Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Warm When Wet




When running outdoor programs for children, educating people on how to dress for the weather is an important role. As a friend of mine that runs an outdoor playgroup in Toronto, ActivekidsClub, always says, “there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing” and on Christmas day, it was brought home to me just how true that Scandinavian proverb is.


A fun game of hockey had left us all exhausted and sleepy, especially from a full tummy of yummy Christmas treats. After a quick power nap, I decided I would enjoy the solace and take a walk by myself and take some photos. I left a note as to where I was going and put on my fleece pants and wool socks, big winter boots that feel like pillows on my feet, my jacket, and headed out into the winter wonderland.

I find some wonderful snow covered objects to take pictures of and I then hear voices behind me. The first people I have seen since I have come up here for the holidays. So I waited for them to catch up, introduce myself and continue walking with them deep in conversation about the holidays, family, cottage life and the lot. New friends were made and I said my farewells when we came upon the local smelt fishing spot. The place where the lake empties into a shallow creek and the vistas are worthy of my novice camera photo shooting.

I see a few things and take pictures, thinking it is really neat how the ice hangs off the end of the plant. As I take my eye away from the camera, I notice mice tracks in the snow. Very cool how they zig zag in the snow and disappear in the subnivean world. As I get up, I see the water seeping up into the snow, and think, I better not walk too much further, and the ice is thin here. From my experience in this creek, I know it isn’t too deep, but don’t take any chances, the water will still be very cold. You never know, there could be a deep spot right below me. So I make my way back.

As I climb up the bank, I look back and notice interesting tracks in the middle of the creek just a bit further up. I can’t make out what it is even looking through my zoom lens and wonder what they are. They look like something is dragging behind it; in-between the paw prints… a beaver, muskrat, and river otter? I had to find out. But looked out and made the call that walking out there was too dangerous.

As I looked around though, I noticed that perhaps if I stayed on the banks, I could get a closer look. So moved myself along the banks of the creek to get a closer look. Concentrating on where the tracks are, I stepped off the bank onto the creek and broke through the ice and fell into the freezing water up to my thigh. The biting cold water filled my boot quickly and soaked through my fleece pants. Not the nicest words came out of my mouth. Not because I fell through, but because I wouldn’t be able to get closer to find out what those tracks were- another day perhaps. But being about 30 minutes away from my cottage, I decided I better not take a chance with being wet and head home.

As I climbed back onto the road my leg becomes extremely cold, but I notice that my feet were ok. Thank goodness I put on my wool socks today, the one thing that is keeping my leg from freezing. So I pull my fleece pants out of my boots, sopping wet with icy cold water, unzip the leg and pull up my wool socks as far as they go and continue to walk. Thinking, my feet are going to be so frigging cold by the time I get back.

As I head down our steep hill to my cottage, I realize that my pant leg and boot are frozen, but my feet are still relatively warm. Wool really does keep you warm even when wet.

As I take my boots off, I give thanks to my wool socks that kept my legs and feet warm on the journey. I dump out the icy cold water and wait for my boots to thaw so that I can take the insoles out to dry.

I will be investing in some wool pants next time I go into town. There is an army surplus store in town that has them.  Today, I am very thankful for wool. It really does keep you warm… even when it is wet. 

To find out more about Nature's Backpack programs for children ages 3-14, please visit our web page www.naturesbackpack.ca

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Gratitude Challenge Day 14 - Last one!

The last day of the Gratitude Challenge! Wow! It has been a great 2 weeks and I hope you have enjoyed it along with me.

Here is Gratitude Challenge Day 14 (click) - the last one!

In reflection, I have noticed that I give thanks and gratitude more easily and frequently than in the past. Something that I will be taking with me for the rest of my days. It won't stop here. I may not write about it every day for you all, but it definately is now part of my every day routine. 

It has really opened up my awareness as well, to open up to more than just myself and the people immediately in my circle. Perhaps it is because I am outside in nature more consitently that I see more wildlife, and understand it more, I am not sure, but I feel gratitude to the lessons I have learned.

I also find that when I start to feel sad, I can trace it back a little easier, let it flow and start the healing process, or can start to feel grateful for it or something that is in my life and feel a little better. Most of all, I feel happier. 

Thank you for joining me on my Gratitude Challenge for the past 2 weeks. I have really enjoyed sharing my journey with you and hearing about yours. 

Explore with us in 2013 through our various programs for ages 3-14 that will embrace each individual gifts and provide a safe place to express them and learn. http://www.naturesbackpack.ca

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Gratitude Challenge Day 13

When I first started my Kamana (a home study of the natural world), giving thanks in this way was very new to me. And to incorporate it into your life was something I have heard before, but this took it to a deeper level. For me anyway.

