"We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike." ~Maya Angelou

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Stop, Look and Listen

I have been practicing being present in the moment and this one caught my eye, and my heart, this morning.

I am staying with Brendan and Maggie while their mom is away on business.  The kids and I discovered that we needed to swing by Target to get something before we went to school so off we went. Yes, we were on a time schedule; we had thirty minutes to get in, get out and get to school.....(or what? I asked myself. It's pre-K and there are two other kids in his class).

      We stepped out of the car and almost immediately Maggie looked around the parking lot and cried out, " Look! A bird!" and ran toward the bird.  I let her run because there were no other cars around and I wondered what she would do when she got there.  She ran to within ten feet of the blackbird, stopped and squatted down to look closely at him.  He flew away, along with his buddy who had been sitting a few feet away and Maggie stood up and followed them to the 'grassy knoll' at the edge of the parking spaces.
    While this was taking place, Brendan had run past Maggie, the birds and the empty parking places and had climbed up on a large rock that sits in the grass and was lying there, measuring himself against the size the of rock.  He was longer by two feet.....his own two feet.  He lay there, his face resting on the rock, watching Maggie make the acquaintance of the blackbirds and only after they had flown away did he yell to me about how awesome the rock was.
    The whole thing took less than two minutes but it thrilled me to the core.  Normally I would not have let them run off after birds or rocks and would have insisted they stay close to me where they would be safe but today I was lucky. Today I saw the attraction and the connection children have with the natural world manifested in their spontaneous actions. 
          Last night Able and I walked the trails at Lake Hefner, just as the sun was beginning to set.  We saw feral cats who lived with a skunk in a shelter which someone had built for them in the rocks that rap the lake shore. There was even a dish of fresh, clean water set out for them. I did not smell any scent of skunk in the air and everyone but us seemed to be familiar with this odd family grouping.
     I also saw a couple and their two sons as we passed the light house. The older boy was about nine and his little brother was probably seven.  The older boy ran to the top of the steep tumble of large rocks that ran down to the waters edge and started climbing down, carefully but without fear.  His brother was right behind him but stopped at the top of the rocks and turned to look at his dad. His father smiled and said: follow your brother.  He did not say, 'be careful' or 'that's too steep for you', or 'you might break your neck', or 'you stay here with you mom and I'.  He honored the desire to explore that he saw in his son's eyes and sent him off in the care of his brother.
     If we are always telling children no, don't go there, stay with me, don't touch that, don't get dirty, stay on the path they will begin to believe that being off the path is a bad thing and they will stop looking for the birds and the rocks and the tiny flowers that grow in the grass. They will no longer notice the blue dragonflies that zip and zoom through the willows beside ponds. That would be a tremendously sad thing to have happen to any child. The context is different but the words of the old warning about the railroad crossings rings in my ears: STOP, LOOK AND LISTEN.

                     My daughter sent me this picture the other day when Oklahoma City finally recieved a much needed rain.  I loved it!  I love it that she lets her children explore and enjoy nature. So what if you get soaked to the skin? It was August for heaven's sake! Puddles were made for splashing.
       I must have done something right with my kids somewhere along the line.

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