When I was a youngster, my mother would say, “Go outside and play.” And I would, with all the other kids in the neighborhood. We learned a lot about nature and ourselves playing outside. For one thing, we quickly learned to recognize poison ivy.
A few years ago, I was asked to join the advisory board of Children and Nature Network (C&NN). It is a still growing organization created by author Richard Louv and administered for a long time by my good friend Dr. Cheryl Charles. Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods, became a best-seller as people realized we have a generation of children so connected to electronics that they are losing their connection to nature. As Louv writes, “We are fast approaching a generation of children where no child will have played outdoors.”
Nature is more than the flora and fauna we observe each day. Nature is a shared spirit of being with all things. Through nature, we learn the everything is cyclical, that life begins and life passes, that every life is in the balance with all other life forms, and each one helps the other fulfill its intrinsic purpose.
I have near-by neighbors that farm and teach their children that nature has her purpose. They live out the philosophy that we are part of nature, and when we abuse her, we abuse ourselves.
Spending time outdoors both in solitude and at play is an important education for children. The outdoors encourages an inner connection to nature, and if you stay there for a little while in meditation, you will see and feel all the natural connections as pulses of soothing and loving light. You will connect to the chlorophyll of plants and trees, the flights of insects and birds, the awareness of mammals, and especially the knowing of the earth herself.
In Shakespeare’s As You Like It, the Duke in the forest of Arden says: “…there are tongues in trees, books in running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.”