Monday, July 28, 2014

Graceful Parenting... in birds

This summer a pair of robins lost their first brood and began a second family in the wisteria above our porch. We were lucky to witness the process from nest-building to egg-sitting to tending chicks to fledging, and we captured some of their family life on film. Enjoy!

(Definitely set aside 10 minutes to watch the whole thing and full-screen this!)

Robins by Emily van Lidth de Jeude on Vimeo.

Obviously, this is so beautiful, from a parent's perspective. To see how we dedicate ourselves so thoroughly, giving up other pursuits, and giving everything we have... and suddenly our babies are grown and leaving the nest. How quickly it goes! This makes it easier for me to treasure the time I have.

...and to appreciate the evolution of opposable thumbs and non-oral waste-disposal methods. ;-)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Wild Clay

Scrape scrape scrape... clay comes off smooth and silky from the creek-bed.

Ta da! Lizard by Taliesin. This can't be fired. The clay would need to be carefully sieved first for that, and even then it would be iffy. But the hands-on process of harvesting, creating, drying, observing, and slowly allowing the creation to return to earth is hugely rewarding.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Reconciliation in the Forest Court

Theatre Sports at the Forest Village Theatre
This week at the Wild Art program we've been creating a village in the forest. As with all activities at Wild Art, there is only one rule: Be mindful of your activities' impact. In other words, do whatever you want as long as you're not hurting anyone or anything. All of the 10 kids involved came this week with the intention of creating a forest village, so there was an intense enthusiasm right from the beginning. Over the course of the week, the very entrepreneurial 9-12-year-olds sustainably harvested food and resources, and created and sold, gifted or traded each other all manner of useful and decorative items and services. Items varied from creek-harvested clay sculptures to fern-woven clothing and jewelry, to furniture, natural art supplies and instruments, wild food and temporary pets. Services included pet-sitting, massage, wilderness tours, face-painting, dramatic productions, workshops, library and museum, front desk managing, and an art studio. There was also a jail, when a very inspiring "oubliette" was found in an old nurse-stump, but when the cops failed to incite crime, they also failed to find anybody to arrest, and soon the jail became a climbing-in-and-out challenge, instead. And then a compost.

Terms of trade were often determined at the point of sale, and when currency was used, it was usually rocks (rare and valuable), Y-shaped sticks (moderately easy to find), or fern leaves (plentiful). Few ideas were mine. The children brought what they know of the world and created their own in sharing that knowledge. It is always beautiful to see how easily a sustainable empathetic world develops when children are left to be creative in the wilderness.

Musical Instrument shop with customers
As an adult, I am present mostly to participate, as a fully engaged member of the group, doing whatever I love to do (because of this). I am also permanently the doctor-on-call. But of course I am also present, as all participants are, to offer my advice and compassion when issues arise.

This week, when a fairly major emotional issue arose, all of my advice and compassion for the individual parties could not bring them closer together. The girl I will call the first girl made a gorgeous fern-and-moss mat, and sold it to the second girl for three extremely difficult-to-find mushrooms. The next day, the first girl wanted the mat back, but the second girl said it was an essential part of her spa, and she couldn't return it. The first girl begged. Well, did she have the mushrooms to trade back? No. They were gone. The second girl suggested the first teach her how to make a mat so they could both have one. The first refused. It was her special technology. The second girl left to harvest licorice root and the first girl sat distraught behind a tree. They were both pretty much entrenched.

So I opened a court of reconciliation. There was no judge - only me to mediate, and I called a reconciliation meeting. Upon hearing my serious summons, the two girls arrived and sat facing each other in the newly named "Library Court House". The rest of the group gathered behind the court house, and sat with rapt attention. I did nothing but ask the girls to share their feelings with each other. Within 5 minutes they had both expressed themselves, tears were shed, and then they sat in tense silence, thinking. It was difficult for me not to jump in with suggestions, but I bit my tongue and waited.

Then the second girl breathed deeply and stretched her shoulders. "O.K. How about this: You can have your mat back at the end of today. For free. Just take it."

The first girl raised her head in moderate shock. She sat silent for a moment.

The second repeated, "I said you can have it. Is that O.K. then?"

The first looked the second in the eyes, softened her own, and weakly said "thank you". Then she raised her arm above her head and declared to the group at large, "I'm running a mat-making workshop in five minutes! So if you want to take it you should collect ferns now! The workshop is free!" And the onlookers dispersed. The two girls hugged, and a wonderful workshop ensued. Everyone left richer.

The mat-making workshop!

I left richer. I have been thinking about this beautiful event for days, now, especially how it relates to our "real world" issues. When I called these kids together for the reconciliation meeting I said "You know... this forest village is similar to the real world..." and one of the other kids shouted "It IS the real world!"

In our children is the hope for our future. We need to retrieve and retain the things we knew as children.

What Our Kids See

During most of the school year, I lead a weekly family wilderness outing in my community. Parents arrive with their children from newborns to teens, all clad in rain gear and rubber boots, and we slog around together through the creeks and ferns, bluffs, forests and swamps. And we all leave exhausted and wet and muddy, most of the time. It's wonderful.

What is especially beautiful for me to see is the engagement of the parents. I don't go to lead the children with parents in tow, I go to spend time with other parents exploring the wilderness, and our kids come too. Our kids watch us discover birds' nests and wild foods, signs of logging, animal activities, geologic change and weather. They see us engage in conversation and questioning about the things we see and the world we live in. Those of us who do bring cell phones are so engaged in what we're discovering that we don't have time (or clean hands) to use them. The children see their mothers crawling over muddy rotten logs and cradling millipedes in our hands.

Our children see us.

That is the point.

And when they grow up they will carry intrinsic memories of what being adults looks like.

I love what we're looking like!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Growing Up

Star, the last of Tali's pet rats, had a tumor on his lower spine and finally lost function of his back end, last week. Here he is spending some quiet time with Tali. He was unable to walk, but Tali was faced with what I think was the most difficult decision of his life: Wait for Star to die, bring him to the vet to be euthanized, or euthanize his own beloved pet, himself.

After thinking about it overnight, Tali decided without any prompting that it would be kindest for his rat if he did the job himself. He did, with a little help and moral support from the rest of us, and he and Rhiannon arranged and carried out a beautiful burial, as well, beside the grave of Star's brother, Mercury.

This experience was, to me, one of watching my son mature hour by hour. The courage and strength he showed amazed me. At one point after he made his decision I asked him if he was sure he could carry through with it - I remembered times he had been too upset to help when other people had been hurt. He said "no, I'm not like that anymore".  Sometimes our children change so subtly but so deeply right under our noses.

I wondered how he would deal with his feelings, but didn't want to push him on the issue, so left him alone. He got out the laptop and posted about it all to his blog:    

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

cherry pit spitting contest

Tallying worldwide results of the family kersenpitspuugwedstrijd:
Emily, Nana and children: between 15 and 18 feet (4.5 - 5.5m)
Opa: 22 feet (6.7m)
Markus and Adrian: 23 feet (7m)
Jeroen: 26 feet (8m)

...more incoming eventually.