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Friday, March 15, 2013

{family lab} get outside

Growing up in Florida, I remember my bike slipping in the sugar sand of the orange groves that surrounded my under-construction neighborhood. Sand spurs were a constant menace. And about once a month, a big palmetto bug would sneak its way into our house and lots of screaming and shoe throwing would ensue until it was killed and flushed. (You can not just throw the carcass away, because it will climb out of the garbage can, even if they are completely smashed, and make a terrifying death march around your house looking for you, trust me). 

The environment seemed so hot and harsh. Maybe this was because I listened to my non native neighbors who assured me that you could not garden in Florida, or because as I became a teenage, the environment was a major source of complaint among my friends. The sunshine and humidity, bleh!

It took until I became an adult to really appreciate the amazing environment I live in. The skies here are obscene. Have you heard about the Florida Highwaymen painters? They painted psychedelically colored paintings of the Florida landscape that they sold from their car trunks. When you see their images, you think that there is no way the sky could look like that - fiery orange and magenta and purple? What were they thinking? And then you look up at the sky and yep, they captured it just right. 

When my children were younger I read about Charlotte Mason's (a 19th century British educator) idea that children should be outside at least 6 hours a day, even in bad weather. While we are not usually able to log a full six hours a day, we do try to spend as much time as possible outside. Eating, reading and drawing, along with hiking and biking are our favorite things to do outdoors.

The kids are happier, healthier, stronger and calmer because of it. Open space seems to diffuse nervous and aggressive energy. I am sure most of you enjoy being outside - but every once in a while I meet a kid who is not allowed to play outside. Or their play is heavily monitored and the outdoors and its inhabitants becomes something to be feared. In fact, I just participated in an adult creativity group where grown women were freaking out about standing outside barefoot. What?

This week we are thinking about our connection to nature. Simple but profound things happen when you and your children can live and be outside for a significant part of the day.

What do you remember about being outside when you were a kid?

Was it a fun, adventurous time? A not so good time?

What was the grass like? How did the air smell?

Share what you wrote and remembered in the comments

Lay in the yard and look deeply, relax, clear your mind of everything except for what is directly in front of you. 

I have been doing this a few times a week for the past month and it has been amazing. I do not think I will ever be able to meditate by emptying my mind and keeping it clear - so this method, where I intensely look at something is working wonderfully. I have noticed this amazing lady bug colony and actually communed with lizards! They see me and interact. I can hear the monarch caterpillars chomping my milkweed. 

 It is so restorative and magical (I will try not to use that word in every post - but this really is the m word.)

Let us know if you do this. What did you see?

I wanted to share the sweetest little animated film. It speaks perfectly to the value of slowing down, looking closely and maybe even being a bit bored. 

Oh, and it is perfect to share with your children. Enjoy!


  1. What a wonderful post! I'll be sharing.

    I had an outdoorsy childhood. My mother was careful about scrubbing us and making us eat our veggies and getting us to do our chores. But as long as we were outside we were free. I rode my bike for miles, often getting frightfully (and thus thrillingly) lost until I managed to find my way back home. My favorite place was the woods behind our house. I liked to go to a special little hillock where I'd sit quiet as a statue, hoping small creatures would come near. (They never did.) I was completely at peace there. Sitting so still, I felt inseparable from the air and trees and sky. The woods were bulldozed to make way for a housing development when I was 11 years old. The place where I sat now exists only inside me.

    1. beautiful! i am glad you can still access this place within you.

  2. I feel the same way having grown up in Maine. What I took for granted! Thanks for this post, Amy! ~ Marnie

    1. :) sure. the more you remember the richer it gets, right?

  3. WE were a gang of 4 headstrong crafty individuals that made our outside speak for our insides. We LIVED outside in the bush. We "stole" crates from my best freinds' father's storage unit and built a treehouse in the lonliest tree on the property, we dissapeared for hours having picnics at the dam under the huge oak tree, lying on a blanket looking at the sky, wishing and wondering...We could ride our bikes until after sunset and on weekends sneak out of the house to have "midnight feasts" under the stars... I am lucky enough to still live where I grew up and I am reminded daily of what it was like to be a kid growing up here, so I am extremely blessed to be able to share this with my baby. Being in Nature is the only thing that grounds me and to this day, my best friend and I takes yearly trips with a tent, our cameras and a map down memory lane to clear our heads of daily life and we revisit our treehouse, if only in memory...I had a wonderful moment just now again thinking about all this, thank you for the great post!

    1. i had a wonderful moment reading this! i was with you and your band of "headstrong crafties." and so good to share with your kids. we have it the other way around - my kids have brought nature full force into my life.

  4. I also love Laying in the yard. A while ago my husband bought us both hammocks and it has become a ritual in our hosehold to spend the last few minutes before sundown after our walk, just being still and quiet. It sets the pace for the evening and our bed and bathtime routine has become far less of a marathon. Plus, I have been sleeping much better too!

  5. Oh, what a wonderful video...I kept thinking how it also celebrates imagination!!


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