I have come to believe that the seasons, the magic of light and the greening of the earth are interwoven with and part of our human existence; yet it is hard to write how I feel about sunlight, or the depths of blue in the sky, the wind’s voice or the river’s song.
Being in nature with children is both an ordinary experience and a great gift. Today, my two small children and I went into a meadow, beside the river that dances her way through our city. We went to be with the place, to see the horse chestnut trees, to experience the energies of the ducks and geese, ever hopeful of food, to dance and drink in the gift of time – the here and now. We were lucky enough to share our experiences with friends, as our journeys brought us to the riverbank.
Walking out under the sky is soul-food to many, and being out of doors with children allows for the sharing of a totally innocent experience. My son is in many ways standing face to face with the earth when we venture out. He does not have a great wall of written traditions to overcome, he has no expectations of how he should be in any particular experience, and has no built up system of cultural baggage to dictate this for him. He is simply there, in the moment.
As an adult, I’ve done a great deal of work to bring myself back to the same place, to think about how the world works and why this might be, and to decide whether I want to choose to participate or step away from what are presented to us as normal things to do. I watch with humility as my small son, in deep communion with nature says “hello” to each insect he passes, collects sticks and feathers as worthy treasures and is heartbroken when a leaf leaves his grasping fingers to ride the wind, rather than be a crumpled passenger in his pocket.
Walking by the river with my child I feel nature in a different way. Each leaf unfurling, each blade of grass turning its face skywards is as an inscription of dreams and alchemy, outward signs of earth transformed into life; and my son’s dreams stretch as far and high as the horizon, because he is a child, and as yet is not held by limitations.
Standing in a meadow in the heart of our city, my eye wanders to love the beauty of the bright green chestnut leaves, my mind flies to the depths of the sky, to the river’s curve, ponders the attraction of greens and blues in the natural world that somehow doesn’t work so well when it is replicated artificially. My son is busy at making a pile of sticks for a fire and soon I think may offer to cook some pretend food for the adults; usually this comprises of daisies and other foraged flowers. I am wrong though, he announces that he is a snail; a red one; and sets off at high speed to race against himself, here in this green space where there are stones and grass, lichens and moss, unknown and new things at every step – something always to find; no barren spot anywhere, or sameness. For a child each day the grass is painted anew, and its green seen for the first time; not the old green, but a novel hue and spectacle, like the first view of the sea.
I cannot write the light, although the forms and colours are magical, they would need a whole language of their own to convey them to one who wasn’t there. I cannot rhyme the river, or paint the sky. There is so much yet to come, so much to be gathered, and enjoyed. I feel this for my family and especially for my children, who I hope will ultimately use this magical secret for their happiness. The earth holds secrets enough to give us the life of our ancestors, to teach us of our tribe and place; the small part of the surface of the earth we inhabit, with all its history and culture; yet for me taking strength from the green leaves and the beauty of meadows is an ideal and our birthright and it is this that allows me to be happy.
Ali Jones is a teacher and writer. She is a mother of three. Her work has appeared in Fire, Poetry Rivals, Strange Poetry, Ink Sweat and Tears, Snakeskin Poetry, Atrium, Mother’s Milk Books., Breastfeeding Matters, Breastfeeding Today and The Green Parent magazine. She writes a regular column for Breastfeeding Matters Magazine. She was the winner of the Green Parent Writing Prize in 2016 and has also written for The Guardian. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram