Nature speaks…are we listening?

Early morning observations from nature

As is our usual custom on most Friday mornings at RiverHawk, we rise before the sun’s appearance and gather for a hike through the woods, regardless of the season or the weather. Sometimes there is a theme for our hike or something specific to observe, or perhaps a story starter idea given so that it can come together in thought during the walk…other times it is open to individual inspiration. We usually walk in silence, at the beginning partly because many of us are still waking up, but mostly because we have found from experience that we perceive more when we are quiet, and also benefit from our own deeper experience with nature. These walks are something that I imagine will be a memory for our students when they are adults…these times of quiet, regular communion with nature and all she has to offer us.

When we return from our morning nature “meal,” we do some kind of journaling…sometimes a list of phrases depicting our observations, sometimes an imagined story as if we were one of the forest creatures that morning, or sometimes our sharings of what we gleaned from being enveloped in the woods with all her lessons.

Everyone writes. We try just to keep going, even if the thought comes that we don’t know what to write…and, gee, EVERY time, for those who are willing, wonderful things and insights come.

Here is a smattering of some early-in-the-year recent journal entry treats. Check back in a few weeks to see how the writing continues to improve and has more flow and descriptive phrases.

“This morning while I was looking for nuts I decided to have a chat with some of my kinfolk, asking them where I could find the best nuts in the least amount of time. They told me to go near the lake, so I started immediately, because that’s my nature. On my way I saw a group of sandhill cranes on the water. They were beautiful! Leaving the cranes behind, I continued on my way to find some of those yummy nuts. Many birds were chirping, like crows, geese, and bluejays. I finally found some nuts, but sadly they were in the path of some odd looking and very big humans. I hope they don’t step on them or take them away…whew, they didn’t. I was so happy stuffing as many nuts as I could into my mouth. I then headed back to find a place to stash them.”  LW

“I crawled up out of my hole. It was a very hard rain last night. I’ve got to collect some nuts. Ugh, with this fog I can hardly see any nuts at all. Oh, there’s one. I’ve got to bury it. Oh, there is another, and another and another! I’ll make a hole here. Digidy dig, dig…ahhhh! This seems to be a snake hole. I better leave them here and get out of here right away. I’ll just find some different nuts. Ah ha, a whole nut patch. Yikes, it’s starting to rain. I’ll bury these quickly and come back here tomorrow. I hope I remember where they are.”  DG

“I’m a chipmunk and I realize it is going to be winter soon. I told myself that I had better get some food before it is all covered over or the other guys get it all. So I went outside early in the morning when no other chipmunks were awake. When I was going out to get some acorns I heard the conversation of two birds out in the distance. One of them sure sounded angry. I can’t hang around listening to them, I’ve got to find a pile of acorns. When I was running, I saw a squirrel running. It was running so fast that I couldn’t tell if it was black or brown. And it was going in the same direction as the nuts I had my eye on. I gotta hurry. I can’t be late! I must get those nuts!”  EW

“When I was flying above Proud Lake I spied a good place to stop and eat. So I landed softly on the blueish water. The air felt a little chilly, but I didn’t mind. I swung my body under the water to get some tasty seaweed. It was just perfect…amazing! Water came down from the sky last night. (I don’t know exactly what that is called.) It made everything nice and moist with a clean aroma. The morning sunrise was beautiful from my spot on the lake. I just had to sit there and breathe it in. I even saw a few other birds fly near the horizon. I definitely heard them before I saw them. Noisy squawkers! My call is unique to me and a nicer sound. The leaves are changing colors with such variety…reds, oranges, and yellows. Some are still green. I felt strangely very calm and at rest as I watched the sunrise slip into view. Some leaves were falling off the trees in a beautiful dance that felt just for me. Each leaf had its own rhythm, its own circle of life. Some stayed longer than others, drifting to their own music. Its getting colder now and I’m still able to find food with ease, but when it turns really cold, I’ll be out of here! I’ll be migrating. Don’t know where yet, but I guarantee that it will be somewhere warm. I’m finally ready to move on. I’ve gotten full, plus I wanna fly somewhere new. I love the mornings where I can watch the sunrise and eat at the same time. Time to move forward with the day…ONWARD.”  JV

one morning we looked for descriptive observations:

….colorful orange juice sky, lime sherbet leaves, gumdrop green pine needles, bugs hopping and dancing on the pond  DG

…. cotton candy colored sky, leaves surrounded by frost, fog-covered river, crispy crunchy leaves, tie dyed patterns of colored leaves, cold crisp air, decaying tree stump, frosty corner of a muddy deer print  LW

…steamy mist on the water, the smell of wet pine trees, cotton clouds, colorful leaves, leafy path  TS

…finger-like golden leaves, slippery, frosted wooden slatted bridge, an umbrella-like leaf canopy, yellow to golden to orange to rusted leaves, gray-barked trees standing in straight soldier rows, velvety soft dark green moss enveloping a fallen log, a sharp-edged break on a fallen tree, wispy pinkened could puffs, lettuce green conifers next to brightly dressed deciduous, a decomposing log strewn on the path  TL

…birds calling from a distance, the largest leaf ever, clouds looking like melted rainbows, a newly fallen tree, very muddy ground, soothing sounds of water flipping over the dam, a path completely covered over with leaves  EW

… a blue cloud-filled horizon, ducks calling from afar, leaves not fully through their transformation, yellow sunshine making leaves look  iridescent, bent and contorted leafy trees, yellow, red and orange leaves on the cold earth, cool air transforming my breath into gas, varied hues of colors, pinkish blushing clouds overhead, the still reflection of a tree mirrored in the water, birds flying as if they weigh nothing, tall green deciduous trees on my left and colored conifers on my right, all of them playing a role in helping Mother Earth and the animals in the forest  JV

It touches my heart that our students have access to these gifts of nature and such varied ways of viewing them and taking them in.

Tien Stone Langlois, Scholars Together Learning Community


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