Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Changing the World

cormorant and gull with freighters

Some days I look out around me at the forest, my community, the sky, the creeks and the ocean... and I see something so beautiful - so needed in and integral to my life - that it brings me to tears. Happy tears. Sad tears. Tears of honest terror and helplessness. I look out and I see that we are using it up. Just using it all up and it's not ever coming back, and this - THIS is the world that's keeping us alive.

And I'm scared.

There's no point in seeing all the changes that need to be made without doing anything to make them, but I can't change the world alone. Changing the world - saving the world - happens in all of us. I am moved to my core to see my neighbour and my friend sing his heart into our community, making it OK for us all to be real. Changing the world happens when my sister makes it her personal mission to disseminate discarded goods from the recycling depot so they can be reused, first. It happens when my son overcomes an enormous fear of confrontation to yell at a man he sees hitting a snake: Stop! Please stop! It happens when a friend gives up plastic and empowers me to do the same. It happens in all of us every day.

Wild Art kids releasing some tadpoles and changing water for those we're still raising.

Today was the last regular day of this year's 9-14 year-old Wild Art Group. These kids just rocked my world, this year. The premise of Wild Art is that we hang out for 4 hours and they basically do whatever they want, with encouragement, guidance, and mediation from me. Today we were looking at our tank full of tadpoles (a project not at all taken on lightly, and accompanied by a huge amount of moral discussion) and we talked about monoculture vs. permaculture, as it pertained to our little aquarium and the pains we take to replicate the pond the tadpoles came from and to which they'll be returned. This year these kids have created spontaneous forest villages complete with financial and labour systems, wild food stores and ethical consultation. And now they're putting the finishing touches on a play. The entire year, the artwork, the discussions, the explorations - all came from the hearts of these kids. I'm just the facilitator. But that is the work I love, and I hope that in holding this space for some wonderful people I can help amplify the waves they are making.

Wild Art play planning.

Changing the world isn't done alone. It's in the connections we make and the passion that connects us. When I share my feelings - the negative ones, the idealistic ones, the dramatic ones and the fearful ones - I'm just trying to change the world. Because I have hope.

This looks like a stock photo. It's not. It's a real moment of hope revealing itself.

Click this photo to enlarge it. That ain't yer average little clover, there! We took this photo today out on the field as the kids were going over their inventive and improvised script. We took this photo in the April sun, in a gentle breeze, with the movement of sequoia boughs above and a few species of birds snacking in the grass around us: six passionate kids and a four-leafed clover. There is always hope.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

easter for atheists

Despite being not Christian at all, we love Easter! For us it's about spring and growth and family; joy in new life and resurrection of the garden!

Most of us got together for our traditional Easter-time nettle picking!

And the Easter Rabbit did not disappoint the children!

(comparing quantities of chocolate eggs)

Rhiannon made a paper egg-hunt for the parents earlier on the weekend, and Markus found the last missing egg on Easter morning.

We bought some gorgeous local aracauna coloured eggs from a friend (for old time's sake; when we were children we had green- and blue-laying aracaunas, too), but since Tali is allergic to real eggs, we made him a sausage-and-apple-stuffed woven bacon egg, instead. I think he approved; he ate the whole thing! I got this idea from Mike at Atomic Shrimp (who is also a wild food enthusiast!). But his was quite large. This is my smaller, 1-person version, filled with natural pork sausage and sauteed apples.

(See our colourful eggs?) And I think we were all pleased to finally have a dog sleeping under the table, again. 
What a joyful day! Happy Easter! Happy Spring!

life these days

Rhiannon made a trampoline for Mela
This is another photo dump. Our spring has been wonderfully busy, full of various activities at home, as well as Wild Art, circus school, homeschool field trip, visiting with friends, and... a puppy!! Kalea is not our puppy, exactly; she's my parents' little golden retriever baby, but we quite like to babysit and play with her, and you will probably see quite a few fluffy golden photos, from now on...
Tali got somebody's discarded (but functional) record player and has been experimenting ever since.

Both puppies and 9-year-olds LOVE to play in the mud!!

If you ever doubted that our home was once a trailer... now you know. Despite it's rather house-like features, it is still decorated with 2 steel trailer hitches! Markus is removing a sword fern from inside of one, here.

Sometimes Kalea's walks are rather slow...

We are building new garden beds on the east side of the house.

Ahh... what could be better than reading on a sunny day!

Well... if you are Tali you might just pretend it's raining...

Kalea thinks she helps with gardening, but... just like the merits of a sunny day, it's all a matter of perspective.

Friday, April 18, 2014


Time for a photographic update of springtime at our house... :--)

oregon grape blossoms
peach blossoms

budding magnolia tree

star magnolia


ladyfern fiddlehead

Rhiannon's hyacinths

some kind of buttercup
grape hyacinths
flowering current

skunk cabbage
red legged frog

red legged frog tadpoles hatching

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Preteens and Teens: How to Play

We seem to have an idea in our culture that we need manufactured objects for play. Even when we do play outside, we tend to stick to manufactured spaces like parks, sports fields, trails, etc. It seems so bewildering to imagine what we would do without these things. But kids don't have that problem.

The things the kids in my world get up to with a bit of wilderness and no rules are really quite beautiful. They develop the most complex socio/economic systems which basically mimic those of their parents. They take whatever the wilderness offers them and weave it into their play, taking on various jobs, trading for services, objects and 'money' (this week it was alder catkins), hiring each other and volunteering, maintaining the spaces they create and filling in their world with creativity, philosophical/moral conversations, and a whole lot of laughter.

These aren't 6-year-olds. These are 9 to 13-year-olds. They are squatting bare- and boot-footed in a creek (above), diverting clean water for a handwashing station, and creating moss-on-bark sponges to scrub their handmade wooden planter pots which they plan to sell at the pet (slug) and variety store over to the right, on a log. On the surface, to those of us accustomed to the commercially-available expectations of preteens, it looks like their play is childish. But if you really pay attention you see that the things they're working through here are in fact very mature. I heard conversations ranging from impacts of climate change to fair wages to questions of morality in petting zoos and circuses and ethics of catching wild animals, to gender equality, particle physics and nutritional values of wild foods. Really. With 0 adult input, these are just a few of the conversations that came up in 4 hours of wilderness play, yesterday.

I could not dream up these things. I can only give them space to do it themselves.

This is what happens when you leave the manufactured toys, spaces and rules behind and leave kids to play with nothing but time and lack of constraints. Oh -- and some wilderness at their disposal. Some trees to climb. Creeks to get muddy in. Nobody standing around injecting teachable moments or safety concerns.

Kids don't need us to tell them how to play and learn. They need us to get out of their way.

Book Review: The Golden Spruce

I think this may be my favourite book of all time. I'm currently reading it to the kids -- and to my husband! I read it a few years ago, and while it completely captivated me, I thought the kids were a bit young for it. But not any more!

This book will give you a deep narrative-based understanding of BC's history, forestry, resource-based economy and west coast ecology... all while being a truly gripping read. I think that's enough! It's wonderful. I am thoroughly enjoying this second read - maybe even more than the first one, as the kids interrupt frequently with questions and philosophical explorations. In addition to being an amazing read, The Golden Spruce is an amazing thing to share.


Catch up with author John Vaillant here: