This is the first of a series of posts I plan to write on re-thinking the way we celebrate the winter holidays. Each year, certain things about Christmas are wonderful, warm and magical and certain things, well, fail miserably.
As someone interested in living lightly on this Earth, I very much appreciate nature. Nature's calming effects are well documented but, if you doubt them, go out into the wild, without the rushing sound of cars and voices, look into the distance and breathe. Your blood pressure will plummet - I guarantee it.
Unstructured time in nature is especially critical for our children. Last Child in the Woods, by Richard Louv, demonstrates the importance of unplugging our kids and getting them back into the wild. Being in nature calms and exhilarates simultaneously. It builds self esteem, encourages creativity and establishes a connection with our planet that also will encourage this next generation to preserve wild places. Further, in this time of disorders (ADD, ADHD, autism, and so on), nature is an all purpose tonic. It is, quite simply, regenerative - my theme for the upcoming New Year.
This Christmas Eve day, we (three families with six kids aged 5 to 8 mos) went on a two hour hike into a beautiful Northern California manzanita forest. The kids burned off excess energy and explored the leaves, berries and noises of the woods. The adults recharged and enjoyed the peace and cold brisk air. When we returned to the house, we gave a symbolic gift back to nature. Each child hung a birdseed egg in the nearly bare fruit trees outside my parents' home.
Getting out to watch birds, look for bugs or berries, hike, or simply wander in undisturbed nature is something every family should do - especially during a high stress time like the holidays. Starting this year, my family's new Christmas traditions will including becoming one with nature.