Saturday, January 29, 2011

Self-Directed Art & Learning Too

bubble art during one of my classes
Yes, I wrote about this not too long ago (read the semi-recent post, here), but it seems that people come here looking for it, and often are looking for specific projects. I guess perhaps I need to post some examples of how one creates self-directed learning opportunities. I'm going to stick with art, because that's what people are often coming here for, but obviously this goes for anything.

First, briefly, What is Self-Direction? It means simply that the activity is determined by the doer, and not by the teacher. This usually means that the activity will be exploratory, and exploration means learning.

The least beneficial activity I can imagine is one where the end result is not only determined by a teacher, parent, or superior, but also demonstrated. Such an activity not only creates an often unattainable goal of perfection for the student (leading to stress and often failure), but also implies that the students' own ideas are not valued, since we are striving to copy somebody else's idea, so it must be better. This is of course the opposite of what I want in my teaching or parenting.

The ideal activity, to me, is one where ideas or materials are shared, but not overtly demonstrated, and where the student is encouraged to explore with materials (even to explore with finding/creating materials) and to share their discoveries. This implies that whatever the student may discover is important, and whatever creation, idea, or inspiration comes of the activity is by its simple existence highly valuable and appreciated by others involved.

Self-Direction Requires Flexibility: As adults coping with the high-stress realities of modern western civilization, we are often product-oriented, results-driven, and in a hurry. For example, it would be very useful and efficient if our child could churn out 25 valentines for friends in one sitting, thereby making each friend feel equally appreciated, and the parents of those friends feel that we've raised a caring child who is capable of creating valentines. It would be even more useful and efficient, however, if from the experience of creating one valentine, for a recipient of the child's choosing (or even for nobody-in-particular), the child could discover deep values of friendship, personal connection to the act of creating, and have an explorative art experience. It may take our child a very long time of experimentation to discover his/her own preferred method of valentine-creation, but in the end any product will be wholly his/her own, the memories and neural pathways forged will be more meaningful, and probably more helpful to subsequent art activities, and the pride in whatever the outcome is will be genuine and whole. It will be a product of our child's own heart, own mind, and own method.

As a family that follows our own and our children's inspirations as much as possible, we have to be flexible. The choice to fully homeschool our children means a time- and financial sacrifice, for sure, but we have never regretted it. This is the time we're all growing and learning, together, and when a particular activity takes a long time and impinges upon other plans, we either roll with it or accept that this activity will have to be curtailed.

Self-Direction Within a Framework: Making an activity non-goal-oriented does not mean there can't be a framework, or inspirational idea, to begin with. The following examples are common art activities which I've reworked (the "Creative Alternative") to allow students to learn more by exploration and self-direction.

Valentine's Day Card: Discuss the meaning of hearts, and how we can make people happy by giving valentines. Provide children with a choice of red or white folded cards, glue, and pre-cut foam Valentines shapes in red, white, and pink. Instruct children to glue valentines shapes in specific patterns on the cards, so that they'll end up with something pleasing, like the pre-made example. When they're finished, they can decorate with glitter-glue. Help the children to spell names and a message inside the card, put it in an envelope and send it home with them for their parents.

Creative Alternative: Discuss the feelings we experience when we share love and kindness with others. Provide children with a choice of many colours of unfolded cardstock and various supplies, such as scissors, glue, ribbons or yarn, glitter, and fabric scraps. Encourage them to experiment with different shapes and material combinations before gluing down, and then just stand back. When they've finished, they may have folded their card, or they may not have; they may want to write in it, or they may not. The card may be for somebody in particular (in which case, help them wrap it in paper when it's dry, address it, and take it to the post-office to mail, or hand-deliver, if appropriate), or it may be just an expression of their feelings and exploration, in that moment. The benefits to them are the opportunities to explore feelings, social systems, and materials.

harvesting clay during one of my classes
Clay Pot with Handles: Give each participant a lump of clay and two, separate, smaller lumps. Demonstrate creating a pinch-pot, and rolling out the smaller lumps to create handles. Demonstrate proper technique for attaching the handles with hatching and slip. Set aside to dry.

Creative Alternative: Give each participant a lump of clay. Sit down beside them, give no instruction, and watch them play. If you plan to fire the clay and notice they are trying to attach things, demonstrate hatching and slip attachment, and explain why it helps the clay to stick together. Do not instruct them to copy you; just suggest this as a useful method.
Better yet (if possible) take them to a creek to harvest natural clay. Expand the activity to wet sand, mud, snow, or home-made dough sculpting. Projects can even be left outside, exposed to the elements, so students can watch them return to their natural state (like watching a snowman melt away).

blind figure drawing with homemade charcoal
Portraiture: Teach participants classical proportions for face-drawing, with a diagram-example, and ask them to lay out a grid on paper and use it as a template for drawing the face of someone sitting opposite them.

Creative Alternative: Look at portraits done by other people, including caricature, abstract, expressionist, and super-realist. Discuss the various ways in which artists capture expression. Have participants create a series of blind line-drawings of the person sitting opposite them. Blind drawing means drawing what one sees directly, without looking at the paper (blindfold optional). When the drawing is finished, the artist looks at the paper, but commits not to change the drawing, further. The drawing is set aside, and another one begun, also blind. The process can be likened to a direct physical interpretation of the form perceived by the eyes. It's really quite wonderful to see the likeness achieved by this method. After 6 or 7 drawings, the participant usually begins to let let go of inhibitions and see the subject more openly. This is as much an exercise in human understanding and working without goals as it is in drawing.

multi-age art discussion
3D Drawing Techniques: Demonstrate techniques for implying three-dimensionality with pencil or ink, including shading, pointillism, cross-hatching, and weighted line-drawing. Provide a series of clean geometric solids with a single light-source, and instruct participants to practice various techniques to draw those shapes.

Creative Alternative: Spend a lot of time talking about various objects in the vicinity. Many of these will be complex shapes, or have various light-sources. Talk about the colours, and how they change given different light-sources. You may take an object outside to see how it changes in the natural light. You may block natural light coming in windows to explore colour and shadow changes. IF you still have time to draw, you may provide charcoal and ask participants to experiment with finding and drawing shadows of whatever they'd like, in the area. There is no expected outcome; just experimentation with drawing shadows.

Japanese Calligraphy: Discuss the function and use of some general symbol-sets used in Japan. Look at calligraphy, and discuss the importance of making strokes in the appropriate order. Show participants particular kanji and ask them to trace or copy them, then make a version in paint or ink.

Creative Alternative: Calligraphy is about expression. It can even, in fact, be as much or more about expressing feeling, ki, and movement than about being a particular character. Discuss this. Look at calligraphy, including some in the native language of the participants. Talk about the etymology of the word calligraphy ('beautiful writing'). Spend time meditating and learning to feel the life-force before expressing it. Now ask students to choose one idea or word that is very meaningful to them, personally, and to express it in black ink, with a brush, in their own language, a known symbol or pictograph, or in any other way they feel like. Make sure there is plenty of extra paper, and allow them to explore the expression of ink on paper.

Class Performance: Purchase a script, complete with recorded songs, etc. assign roles to the group-members, and have them rehearse and perform along with the music. Of course there's a lot of work that goes into pulling something like this together, and many elementary schools put huge efforts into it every December. I'm not doing it justice, but that's because I think it's so wrong. Yes, some or most children will get inspired about their roles, and yes, it sometimes seems like the only option when we're faced with an overload of obligations, and yes, the parents will be pleased to see their little ones performing... but they won't hear their voices over the recording they are following, and the benefit is just not what it could be.

Creative Alternative: Have extensive group discussions about the topic at hand, play games that relate to it, have the group members express their relationships to and feelings about it, through various art forms. Sing songs together that involve input and imagination of the participants. Divide the group into smaller parts, if necessary, and ask them to develop their own performances that express some common interest they share about the topic at hand. Honour their work, give them support and encouragement, but don't guide them, other than to provide necessary time-constraints, help settle arguments, suggest practical solutions, etc. The performance will be wholly their own.

I have to share this: of all the Christmas concerts/performances I participated in as a child at my elementary school, the one I remember and treasure most is the one where we were divided into groups and asked to choose an unusual December tradition and make a play about it. My group chose Sinterklaas, and we developed a play, complete with costumes and a song, that illustrated the basics of this holiday for our classmates and parents. I remember there was some arguing among us (who would play which roles, I think it was) but the memory as a whole is extremely positive.

