nature walk with my three guys.  Ready?  Here it is: boys do nature walks differently than I do.  Yes, that was it.  Astounding isn’t it?  Even though it does not seem like it to my adult sensibilities, they do appreciate nature.  There are differences in appreciation, however, just as there are different personalities and learning styles.  While I was sauntering through the wooded trails, gazing upward at sky and trees, they were…well, where were they?  They were here just a moment ago.

DSC_0078_2165

Making tracks in the tracks

Oh…there they are, tearing through the dead underbrush, up the side of a hill, now sliding backwards into ice and snow.  Sigh.  Yelling and whooping, and well, just creating noise pollution.

DSC_0081_2167

Later,  A finds a tiny trail which leads to a sizeable creek.  Sandy patches freckle the snow leading up to the water.  A young, slender hickory gracefully sways in a chilly current, its entire trunk caught in a wintry breeze.  S turns to me for a moment as I admire it.  Quietly, I share this encounter with him.

“Oh, it feels so calming,” he agrees.  Then, immediately, he has turned back towards the water and is hurling fistfuls of snow into the creek.  “I am helping out the eco system!” He yells back at me.

Honestly, I thought about being disappointed at our nature walk.  The world was still and gorgeous, and I felt they were missing it.  Then, I realized that thing about differences in appreciation.   Here are some ways children might appreciate nature:

  • Children are not passive in their love for nature.
  • They must directly engage in it.  It may be enough for me to sit quietly while a bird sings and breathe in spicy, earthy aromas of dirt, but my children need to touch it.
  • They love it by interacting with it, moving in it.  They dig in the dirt, chase after the birds, lift fallen branches, collect favorite pieces….whack things.
  • PLAY is a child’s way of being in and loving nature.

I know.  We already knew all of that.  And yet I learned it again.  Profoundly.  While watching them enjoy a day in early March, I remember more of those trails, because of the play.  Without them, I would have missed the creek.  I don’t think I would have chosen the trail that A did.  He showed us the Red-breasted woodpecker high up in the tree, putting on quite a show.  G located tree cavities I never would have noticed otherwise.

DSC_0082_2168

There was a child went forth everyday,

And the first object he look’d upon that object he became.

And that object became part of him for the day or a certain part of the day,

Or for many years or stretching cycles of years.

~Walt Whitman from 103 in Leaves of Grass