Nature: The mysterious playground that can change our lives forever for the better
Director of Life Rocks
Nature is a mysterious playground. We may climb a tree and derive much joy. Or we can sit under the tree and feel relaxation and peace. We can also study the tree, draw it, touch it, smell it, see it change over the seasons and watch it grow over the years. One tree has so much to give: a lifetime of discovery. Curiosity is part of why we admire children and are inspired by their presence. Children do not just see a tree; they see a home, a playground, a fortress and a base. They have a freshness to their perspective that lends imagination towards the things that are seen. Eventually, children will learn that a tree is "just a tree", and they will get to work and forget about the playful wonders of the tree fort or fairy home - or will they?
Time spent playing in Nature creates lasting memories. Lasting memories are made through connected, emotional and imaginative experiences. We might not remember someone's name if it is spoken once, but we are very likely to remember that person if they wore a clown suit and had a parrot on their shoulder. Nature is like the clown with the parrot on his shoulder; it always has new tricks, and it will never cease to amaze. Nature provides a complex, dynamic and infinite environment to discover new material. That is why time in Nature is so impressionable and lasting for children and humans. Yet, as we go on in life, our Western world focuses not on Nature - but on accomplishment, being good and being good at it, getting things done, having a job, and pursuing some hobbies. The general template for living is similar to this. In this process of "growing up", Nature can lose some of its magic unless our "hobbies" include it. Trees become trees, ponds become ponds, mountains are mountains, and that's that. Labels replace experience and connection. Basic assumed knowledge replaces curiosity, awe and discovery. Modern children likely spend more time traversing digital landscapes than real ones. As time passes, the digital landscapes are more and more convincing - but will we ever truly feel the elements through the synthetic world? Indeed, some teams of programmers and developers are working hard at their job of making Nature accessible through neuro-electrical stimulation and virtual reality - but what would we be trading?
Our senses were developed by Nature through interacting with her. We had to make sense of the world to survive and thrive. Observation, analysis, imagination and contemplation were vital aspects for our species regarding the natural world. Now, these practices have become hobbies, not necessities. Thankfully, people are still interested in pursuing a connection with Nature because those who do feel the benefits that can never fully be defined but do definitely bring balance, well-being, knowledge and satisfaction. Helping our children to participate in the study and dance of life is crucial to living a happy life. Without a sense of curiosity, we lack motivation. Without playfulness, we will turn to vices like video games and binge on media. Without observation of Nature and the forces of life, we cannot see ourselves or our own problems and become subject to the unknown world of Natural forces that we cannot see, touch or feel because our culture has blinded us from it. But with Nature, with Nature as our ally, teacher, mentor, playmate and friend, we can create a life so rich, so beautiful, so powerful that many lives lived like that can change the world into a great place to be. We hope that the mainstream reality of consumerism, capitalism, imperialism, and other isms that wish to dominate each other will one day align to the benefit of Nature and, therefore, humanity and our children. In the meantime, we must keep busy looking after ourselves and learning to enjoy life for life's sake. If we can transmit one meaningful lesson or teaching to our children through our parenting, teaching or mentoring - what would it be? To have a passion for life and living so large that it consumes any doubt they have in their hearts that this world is not theirs. That is my wish for the children of the world, and we can achieve the spreading of that message by igniting a passion for Nature, science, the arts and playfulness - all things that this world needs so desperately.
Here are some tips for approaching Nature as a playground that can uplift our lives and that of our children:
- Remember, Nature is an infinitely complex, changing, dynamic place that will never be fully understood or realized. Nature is inside us, and Nature is outside of us. We are Nature, so we, too, are infinite and complex. Take this attitude when you look at a tree or a mountain - remember what those things might be to the eyes of a child who has never learnt the word "mountain" or "tree".
-Use imagination, not only logic, when viewing Nature. Sure, we know that a tree grows in soil, needs water and nutrients and photosynthesizes light into sugars and oxygen. But did we know that the tree is also connected to a mycelium web underground that transmits signals to other trees, sending messages of food supply, predators and pests? We actually just found that out recently in scientific terms. Maybe the Druid of the forest knew these things. Tribal myth has trees speaking. Shamans are known to converse with trees, so they say. So, for a moment or more - suspend your judgment of what you know and imagine what you do not know. What will this achieve? It is less about achievement or knowledge and more of an experience and a feeling to be evoked. We do not know everything; we know nearly nothing, in fact, so you can bask in this and share that new awareness of reality with your children.
- Using science also brings Nature to life. All that science means is "to know". Sure, we can imagine that the tree is a fairy tree or a fortress and play in it with our children - but what DO we know about the tree? What can we learn from the history of science connected to the thing we are observing? This practice also takes us out of the simplified view of reality, where a tree is just a tree. Learning species, identification, properties and more can make mundane trees turn into a world of discovery. A boring tree becomes a ghost gum tree with antiseptic properties that can be used for insect bites, chest infections or clean wounds. A little knowledge goes a long way regarding children and ourselves. Knowing local plants' names, features, history, uses, and animal friends can bring more colour to our lives and surroundings.
- Keep on challenging your perspectives - and that of your children! The world is more than what it seems, so keep yourself and those around you on their toes by using a combination of science and imagination.
Most of all, just remember - LIFE ROCKS!