Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Being in Relationship with Nature

The newsletter from G/Son's Montessori school (sent via paperless e-mail, the better to be shared w/ loving Nonnas!) has a wonderful article about helping each child to find a "sitting space" outside, someplace the child can go to to feel safe, alone, in nature.

Did you have a place like this, as a child?

When I was young, my sitting space was under a giant, old forsythia bush, big enough to have multiple rooms inside it, where you could crawl in under the branches and feel that you were, indeed, in your own little world. I made tea-sets out of sycamore leaves, stitched into little cups with their stems, crawled in there to read without being bothered, lay on my back and learned more than I knew at the time by watching how the sunlight filtered through the leaves and golden flowers.

When I got a bit older, I graduated to a secret cave made by three ancient pine trees, off in the far SouthWest of our yard, sappy branches for climbing and all. The needles made a fragrant bed and no sunlight penetrated here. I went there to "play Indian," "Indian" being about the only model I had for living in relationship with nature. I hid treasures there, watched the ants make colonies, and climbed up higher than my parents would have liked.

When I got even older, my sitting space was down beside a local creek, where I could watch water dance and play with stones, where I could project myself into dragonflies, skimming over the water, where I could put my hands on the sandy bank and believe myself home.

The newsletter from G/Son's school makes the point that ensuring a child a "sitting space" helps the child to develop a relationship with nature, especially as it changes from season to season. There's no program or structure. There's just a child, a special place, time, and nature.

I was thinking today that the concept reminds me of the speech that Le Petit Prince makes to the Earthly roses:
You are beautiful, but you are empty. One could not die for you. To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my rose looked just like you — the rose that belongs to me. But in herself alone she is more important than all the hundreds of you other roses: because it is she that I have watered; because it is she that I have put under the glass globe; because it is she that I have sheltered behind the screen; because it is for her that I have killed the caterpillars (except the two or three that we saved to become butterflies); because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled, or boasted, or ever sometimes when she said nothing. Because she is my rose
Except that, I think that the opposite thing happens. When one learns to enter into relationship with one particular bit of nature, when one learns to communicate with the genius loci of one place, one comes, somehow to a deeper appreciation of all nature.

But I do think it is Le Petit Prince's practice that is important: watering one's rose, protecting it, sheltering it, killing (some of) the caterpillars for it, and listening to it, even when the rose grumbles (every rose I ever tried to raise did), boasts, or says nothing. And, that, I think, is the value, for both children and grown-ups, of a sitting place. Do you have one? Does the child in your life?

Nowadays, my sitting place is in my woodland garden, near my magnolia trees, beside the ferns, just near the spot where I make Hecate's depinion on the Dark Moon. And, of course, I can't go there w/o reciting to myself David McCord's wonderful poem:

This is my rock
And here I run
To steal the secret of the sun.

This is my rock
And here come I
Before the night has swept the sky.

This is my rock
This is the place
I meet the evening face to face.

If you don't have a "sitting space" how could you find one?

Picture found here.


Moira said...

Nice post and I love that poem! Im stuggling to place this comment so if you get it twice, sorry. The fairy door in your garden how did you attach it to the tree? Im thinking of getting one but dont know how to attach it high up without hurting the tree.

Josh said...

I'm struggling with this, myself. When I was a child my private place was in the woods behind our house, a tiny clearing that you had to crawl to get into. Briars had grown into a woven net all around the tree trunks and it was only against the ground that you could get in without being torn up.

What for my daughter, though? Living in the metro area, no open woods, not even a yard to speak of. It hit me hard last year when, at the age of eight, I had to explain to her that a park doesn't mean just a place where there are rides and amusements. We go to local parks now on weekends, places where there are still little islands of quiet and green, muggy river banks and rough bark, but it's not the same when your parent is along.

I worry for what is lost when there is no chance for her to wander under the branches on her own.

greekwitch said...

I know exactly what you mean. Yo reminded me that i have lost something and i need to get that back.
Brightest blessings,

Lavanah said...

I had a place. It was a small clearing in a swamp (at low tide-high tide it was underwater.) There was also a hidden, sunken garden that belonged to an unoccupied home. My younger daughter has/had a place here, also a space that is edge of water/edge of land. When I speak to her, it is sometimes hard for me to tell whether she misses me, or her space more (she is away at college for her freshman year). I tell her that I understand.

Hecate said...

Moira, First, you have to ask the tree. Then, if it's ok, you can get these little "picture hangy thingies" at the hardward store. They are a small cloth square with a sticky substance on the back and a hook on the front. They're maybe a half an inch square. You attach it to the bark of the tree via the sticky substance and then hang the door on that. I know I'm not using technical terms; hope this helps!

Josh, I hear you. We need more open space, even in our urban areas so that kids (and adults) can have a relationship with nature. Is there even a tree that she passes every day on the way to school or something? Observing the tree, drawing it, photographing it, feeding it, etc. can be a start, even though it's not the experience we had of running wild in the woods. Keep us informed on her progress!

ina said...

As soon as I started reading your post, I thought of this one.

I just had a conversation tonight with a friend about how happy I am that my girls have this place.