One morning last week, I left early for nature camp in order to do an exercise walk through the woods, rather than on the roads near home. I was not walking for any other purpose but for exercise and my pace was quick. I was not walking to observe nature on that morning. If you let it though, nature has a way of bringing you back and helping you realize that this is your life and you can choose to walk a quick pace through it or you can notice. As I passed the lightening tree and turned on the trail leading from the pond, I was called to stop. If you could hear inside my head at the moment, it would have sounded like this..."Well no Karen...you're exercising. Keep going. Don't stop. Keep your heart rate up. It's good for you." So........I stopped, right there. I took a few steps off the trail and stopped a few feet from the water's edge. I looked across the brook and to the left at the pond. I noticed the green, the early morning sunlight, the sounds of morning. Finally, I looked ahead. The most beautiful Barred Owl was sitting on a limb overhanging the water looking straight at me. We were about six feet from each other. We said good morning while I admired him and he gave me the gift of staying for several minutes before flying off across the pond.
One of my goals for children is to help them develop awareness and appreciation. In today's society, many things are delivered instantly and it's difficult to develop this characteristic. Video games give you "extra lives", chicken comes in the form of "nuggets", and long car rides are satiated with watching videos instead of playing the license plate game. Here are some of my favorite "stay in the moment and notice" kid activities: 1. Deer Ears-This is a favorite at Roaring Brook Nature Center. Teach children to cup their hands and place them just behind their ear lobes. Stay quiet for a minute, two, or more as your child can manage. Listen for all the sounds you can hear within that time.
2. Window on the world-Precut picture mats work great for this or make your own 6"-12" cardboard frame. Each child or small group will place their frame on the ground and examine that space closely and carefully. First responses are often, "There's nothing here." but on closer look, they will notice ants, millipedes, perhaps a cricket, etc. This can be done in a variety of habitats: roll over a log, find a grassy area, the base of a tree, or the edge of a water source. Many of these habitats can be located right in your back yard.