Too often, we find ourselves stuck in the known, the comfortable and the familiar. The physical spaces of most everyday urban and suburban life – houses, classrooms, offices, sidewalks, roads (or worse: roads with no sidewalks) – all reinforce this.
They’re designed around longstanding norms, regulations, zoning, and a plethora of laws which, without our being fully conscious of them, govern the way we move, the way we interact; they deeply entrench our everyday sense of normality and possibilities.
But whether it’s science, sports, relationships or art, discoveries and innovation come through the unknown, and nature is a direct route. Take your closest natural area, possibly a park or lake or national forest. What’s under the water there? What does it look like at dawn, or at night? What animals inhabit the region or migrate through ? Who were the area’s original inhabitants? What is the oldest tree there? The simple but profound act of just being there, in nature, opens up lines of investigation that can fire children’s (and adults’) imagination.
The greatest fear of disconnection with Nature, and the widest response thus far, seems to be for children. At some point, society separates our you peopke from the natural world, reinforcng a doctrine that has been evolving for hundreds of years. There’s a transition point, before which the poet Anita Barrows confirms; “The infant has awareness not only of human touch, but of the touch of the breeze on her skin, variations in light and colour, temperature, texture, sound.” Once we are walking and talking, the natural world appears to us in its full faculty !
Nature lets children and parents burn off energy and emotions in a healthy way. As mangroves absorb the energy and damage from flood, tides and storm surges, so too does just being out in the woods as a family allow everyone to run around and explore, burning off energy without limitations.
In our household, we use “indoor voices” and play “indoor games.” These can be fun, but once we’re in the woods, all bets are off! Racing up hills, exploring creeks, being as exuberant as we want. That’s the time. That’s the space for it. It’s something our family needs and cherishes to the point that when people are starting to get cranky, bickering at each other, we know we’re overdue for more “ZEN time.”