A beautiful Swallowtail butterfly flew into my windscreen today as I was driving. Zap, its short life diminished to a smear; there wasn’t much I could do but say a quick prayer of gratitude for its life, accept responsibility for its death, and be relieved upon exiting the highway to see lots more of them, fluttering in all their glory! Thankfully they seem abundant, unlike so many other species that are facing challenging times.
This is my last post in the series that has focused on the song I Saw Butterflies Kissing Today! since we have arrived at the last verse! I hope it has provided some insight into of the abundance and diversity of species living all around us, even in urban centers and inspired ideas for introducing children to these neighborhood characters!
I know that I write from a place of privilege since much of my childhood was spent in nature. For me, hours spent watching water bugs, tadpoles and dragonflies was the norm; collecting wild flowers and then carefully pressing them into books was a precious pastime and summer afternoons lying under the horse chestnut tree dreaming of the pony express riders somewhere in that vast land called America gifted me with a treasure chest of memories.
My family was not wealthy; sure, we lived in the country, and our garden bordered on a forest and fields with ponds and streams, but my rich experience of the natural world came from the fact that I was not allowed to stay indoors. I was told to go and play outside! I’ve heard the excuses given by many parents today and I don’t dispute that the world is a different place now; it does appear scarier and there do seem to be more dangerous people around. I am not here to diminish the very real fears that plague parents today.
However, I do believe that we are robbing our children of a valuable lifeline if we do not find ways to connect them to nature; one that is inherently important to their own well being and creativity as much as it is vital for the future preservation of the planet. Increasing research, particularly that of author Richard Louv, demonstrates that Nature Deficit Disorder is real and needs to be addressed.
A recent article in Wired magazine illustrates how the Web “Shatters Focus and Rewires our Brains.” It certainly made me step back and assess how much time I spend a day online (I purposely kept myself off the computer most of this weekend!). Kids today live vicariously through their screens; they text, surf the web and socialize on Facebook, Twitter and other networks and watch a lot of TV. Lets get kids back outdoors! It’s not about money, its about recognizing that we have a problem here and making a concerted effort to address it anyway we can; we owe it to our kids and to the planet which gives us all life.
Well I didn’t go far, just stepped outside,
Cost no money to take this ride
It’s quite amazing what you see,
When you open the door and feel the breeze!
1. Step outside! Gather up jars, tweezers, magnifying glasses and off you go! Create a Scavenger Hunt, just begin! Kids are naturally curious and nature is full of opportunities to nurture that curiosity!
2. Take kids outdoors to the backyard, park or schoolyard (if it is not covered by concrete) and ask each child mark out a square of land approximately 3’ by 3’ (you can use something like cornmeal to demarcate the boundaries). Have them study that piece of land, noting down every living thing that is there, or that visits the patch while they are observing. They can use their magnifying glasses and dig up a piece of the earth to see what is underneath. In the Secret Life of the Suburban Garden you will see that quite the variety of species was discovered!
3. A Day in My Backyard! Write a “Backyard” Play all about the creatures that live there. First identify some of the species that you see; learn about them; draw pictures of them and then collectively write a story about a day in the life of...the little brown rabbit...the little black snail, or whomever you choose! You could make it a musical – I have quite a few songs about animals , (bats, spiders, skunks, raccoons, chickadees) and so do other artists! Here is a great Critter Catalogue that can help to identify species.
Urban centers have grown and sprawled across this planet. Yes, there are thankfully still large tracts of land preserved as National Parks and conservation sanctuaries, but for wildlife, particularly migrating species, they must seem few and far between. Creating Wildlife Corridors is one way in which we can help many species. Once you have begun to learn what species live or travel through your neighborhood, explore what kinds of plants and trees could be planted to benefit them. In doing this you will also create a beautiful oasis that lives and breathes in amongst the concrete!
Grandmother Spider, the Chickadee Blues, Bats, Punk the Skunk, Rocky Raquino and I Saw Butterflies Kissing Today! All these are up on my MySpace page. My new CD, all about the backyard, will be ready by mid July – if you would like to be the first to get a copy please sign up on my Kickstarter page!
One of my most favorite books as a child was The Secret Garden If your kids or students have not read this timeless classic, then I would recommend that they do so. There is also the Secret Garden Movie, which would be a pleasant rainy day activity!
Have a great week, enjoy the days out under the trees exploring this magical earth!
In gratitude for life, and this beautiful planet upon which we live!
Photo of Swallowtail butterfly Mila Zinkova
Photo of young girl by Tessa Emery
Other photos by Rosie Emery