Today, look at the list and give thanks to each one. You have been practicing giving thanks for almost 2 weeks now. It comes easy for me.

Here is Gratitude Challenge Day 13 (click) - enjoy!

Thank you to all the people who are in my life, who support me, cheer me up when I need it and give me hugs when they greet me. For their honesty, their mentoring and guidance and to my ancestors who have paved the way for me to be who I am today. To guide me still from the world of mystery between life and death.
Thank you earth, for providing us structure and weather and seasons and day and night. To unify us all together
Thank you Water for quenching our thirst every day, and to bring the lushness to the world when you fall from the sky.
Thank you plants, for providing us with many different kinds of food, flowers to gaze upon and grasses to lay upon.
Thank you animals, for showing us how we can do things better, with grace and honour. And for providing us with food to eat to sustain our own lives.
Thank you Trees for providing us the oxygen we breath, for giving us shade and fun through climbing.
Thank you birds, for your beauty of flight thrills me deep and to hear your songs warms my heart.
Thank you wind, for you spread seeds and bring weather around the world, and allow us to fly kites and bond with our families.
Thank you weather, rain and clouds, for you bring nourishment with you and show us the power in nature
Thank you moon, when you are full you give power and light to those at night. And guide us in the darkness.
Thank you sun, for you warm our earth and bodies, allowing many chemical reactions to occur in all life. You also offer beautiful sunrises and sun sets.
Thank you stars for offing stories from the past, to helping us navigate and to ignite imagination in wishes and dreams.
Thank you to creativity in our lives, without it we would never have music, art, and stories. Through all of this we are individuals that have beautiful things to share.
Thank you to the Universe & The Future Generations, for the world is open to all and that our future generations will carry on our own legacies and hope we do a good job for you. 


Explore with us in 2013 through our various programs for ages 3-14 that will embrace each individual gifts and provide a safe place to express them and learn. http://www.naturesbackpack.ca

Monday, 10 December 2012

Gratitude Challenge Day 12

Only two more days after this one of our challenge. What a difference it is making in my life. It is becoming a habit to just stop every once and a while to be thankful.  Today is a reflection on what you have done so far.

Here is Gratitude Challenge Day 12 (Click) - Enjoy.

So today we picked our own way to give thanks, and I wanted to give thanks to people, my ancestors to be exact. You know, a lot is passed down to us through our own history and lineage. Many times our family may do things without knowing the reason why? Or how, in my family, we are artistic in drawing and sculpting. Through looking back at our lineage we found out that our ancestors were glass blowers and carvers. How interesting. 

I also try to connect myself to my ancestors. Even though I am not on the same soil as they are, I can still feel I can connect to them through prayer and fire. I have had many powerful moments in the last few months where I have called upon them to help me or a friend through something and they usually answer. Whether it is through tears you shed, or gratitude and compassion to others, I have felt them.

So I hope to go back to where my ancestors are and learn a little more about them. Have you traced your lineage? Do you have something in your family that has been passed down? A Heirloom or a tradition? I would love to hear it. 

Explore with us in 2013 through our various programs for ages 3-14 that will embrace each individual gifts and provide a safe place to express them and learn. http://www.naturesbackpack.c

Gratitude Challenge Day 11

My friends know that I look for an excuse to go for a walk. It is crisp outside and the wind is picking up, but get bundled up and I am ready to go. Enjoy this day as you walk outside and give thanks. Look for the small things.

Here is Gratitude Challenge Day 11 (Click) - Enjoy!


As I walked to my sit spot, I had to keep reminding myself to stop and give thanks. Did you find the same? But when I did, I found a lot to thank. For starters, the ground was really wet, and I gave thanks to my hiking boots. As old as they are, and even though duct tape is keeping them together at the moment, they kept my feet dry. 

I then found coyote tracks and this time there looked to be more than one track. I always enjoy seeing them and gave thanks for there presence here in a suburban area. They keep our mouse and rabbit population in balance and the rabbit do them. I followed them all the way to the entrance to the forest and then followed the animal trails to my sit spot. 

On my way to my spot, I found another pigeon (I think it is) that was eaten by something. Gave thanks to it as it gave up its life to sustain another and kept a feather to remember it by. It is a white feather with a black tip... looks like it was dipped in black ink. 

As I sat at my sit spot, I gave thanks to the people in my life. The people who I have really connected to in the last few months and how blessed I am to have them. I also gave thanks to my ancestors, who are mostly in England and they answered my prayers for a friend. So thankful for that. 