Abstract Mural: Discuss and explore various styles of abstract art, and have participants mimic one of their choice, with whatever materials are available. Join all drawings together to create a wall full of abstract art.

group mural during a Wild Art Class in my studio
Creative Alternative: Discuss and explore various styles of abstract art, and create a mural, together. Spread a very large piece of paper on a large table or many tables, joined together, and supply materials of complimentary sorts (various paints with brushes, OR dry materials, OR wax crayons and watercolours). Have participants spread out around the table with their chosen materials or colours, and ask them to create whatever they are inspired to, with the inspiration provided (can be music, poetry or a story read aloud, meditation, previous discussion or experience, etc.). Find a way of moving around the table, so that each participant ends up working in and around the designs already created by others. When the paper feels complete (or full), ask people to look at the mural as a whole, and find ways to pull it together, compositionally. This means not just following around the table, but reaching across, changing positions, and perhaps even taking turns getting up onto the table to create.  
No part of the mural is sacred, and all is open for change. In this way, participants not only share their work, but also their inspiration, and are required to problem-solve along the way, experimenting with various material- and colour-combinations that they may not have been faced with, working alone. The personal nature of the project is gone with the changes made by others, and it becomes a truly group effort. This is one of my favourite group-cohesion activities. I've done it often, especially with adults.

How to Talk about Activities:
Closed comments/questions leave little room for creativity or self-expression:
What did you draw?
What is this a picture of?
Is that a man/house/tree/etc.?
Oh it looks so perfect/realistic!

Open comments/questions open dialogue that the child can direct:
Tell me about what you've done, here.
What kinds of shapes/feelings/ideas do you see, here?
Oh this looks like it was fun to make!
What do you feel about this activity?

Supplies for open-ended art exploration:
2018 Update: Rickshaw Unschooling: Supplies and Practice of Open-Ended Art Exploration

Friday, January 28, 2011

Science Fair

Speaking of child-directed projects, this one was a highlight of my kids' lives! Before Christmas, our lovely science teacher announced her plans for a science fair, and made it open to any classroom or full-time-homelearning students (that would be us) who might be interested. Instantly both of my kids jumped at it.

Taliesin decided to work on his plans for oxygenating Mars' mostly-CO2 atmosphere by delivering plants and water to Mars to do the work for us. Anybody who knows Tal knows that he is constantly coming up with these ideas, and drawing vastly elaborate pictures of how his machines and plans will work... but he rarely documents enough that others can interpret his plans. This time he began with a space-ship drawing, and I made it very clear that the people looking at his project would need to understand what it was all about, and that he should think it through with a mind toward sharing his ideas, instead of just keeping them for himself. "Of course!" He said, as if that was always the plan... And he set to work researching in his various books, getting us to Google things with him (we don't let him Google without us, yet), and making serious plans. Most of his interest was in the molecular and atomic makeup of CO2, as well as in photosynthesis and carbon cycles, so that's where he went with it. He also ended up being interested in the complications of having to deal with hypobaric and extremely cold conditions for his project. The spaceship plans remained a bit vague. At one point (when he'd tentatively decided that the plants had to be in greenhouses to keep the air pressure up) I asked him how he was going to deal with the air-pressure issue, and he said "well either with a pressurized greenhouse or with changing their genes so it doesn't matter". I was a bit stunned, even though I knew he'd been reading about the possibility of genetic alteration. "You mean you'd genetically modify them? That's interesting!" To which he widened his eyes and declared "Mama! I don't know how to do that, yet! I'm only eight! I don't have to do everything!" Right. I must have forgotten.

Click this to enlarge if you want to read it. Click 'back' to come back here.

When I asked Rhiannon, who is six, if she'd thought of a science fair idea, she told me that she was already prepared ("Just come look!"). She had carefully lined up all her babies from biggest to smallest on the floor. "I'm doing childhood development! I'm going to show them all how my babies grow up from newborn to six, since I'm six so that's all I know about!" She then produced a drawing of sperm racing for an egg, making various competitive comments to each other. We eventually convinced her that a science project was a nice opportunity to see what other people think, too, so we found various sources of information on fertilization, growth, and development, and she ended up making a book all about it, with drawings for every age she decided to write about, some development milestones either copied from her sources or creatively-spelled, herself, and photos of herself at the same ages, which we painstakingly helped her pull out of the heap of photo-CD's. I was quite impressed with how she pulled it all together! She then enlisted my advice to bind it into a ribbon-book. She also found a baby scrapbook at the recycling depot and filled it in for her 'eldest' baby, Ganga. And because she found herself ready with a few days to spare, she then whipped off another book about "the love of a brother and sister", in a couple of hours, without any help or input from us. Let it never be said that my daughter is not productive!

