Children and Nature | Playing Amongst Lovely Things

“The most effective kind of education is that a child should play amongst lovely things.” – Plato

My youngest son Kienan is in his second year at Alaya Preschool, a preschool rooted in contemplative educational practices founded by the late Tibetan Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. When the weather is nice after school, children and parents linger to play and connect in the play yards, which are carefully created and tended. Just as spring was unfolding this month, I was able to look around and appreciate the attention to detail, the opportunities for sensory play, and the hints of magic found in carefully placed daffodil flowers or mysterious fairy doors at the base of old trees. It was one of those moments when a warm wind was blowing after a long winter and I was able to see the play space with fresh eyes.

My boys were busy scooping water and building with stones and wood. Everything mirrored nature. There were trees to climb, a wooden play structure to swing off of, a sand area encircled by tree trunks. A small bridge hovered over a rock and flower garden. After seven years of my children attending Alaya Preschool, it struck me how many happy moments we have shared in this play yard, surrounded by lovely things.

I began to consider all the ‘things’ we often hand to children. Do they need any of them? Here, there are simple pleasures. There is fresh air, there is shade. There are living things. There is space to roam and run. Rocks, sticks, stones and rough wooden blocks abound. Each play yard is graced by the trickle of running water. I remember: Let’s make time for simple play. Let’s be outside. Nature offers what we need. Let’s foster an appreciation of lovely things…

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A Quiet Place: Finding Joy in Nature

“It will be hard to create a quiet place

where your children can find their souls. 

You must first quiet your own world

and then approach theirs. 

They are accustomed 

to the barrage of noise

and will complain loudly in its absence.

But you can find a quiet way. 

What can you do today?” 

– William Martin, The Parent’s Tao Te Ching, Ancient Advice for Modern Parents 


Photos taken in Glacier National Park, Montana and Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming – July, 2017

Love Is Not Bound By Reality

Love is not bound by reality – 

But it is bound by infinity. 

Some moments it can be entered

and others it is like a slow, distant orbit: 

like planets around a sun – always warmed by a pervading grace 

but just distant enough to merit the mystery of the unknown. 

Love is not bound by reality – 

It is bigger than all that. 

Instead, it lives in quiet corners, 

surprising us with unexpected delights…

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The Bison Ranch

IMG_1580IMG_1606IMG_1598IMG_1597IMG_1595IMG_1604IMG_1607IMG_1590IMG_1575IMG_1594IMG_1616-Terry Bison Ranch, Cheyenne, Wyoming

“In the distance of my years I cover myself with time
Like a blanket which enfolds me with the layers of my life.
What can I tell you except that I have gone
nowhere and everywhere?
What can I tell you except that I have not begun
my journey now that it is through?
All that I ever was and am yet to be
lies within me now this way.

There is the Young Boy in me traveling east
With the Eagle which taught me to see far and wide.
The Eagle took his distance and said,
There is a Time for Rising Above
So that you do not think
Your small world too important.
There is a time for turning your vision toward the sky.

There is the Young Girl in me traveling west
With the Bear which taught me to look inside.
The Bear stood by himself and said,
There is a Time for Being Alone
So that you do not take on
The appearance of your friends.
There is a time for being at home with yourself.

There is the Old Man in me traveling north
With the Buffalo which taught me wisdom.
The Buffalo disappeared and said,
There is a Time for Believing Nothing
So that you do not speak
What you have already heard.
There is a Time for Keeping Quiet.

There is the Old Woman in me traveling south
With the Mouse which taught me my limitations.
The Mouse lay close to the ground and said,
There is a Time for Taking Comfort in Small Things
So that you do not feel
Forgotten in the night.
There is a Time for enjoying the Worm.

That is the way it was.
That is the way it shall continue
With the Eagle and the Bear
With the Buffalo and the Mouse
In all directions joined with me
To form the circle of my life.

I am an Eagle.
The small world laughs at my deeds.
But the great sky keeps to itself
My thoughts of immortality.

I am a Bear.
In my solitude I resemble the wind.
I blow the clouds together
So they form images of my friends.

I am a Buffalo.
My voice echoes inside my mouth.
All that I have learned in life
I share with the smoke of my fire...

– Nancy Wood, Many Winters: Prose and Poetry of the Pueblos

Whales and Wonder…

“If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantment of later life, the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength.

The years of early childhood are the time to prepare the soil…Once found it has lasting meaning.” – Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder

IMG_2207IMG_2186IMG_2194IMG_2189IMG_2181Rowan holding an Orca’s tooth!

Equinox, Threshold and Soul

We transition from the heat of summer and the realm of Body – sweat mixing with sun and flesh mixing with air – to a slow cooling, bundling, turning inwards towards the vastness of inner silence which is mirrored in the stillness after leaves fall and the crickets quiet.  This week marked the Fall Equinox, a threshold of invitation into the vale of soul making, remembering and dreaming – a soul descent into the great question of “what needs to die in my experience?  What is ready to be put to rest?”

The passage of life into death will slowly unfold around us.  Green will turn to orange and then brown, and the wild grasses will get dryer and dryer.  The stream beds now wait for the quiet blanket of snow in the mountains that will begin the cycle of birth all over again.  John Davis says “the sensations and experiences of summer disappear into fall’s cauldron of memory where they are distilled into the actions and decisions of winter.”

I’ve always loved thresholds – that marking of a sacred passage between moments where we can choose the next step with intention.  The threshold into Fall invites me to let go of one self in order to fall into another…to discern what in myself is ready to lay to rest so that there is the needed space for new seeds to germinate.  In these moments of relative equal measure of light and darkness, there is a balance point that holds us as we sway into the season of darkening.  Its time to journey inwards , to re-find quiet mind and heart.  Time to attend to the realm of the Soul…