Nature – A RIE Chat Summary

(Beginning in mid-March 2020, when the world shut down, I began a bi-weekly conversation with the parents who had been in my RIE classes. Since not every family could make it to these conversations, but each conversation touched on important elements, I would often write up a summary of the conversation. What follows is one of those summaries.)

Days like today make me think of the song from the musical, Camelot:

It’s true! It’s true! The crown has made it clear.
The climate must be perfect all the year.

A law was made a distant moon ago here:
July and August cannot be too hot.
And there’s a legal limit to the snow here
In Camelot.
The winter is forbidden till December
And exits March the second on the dot.
By order, summer lingers through September

In Camelot.
Camelot! Camelot!
I know it sounds a bit bizarre,
But in Camelot, Camelot
That’s how conditions are.
The rain may never fall till after sundown.
By eight, the morning fog must disappear.
In short, there’s simply not
A more congenial spot
For happily-ever-aftering than here
In Camelot.

Well, it’s the San Fernando Valley, not Camelot, so July and August are often too hot, but I think you’d agree that Winter doesn’t arrive until December, exists March the second on the dot, and our summers most definitely linger through September (or October).

But it’s that verse about the rain never falling until after sundown and morning mists disappearing by 8…that was today. Last night’s forecast promised rain all morning, but we woke up to a damp and dewy morning that turned into the brightest blue skies with fluffy white clouds. It was the perfect morning for my first RIE in the Wild class!

Now, I wasn’t intending to wax on about the class when I sat down to write this afternoon. No, I wanted to fill you in on this marvelous book I’m reading (Raising Good Humans) or expand upon this excellent podcast I listened to recently about the impact our surroundings have on us…well, in a way, perhaps, I AM going to talk a little about how our environments shape us…particularly our outdoor environments.

I think we all have heard, read about, or simply know intuitively that spending time in nature, out of doors, is good for us. Maybe it’s the stories we’ve heard our parents and grandparents tell, maybe it’s our own fond childhood memories, or maybe it’s just how we feel when we spend time outside. And certainly it’s been studied extensively (just google “scholarly articles for benefits of spending time in nature” and you’ll fall down an internet rabbit hole…). The University of Minnesota tells us that viewing beautiful scenes in nature “reduces anger, fear, and stress and increases pleasant feelings. Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, it contributes to your physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones.”… that nature heals, soothes, restores and connects.

And connect I did this morning…I only had one family make it to this first class, but it met…no exceeded…my every expectation of what this experience can be. As I told, well, pretty much everyone I came into contact with after the class (my Mom, my husband, a few friends over text, and then everyone who signed up to learn more about the classes…): The child who came didn’t need a single thing…she played with dirt and mud and sticks…she wandered far, but always came back, and she literally hugged and kissed a tree! She didn’t need a moment of entertainment, but did need occasional cuddles from Mom. I brought a handwashing station and she diligently and thoroughly washed her hands and observed the mud the water made. She sat down for a snack and poured her water and peeled a banana (and had some of her snacks from home, too)…she dined al fresco, with the wind tousling her hair and the sunshine at her back. Her Mom and I sat (well apart) and watched her, chatting about what we saw, talking about RIE and child development…and catching up. Connecting.

Magda felt that “the more that children play outdoors, they better they eat, sleep, and feel. There is plenty of natural stimulation outdoors with the sky, clouds, and earth. Even the youngest baby may watch the changing patterns of shade and light (p. 115). She states emphatically, “outdoor play is important because we are the only animals who don’t’ live outside. Outdoors is real life” (p. 176).

I can’t encourage you enough: carve out some time in your week, find a spot (we met at Woodley Park; O’Melveny is also great; I like Lake Hollywood Park, too, though it can get crowded)…someplace where there are no play structures or swings, fewer people and more trees…bring a blanket and maybe a snack…give yourself, your child, and your family, the endorphin boost I got from this morning’s foray into the wild.

As I was putting the finishing touches on this piece, the skies opened and a deluge of fat, loud raindrops began pounding the earth outside….just before 4pm. Ah well, we aren’t in Camelot, Arthur, but I’d say we had some fine happily-ever-aftering this morning at Woodley Park.

Ooh, and for today…my favorite of the readings from The Parents’ Tao Te Ching. The one that hooked me all those years ago and led me to read it at the end of each class. Enjoy:

1. Words of Life

You can speak to your children of life,
but your words are not life itself.
You can show them what you see,
but your showing and their seeing
are forever different things.

You cannot speak to them of Divinity Itself.
But you can share with them
the millions of manifestations of this Reality
arrayed before them every moment.
Since these manifestations have their origin
in the Tao,
the visible will reveal the invisible to them.

Don’t mistake your desire to talk
for their readiness to listen.
Far more important are the wordless truths they learn from you.
If you take delight in the ordinary wonders of life,
they will feel the depth of you pleasure
and learn to experience joy.
If you walk with them in the darkness of life’s mysteries
you will open the gate of understanding.
They will learn to see in the darkness
and not be afraid.
Go for a slow mindful walk.
Show them every little thing that catches your eye.
Notice every little thing that catches theirs.
Don’t look for lessons or seek to teach great things.
Just notice.
The lesson will teach itself.