Click this (and the next one) to enlarge if you want to read them. Click 'back' to come back here.

For both children this was an amazing experience. Tal was able to really stick with something and develop it in depth, and he actually worked extremely hard at expressing and explaining his activities and ideas, and creating a finished product (his display board) which is very unusual for him. Then he invited his dearest friends to come to his Science Fair and see what he'd done, and he was so wound up with joy and pride that he was nearly vibrating as he carried his enormous project up into the building. Rhiannon's big accomplishment (in my opinion) was her willingness to take some advice and actually look up some information about development. After she had declared that she already knew everything there was to know about it, I was quite pleased to see her accept a little outside input. She has always been very interested in babies and medicine, so it's nice to see her expand in that area, a bit.

And then there was the rest of the science fair! Projects ranged from in-depth bird-studies to physics, chemistry (and smoke-bombs!), music with wine-glasses, human anatomy, electricity, and even a septic field. We were all very impressed and happy with the variety and enthusiasm exhibited, there, but above all it was wonderful to see our children share their hearts' passions and find themselves in a supportive community of other inspired kids.

hard at work...

I'm posting this because this board is an enormous achievement for Tal. People tell him they're impressed with his scientific research on this project, but, as his parent, I know that the research is what he fills his brain with by choice 99% of the time. It wasn't even the slightest stretch for him. What was a HUGE stretch and accomplishment was sharing all that thought and research with other people in a way that they could read it... and thoroughly. He has never really liked to put much effort into describing things -- especially in writing. So for him to put this amount of effort into the writing he did for this project, and to have done it with such enthusiasm and pride, was a really huge accomplishment.
(Mama Pride)

Wow. Thanks!

We're listed in a "50 Best Blogs in the Unschooling Movement" article! What an enormous compliment!!

Rickshaw Unschooling:
Follow one family's educational journey through unschooling and pick up some seriously cool suggestions on raising experienced, intelligent, informed children.

The list is a pretty  good resource, too. Check it out:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Wild (f)Unschool

Or maybe Wilderness (f)Unschool.

A dream is taking shape in my heart. This has been brewing for years, as you can see by reading back over this blog, for example here, here, and especially here, among other places. But it revolves around the theory of self-directed learning, learning through exploration, and, quite simply, being outside and in community. This is the dream Markus and I have always had for our children; this is why we are natural unschoolers.

What does all this mean? Well, let me try to lay it all out, although of course, life and truth being what they are (amorphous) this can't possibly be complete...

Learning Through Exploration: For us, learning means exploration. It means that nothing is more valuable than following inspirations and interests in adventures of discovery. It can be time- and energy-consuming for us, of course, answering every question to the best of our ability (sometimes we do research to get the right answers, sometimes we have long philosophical conversations, sometimes we go on fieldtrips to find answers or feed the interest, and sometimes we're just too tired to answer at all...). But we get as much out of this as the kids do. It has made our lives rich and meaningful. It's not only for our kids that we live this way.

When we walk out into the forest we explore. That is the point. We explore place, time, change, growth, and everything that is a part of life. This is science. In the falling, growing, and climbing of trees is geometry and physics; in considering them we have hypothesis, theory, and endless possibility (Mama, what if a tree was so tall that you could climb up all the way into space, then would the leaves be different at the top, where there's no air? Then we could build an elevator to get rockets out of our atmosphere and they could not have to use so much rocket-fuel!) What if! What if we come to the same spot of forest every week for the whole year, and sometimes it's bone dry and sometimes it's under a foot of water? We see so many changes as the year goes by, and we learn so very much about the world and our place in it. This exploration is the crux of all our learning. And this isn't to say that we don't learn inside, but certainly the outside adventures are the core upon which the inside exploration is developed.

