Today is my mother’s 87th birthday. She is in amazing shape; body and soul. She attributes much of this to her connection to the outdoors.
As far back as I can remember my mother spent time outside every day. Of course I don’t remember this as a toddler although there are photographs of us, but I have vivid memories as a young girl. I remember we took long walks into the woods and creek behind our house. We spent summers in the woods of the Berkshires and on the shores of Cape Cod.
On our adventures she would point out the moss or a wildflower and tell me about it. She taught me about color through the examples we found; yellow flowers, green pine needles, lavender weeds and grey stones. She taught me to count using sticks and pebbles.
I remember her stopping on the path with her hand in the air. It’s when I learned to be quiet, to listen for a bird’s song.
Learning to be quiet is a challenge for any young child, but for a loud, hyper one it was really hard. Somehow I did it and I truly believe that I am a better person for it. Today I know how to quiet my soul when my life is too busy and I am feeling stressed out.
In nature I learned to have patience as we planted seeds and waited, and waited, and waited for those flowers and vegetables to pop their heads through the soil. I still get impatient, but when I do, this lesson from nature reminds me that a big part of reaching a goal is enjoying the journey itself.
Our walks in the woods sometimes involved play acting characters or dressing up with ferns as our hats. I think this helped develop my creative side and gave me confidence. Although it doesn’t look like it in this picture, these nature lessons prepared me for new schools, new towns and new friends.
They gave me courage to be silly and the ability to laugh at myself. As an adult I recognize that the confidence it takes to stand up in front of 300 people and give a speech has its roots in these moments in the woods with my mom.
The lessons from nature with my mom might have turned into “reminders” as I matured, but even today they have a tremendous influence on my life.
I used to share a driveway with my parents so I would often see them throughout my day. My mother sits on her porch a lot. One day I caught a glimpse through my window of her sitting there for hours. When I had a break I walked over and sat next to her and asked her what she had been doing here for so long? She replied, “Watching a robin make it’s nest in that tree”. Sure enough there was a perfect little (finished) nest in the small tree next to her porch. I was struck at how simple this seemed, yet how profound. It occurred to me I was racing around trying to find joy when it is as easy as being quiet and having patience while you watch a bird build a nest.
I tried to raise my own children in this same manner with lots of time outside and an appreciation for our planet. There were more distractions than when my mom was raising me but we made it a priority. Now, I try to have every visit with my grand-kids involve nature. To spread the wonder and teach the lessons.
I feel blessed to be able to do this and I am aware of the value in these simple, wonderful lessons. I feel a need to help protect the planet, its natural spaces and these teaching opportunities. It’s what keeps me going with my company Horse Hippie.
Thanks for teaching me to love nature Mom. Oh, and Happy Birthday!