Category Archives: Nature

When it’s summertime…

“Green was the silence, wet was the light,
the month of June trembled like a butterfly.”
Pablo Neruda, 100 Love Sonnets

There was nothing like a Saturday – unless it was the Saturday leading up to the last week of school and into summer vacation. That of course was all the Saturdays of your life rolled into one big shiny ball.”
Nora Roberts

There is indeed nothing quite as full of promise as the month of June. It is the month of lady slippers, cowslips, tiger lilies and wild roses. It is the month of dragon flies, fireflies and croaking frogs. It is the month of end-of-year parties, field trips and school’s end. It is the countdown to summer solstice.

Then followed that beautiful season… Summer….
Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light; and the landscape
Lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

As a child, one has that magical capacity to move among the many eras of the earth; to see the land as an animal does; to experience the sky from the perspective of a flower or a bee; to feel the earth quiver and breathe beneath us; to know a hundred different smells of mud and listen unselfconsciously to the soughing of the trees.”  

-Valerie Andrews, A Passion for this Earth

Feel the grass beneath your feet.

Lie under a tree and watch the leaves.

Lie on your stomach and watch the ants march by.

Collect sticks and build a house for the fairies.

Listen to the wind.

Dig for worms.

Grow some vegetables in a pot.

Go on a nature hunt.

Head for the park.

Collect shells at the beach.

Pick berries. Eat berries.

Make a nature bracelet by wrapping duct tape around your wrist, sticky side up. Go for a walk and put things you see on your bracelet – small sticks, leaves, flowers, pebbles.

“A dark night, lightened up by thousands of glowing fireflies… It’s magical…”
Ama H. Vanniarachchy

Catch fireflies in a jar – and then let them go.

Singing in the rain,

I’m singing in the rain.

What a beautiful feeling,

I’m happy again!

Play in a puddle.

Catch the rain on your tongue.

Put a bowl outside and guess how much water there will be in the bowl when the rain is done.

The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play. So we sat in the house. All that cold, cold, wet day.”
Dr. Seuss, The Cat in the Hat

Bake cookies and make ice cream sandwiches.

Build a fort in the living room out of a big cardboard box.

Eat your ice cream sandwiches inside your fort.

Rainbow 1984

My heart leaps up when I behold

A rainbow in the sky.

So was it when my life began;

So is it now I am a man.

William Wordsworth

Count the colours in a rainbow. Draw your own using whatever colours you like.

One benefit of summer was that each day we had more light to read by. ~Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle

Read outside. Read inside. Go to a library.

Make a book about the animals you have seen on your outdoor trips. A is for ant. B is for bird or bee or BEAR! C is for caterpillar or cow. D is for duck or deer.

And maybe when September comes, you will be able to say:

“All in all, it was a never-to-be-forgotten summer — one of those summers which come seldom into any life, but leave a rich heritage of beautiful memories in their going — one of those summers which, in a fortunate combination of delightful weather, delightful friends and delightful doing, come as near to perfection as anything can come in this world.”
L.M. Montgomery, Anne’s House of Dreams

What a wonderful wish for parents and children everywhere.


The case of the disappearing acorn

Margaret Atwood and other literary giants have spoken out recently against the dropping of various nature words from the Oxford Junior dictionary.

Some of the dropped words  include acorn, blackberries, minnow ,buttercup, catkin, cauliflower, chestnut, clover, hamster, heron, herring, kingfisher, lark, leopard, lobster, magpie, minnow, mussel, newt, otter, ox, oyster ,panther.almond, beaver,blackberry and crocus.

(One word that did surprise me was “beaver’. But then I am a Canadian and the beaver is the symbol of my country. The average Oxford junior dictionary reader may not share my interest in large rodents with flat tails, a good work ethic and high pest potential.)

These nature words have been replaced in the Oxford Junior dictionary by words that illustrate  our current tech savvy.

Instead of “A is for Acorn, B is for Buttercup, C is for Crocus”, we have “A is for Analog, B is for Broadband, C is for Cut and Paste”.

Spokespersons for the publication say that today’s children no longer use these words, no longer see these things and seldom go outside to try to see them. On the other hand, they do understand the Internet and the concept of cutting and pasting, for example, is well known.

Atwood and her colleagues are dismayed because today’s children don’t have the opportunity to get outdoors as much as their parents did and if they don’t see these words in books, the words and their meanings will disappear.

Same issue: different response. Both legitimate.

From the outset, I have to say that I write this as someone who knows what an acorn is and who, as a child, tasted several and found them edible. I have caught minnows in a pail and put a buttercup blossom against my throat to see if I liked butter. I have taken pictures of a beaver in the ditch that runs in front of my house and have chased magpies away from the dog dish.

I can remember gathering acorns under the farmyard oak tree. I grew up on stories of the industrious squirrel who stowed his nuts away for a snowy day and thereby lived to see the next spring. My grandmother said that the more acorns there were and the  thicker the shell on each, the harder the winter was going to be.

And I grew up on axioms such as “big oaks from little acorns grow’ and “the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree.” Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.”

My world has been enriched on several different levels by little acorns and,big oak trees.

But am I worried because the Oxford Junior Dictionary does not contain the word ‘acorn’? I don’t think so.

I’m willing to bet that a seven year old who understands the term ‘cut and paste’ also knows how to google something on the internet.  Google ‘oak tree seed’ and you get more than one and a half million hits. ‘Oak nut’ gets you 12.5 million and ‘acorn’ itself more than 41 million (although not all of them have anything to do with oak trees).

There are other books that contain the word or pictures that illustrate it – other dictionaries, picture books, story books, poems and rhymes.

I’m an acorn, small and round,
Lying on the cold, cold ground.
People pass and step on me,
That’s why I’m all cracked, you see.
I’m a nut, (clap, clap)
I’m a nut (clap, clap)
I’m a nut, (clap, clap)
I’m a nut. (clap, clap)

 We just need to remember to open those books for our children.

Better yet, we just need to spend time outside with our children and talk together about what we see.