Self-Directed Learning: Markus can talk to me all he wants about the specific caulking materials he's considering for the old wooden boat he's restoring -- he's spent countless days and hours researching this in books, online, and with boatbuilders. But I don't care. No matter how much it may matter to me that the boat I will one day travel on with him is safe and seaworthy, I just cannot force myself to care about how he does it. I'll help him caulk it when that day comes, of course. And then, in the act of it, I might even get interested. But now? No. So I ignore it. He, on the other hand, really couldn't care less what colours or fonts I might use for somebody's poster or logo, while I sometimes lay awake at night envisioning design choices I've made, and whether the specific colours will print right when my client sends it in to an unknown printer. Why should he have to care? He has chosen to design the working end of software, and sends it away to other people who make it look good (like me). (Yes we do work well together for website design, if you've wondered...) So if we learn as much as we do by following our personal interests, shouldn't our kids have the same opportunity? Of course! It has never occurred to me to care whether we can create an oxygen-rich atmosphere on Mars by employing plants to create it for us. It occurred to Taliesin, so we encouraged him and helped him to follow his inspiration and we all learned from it (Markus and I were the official Google-helmsmen, glue- and tape-dispensers, photo-documenters, and naggers as the Science Fair neared). Taliesin and Rhiannon (who studied infant development) both completed the biggest research projects of their lives for this Science Fair, and none of it was directed by us. They are justifiably enjoying some of the proudest days of their lives, this week. That is the benefit of self-directed learning.

When we walk out into the forest we rarely have an agenda. Sometimes there are bountiful wild foods to harvest and we get all inspired about them, then inspired about finding ways to cook, store and eat them; sometimes there are bountiful wild foods but we're distracted building a fort or exploring recent blowdown in a swamp, checking out the beaver lodge or discussing the apparent living habits of the various mythical creatures who might inhabit our forest. Each of these topics, among infinite others, is worthy of exploration. The important thing is that the adventure we've embarked upon offers us these endless opportunities for inspiration on our self-directed learning adventures.

Being Outside in Community: What are we without the world we live in, and the people we share it with?

I rest my case. There's nothing better than growing and learning directly in the world we were born to, and sharing the journey with people who also care. This growing together is how we develop the world we desire to live in.

So, now that we have some adventurous friends willing to join our adventures, how can we make the most of these days? That is the question, and this is where I'm beginning to see the dream develop. I'll keep track of it as it grows and changes on this blog. I think it would be a great thing to return to various local spots at regular intervals (maybe once a month) so that we get to know the individual stumps, trees, plants, water-bodies, etc. quite intimately, and to see them change throughout the year. I also think it's important that we find ways to interact with the places we visit in an ecologically sensitive way, so that we can all learn without compromising the ecosystems we benefit from. So. Some of my specific plans:

Places to Go Regularly:
Crippen Park and Meadow
Quarry Park
These places would give a general cross-sampling of various local habitats, and are few enough that we could return regularly, to notice changes.

Wild Food:
Because we do this anyway, and enjoy it, but also because I think it's really important that we all are aware of not only where our food comes from (much of what is available in the wild is related to the foods we buy), but also how connected we are to where we live. Harvesting, eating, and healing from the wild gives us a much deeper understanding and appreciation of the world we live in.

Yes, I want us to have a garden. I'm not sure where this will be, yet, but I think it's vital that the kids (and adults, too) have the opportunity to feel and touch the physical cycle of life. I hope that we'll be able to tend our garden for a short amount of time every week, before going out on our adventures. (Or perhaps at a different time, if the adventures aren't beginning at the garden.) This would mean that every day begins with taking stock (hands in dirt) of our garden's health and current condition, and considering our responsibilities and gifts. We can learn so much about nutrition, plant and insect life cycles, chemical and nutrient cycles, invasive vs. indigenous or non-invasive plant species', cooking, weather, seasons, etc. etc. etc. And did I mention joy?? I can't neglect to mention, of course, the joy and pride and incredible emotional and intellectual value of growing something with our own hands and feeling our own important place in that cycle of life and death and renewal.

I know my hopes and dreams will grow and change, so I'll update here as they do. Just so happy to feel the coming together of our community in something that has meant so much to us for all these years. Thank you, (f)Unschoolers!

