Forty Nine Steps.
That’s how many steps we took each day through our yard, racing from our house to detached garage. Zooming off to the library, down to the city park, over to the museum. All the while there was a place to behold under our feet!
I came across the nature pal exchange last year, late one night while on Instagram. As I reveled in pictures of children in mud, it reminded me how much I loved all things outdoors. As a child, I spent hours in the woods near our home building, exploring, and just plain enjoying the outside. In my efforts to have my son have so many “experiences”, I was missing the opportunity to let him have the time and space to make connections with our natural world at home.
In effort of our first exchange, we dove into our own yard. We poured over it, learning that we have Brown Anoles, Cuban Snails, and a plethora of butterfly plants. Blue Jays, Butterflies, Slugs, Bees, wandering Ibises mere inches from us! How had we lived here so long and bypassed the glorious happenings right around us? It all clicked and we were smitten.
As a result of our exploration our fervor for nature grew, and so did our time outdoors. We planted an herb garden to have our own to dry. A bird feeder now adorns our tree. Monarch caterpillars abound as we raise them to release.
We needed more! Diving deeper, we found new preserves to hike, visited the mountains of North Georgia, and jetted off to Ohio to feel snow. State parks are now our playgrounds and the beach has become a scavenger hunt. Life cycles, field guides, fairy gardens, and time outside now give our days purpose. We are ever collecting treasures to share with our pals and documenting them in our explorer’s journal. Each special selection giving a glimpse of the joy we find adventuring.
Charlotte Mason said, “Every child needs three things each day: something or someone to love, something to do, and something to think about.” The Nature Pal Exchange has helped us find that experiences are most valuable without walls. It has simplified our practice, modified our intent, and helped us place value on nature’s beauty and depth. It gave us the framework to explore the world through wondering eyes. We now look keenly and listen intently. We move slowly and wander wistfully. Its been a gift of togetherness, a path of learning inside and outside our home, and framework for exploration hand in hand. All the while, mother nature walks with us, and holds our hearts.