Recent Kids' Junket

This is our third monthly kids' junket! The idea is to bring instruments and just play freely. There are kids here of all ages and abilities, from toddlers to teens, and even one who plays with a youth orchestra, but when we're here there are no rules and no limitations. As long as the instruments are respected, anything goes. No sound is unwanted and no sound is 'wrong'.

This video is of Rhiannon's "game". Her idea was that somebody would start playing, and others would join in one at a time, until everyone was playing. It's wonderful to witness the children so thoroughly enjoying themselves; so open to exploration of sound and sharing.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Outdoor Learning in Norway

This video (which I cannot embed, so you'll have to follow the link) is about 21 minutes long, and discusses so much of what we value in our unschooling experience. Just sit back and enjoy the whole thing, and see how they follow their learning in sometimes unexpected but always valuable ways. So beautiful.

Our ideal is something similar to what these schools in Norway seem to be doing, but with less government-involvement, and hopefully freedom from routinized testing, etc. With our family's style of wilderness unschooling, we're 1/2 way there. Hopefully the (f)Unschool is the first step towards the next part: finding peers to join us on this fabulous journey!

Here's the video -- do commit to the whole thing; it's worth it!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Rickshaw (f)Unschool

That's Taliesin's name for it! It's not 100% settled, but so far that's the name we're sticking with.

Once a week (starting last week) we get together with other unschooling-minded families and explore! First we explore outside, and then we come in and do some other type of open exploration. What a beautiful way to learn in community! Here's an inaugural photo of some of the 9 kids who came, last week. We made sock-puppets, among other things...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Last year our dear friends moved down to live on their boat in LA.We hope they won't be gone long, and we miss them terribly, sometimes, but of course we also wish them the most fabulous adventure possible. So I made them a tiny flag, last year. I had no idea what I was doing, and just sewed it up out of some little scraps of bright-coloured non-absorbent fabric. Well of course, a few months into it's bright-hot-windy life atop a California sailboat, there is pretty much nothing left of it. So I had to make a new one. This time I actually went and bought light-fast rip-stop nylon flag material from the Flag Shop in Vancouver, where the staff was all extremely helpful (and amenable to my wandering unschooled kids' curiosities). I managed to get all the fabric I needed from their scraps (thereby avoiding buying 10x the amount I needed), and got a wealth of valuable flag-making advice from their seamstress.

So here's the new flag; about 15 or 20 times the size of the last one, I think, and hopefully a lot more durable!! Suki and Jon's reactions and happiness were really SO worth the many many hours it took me to make this.

The sun is supposed to catch the light of the real sun... in this case it's a black hole sun, with Suki's coat showing through!

And now I've come to understand what a flag is. It's like a quilt or a tapestry. It's a piece of well-intentioned energetic magic, when it's done properly. The many many thousands of stitches (never mind that I used a sewing machine; it's still meditative) are a conduit for a constant flow of thought and energy. This flag has worked into it so much love and joy that it can't help but be the carrier of that energy into my friends' future. The symbolism grew out of that meditative work, but it's also a traditional part of a flag's power. The island on the flag is, of course, our island (the one they've left, with so many people who keep them in our hearts), and the wind in the sunlight is to give them good winds for coming and going... so they can adventure but will always be able to come back home when the time is right for them.

So that's my journey into meditative product-oriented energy work. Hm. I like it!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

family field trips

Because we live on an island, we can take the kids on the ferry (home from the city) for free, as long as they're returning from educational activities. Well, ALL activities are educational, when you're an unschooler (actually they are even if you're not an unschooler, but that doesn't always work out as it should, when it comes to legalities). So anyway, we often make trips to town for such educational 'field trips', sometimes as often as once per week, and this December we managed a few. This most recent field trip was my Mum's idea, and we went with a whole lot of family: Opa, Nana, Uncle Adrian, Auntie Bree, and the four of us, too: We went to see Body Worlds! I had seen it before, but the rest hadn't, and I think it was very worthwhile. The kids were not upset, and seemed extremely interested. They and Auntie Bree took the longest in the exhibition, which we spent 2 hours in. I won't explain Body Worlds; if you don't know it already, you can follow the link. The kids had the easiest time understanding and appreciating the whole bodies. The separated parts, especially the more obscure things like the goiter/thyroid, cochlia, and spinal chord were difficult for them to relate to, since they couldn't really place them in context. Though some aspects are a little disturbing, emotionally, the work as a whole is a superb collection, and SO helpful to anybody wanting to understand humanity, both in its physicality and in our various emotional journeys. I admit that I have twice had an emotional reaction to the pregnant woman whose womb is opened up to expose her foetus, and also with considering the type of person who would make this his life's work, but those emotional reactions are part of understanding my humanity, so I welcome them.

And as for Gunther von Hagens: Thank You! I can't imagine how you do it, but I think that work like this is essential to our understanding of ourselves, of our neighbours, and of our place in the universe.

After Body Worlds, we went to have dinner with the extended Gallaher clan, for Uncle Don and Aunt Lande's birthdays. This is opportunity for gratuitous cute baby photos.... Aiden and Tali loves their Stockmar Crayons! (Disclosure: that link is a plug for my Dad's toystore, BC Playthings. He has sold those excellent crayons since I was a little girl, and I still have most of the set I had then, though we've had to replace a few colours... Also, the person colouring with them on the store's website is Rhiannon.)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Mt. Collins

On the bright and sunny New Years Day we hiked up Mt. Collins behind our house for a beautiful visit to the frozen bluffs. I'll let the photos tell (most of) the story:

Hazel waiting around on the driveway for us to get ready and go: Well... are you ready?? I am being soooo patient, but I am also vibrating from expectation, and might not last much longer...

Ah -- reward. On the first bluff Hazel found an antler to chew.

Markus was invited to the special circus area to watch this show by Rhiannon.

...yes, he did put it back on the rock, after...

Rhiannon just collected the rock.

Pappa and Tal looking out at Killarney Lake.
One of the views we saw. You really need to click this to enlarge it, then use the back button to return to this post. Then check out Rhiannon's most excellent viewpoint, in the video, below:

Just over 9 years ago, Markus and I came up to this top bluff to get our Christmas tree.Taliesin was 6.5 months into his life in utero, at that point, making it an interesting and momentous occasion. This is the little stump from that tree we took, and Tal was happy to sit with the remains of "his" first Christmas tree for a photo!

The unidentified but elegant little mushrooms that Rhiannon found growing in the frosty moss.

Snack break!

Notes from Markus' father: These are ground cones (Boschniakia hookeri), sometimes called "Vancouver ground cone" (as opposed to another species, Northern groundcone). These grew from Arbutus roots; they are parasites on ericaceous plants, more commonly tapping the roots of salal.  When fresh, the flowers are dark wine red or more rarely yellow.

Natural Trampolines.

The view of the mainland and passage island.

Climbing down from the last bluff. You wouldn't perhaps expect (or maybe you would!) that after this perfectly well-executed hike/climb around the bluffs all afternoon, sometimes with the leashed dog attached to me, I would nearly trip while stepping out onto the flat road, afterward, and then, having avoided a fall, try to avoid stepping on the dog leash, and thence trip on the air in front of me and stumble out onto my knees on the road. oops. How embarrassing!

One of many many nice arbutus -- but a rare find in such a nice man.

Such a beautiful sunset to welcome us home!

New Year's Eve

For the first time ever, our little family spent New Year's Eve alone -- just the four of us. My brother was planning to go to town and my parents "upstairs" (which is really up the hill from us) had guests for the evening. We had invitations to two parties, and originally planned to go, but were just feeling too homey and tired. So we stayed home.

It was very strange to begin with, and hard to find the spirit in a holiday that frankly doesn't mean much to us (we celebrate the year passing constantly; New Year's is just an arbitrary day to us). But as the evening went on, we found our groove, and followed it. We made a bunch of yummy foods, began a puzzle that somebody had handed the kids at the recycling depot, and finally went outside to bang pots and pans at midnight. Then we sang Auld Lang Syne, as we always do. Then, magic happened. As we stood there on the frozen porch, looking out into the darkness across the property, a bright light emerged from the other side of the road. As it began bouncing down the lane towards the end of our driveway we recognized its gait, ran in to get our shoes, and ran out to meet it as it charged down the driveway. It was Uncle Adrian! Down the driveway he ran, banging his pot and pan, and we joined him so happily! Then of course we all went upstairs to awaken the grandparents from their quiet evening with guests. I was a bit nervous about interrupting them, but really -- it was midnight -- how could we not?! What a great evening! Family found in so many ways.