As I walked back, I realized, that I do indeed have a lot of great things in my life, and a lot to be grateful for. Wow!


Explore with us in 2013 through our various programs for ages 3-14 that will embrace each individual gifts and provide a safe place to express them and learn. http://www.naturesbackpack.ca

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Gratitude Challenge Day 10

This challenge is I feel difficult, because you have to look inward at yourself. Sometimes that can be scarey. And were we not taught not to me high on ourselves? Well, sometimes I think we need to be more high on ourselves and give ourselves more credit.

So have fun with it, here is Gratitude Challenge Day 10 (click).

Wow, this was hard at first, but then it really flowed. I guess doing this a few times in the last year has taught me how to look inward. So here it goes. 

I am thankful for my tenacity. I do not give up easily and if I believe in something, I will never give up. I keep going until I find the answer/solution or achieve it. I also love my playfulness. It really brings joy to myself, especially now I do not have a problem with looking silly, being silly or acting silly. It is quite freeing. I like that I am complex too, I feel I have a foot in both worlds, the Western and the Natural.  I am also grateful for all the lessons I have learned this year, I have done a lot of growth and love the person I am. And I am thankful for loving people so easily and getting them out into nature and have fun.

Explore with us in 2013 through our various programs for ages 3-14 that will embrace each individual gifts and provide a safe place to express them and learn. http://www.naturesbackpack.ca






Friday, 7 December 2012

Gratitude Challenge Day 9

This is an amazing experience. I remember walking through the forest at night, barefoot and blindfolded. What an amazing, character building experience. For today, I really encourage you to give this a try. Your senses will come alive! And really give you a different way of experience gratitude and awareness.

Here is Gratitude Challenge Day 9 (click). Have fun with it!

How did you do? I love using other senses than the dominant sight. It really got me out of my comfort zone. During my 10 minutes of gratitude blindfolded, I decided to do a sense meditation, starting with my sight and then moving into my hearing, smelling, touching and tasting. Then I blindfolded myself. Then gratitude for my sight was overwhelming. I gave thanks to my eyes, that I could see beutiful things, the sunset, the sunrise, the birds and my family. Then as I settled, I started to give thanks for all my other senses. I got up and started to just walk around a bit blindfolded and gave thanks for the earth and the senses in my barefeet as my feet and my sense of touch guided me past pine cones, walnuts and branches that could hurt my feet. It was an experience that always has me feeling different gratitude. 

Explore with us in 2013 through our various programs from ages 3-14 that will embrace each individual gifts and provide a safe place to express them and learn. http://www.naturesbackpack.ca

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Gratitude Challenge Day 8

Today, take a moment to give thanks for the things in the world. To start from the sky and work your way down to the earth. To give thanks for the birds that fly in the sky, the air you breath down to the ground you walk on that gives nourishment to the food you eat. Take a moment to reflect on the things you have been thankful for so far and track how it is making you feel.

Have a great day of gratitude.

Gratitude Challenge Day 7

Today started as a tough emotional day, but as I think of my gratitude for the day, I am lifted in spirits. We all have those kinds of days and I allow myself to have them as a lot of healing can happen through grief. I am thankful though that it usually doesn't last long as I am finding it easier to find the things to be grateful for each day.

So you ready for day 7? I have been enjoying your emails you have been sharing with me. Keep it up. Here is Gratitude Challenge Day 7 (click).

At first I was hearing a lot of agitation with people and not a lot of thankfulness. I was one of them. But then as I started to change my own feelings and thinking of what I was thankful for, I began to hear it. 

I heard thanks come from friends on social media for sharing ideas, contacts and a joke here and there. I heard a woman giving thanks to a man who held the door open. I heard children saying thanks to each other. And I heard thanks given to teachers, professionals for advice, mentorship. And last night, while meeting new people doing great things, give thanks for the hard work, passing of a business card and giving gratitude for doing what they are doing. Was great to hear it from other people.
 


Coming in 2013, we have Young Explorers program for 3-5 year olds, After School Program for 5-9 year olds, and Chicks in the Sticks, a girls outdoor club for 9-14 year olds. For more information visit http://www.naturesbackpack.ca

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Gratitude Challenge Day 6



Have you started feeling more grateful during the day. To see the great things that are going on around you? It is becoming easier to feel that gratitude isn't it? It is a mild day today, dampness in the air, with a slight breeze that allows the geese to glide into their V-formation. I will look forward to watching the birds dance and sing at my sit spot today.

Here is Gratitude Challenge Day 6 (click). Look forward to getting back together with you all.

Today, I felt humbled as I walked through the fields, mud clinging to my boots and each step getting heavier and heavier. I thought of the animals and how they do it, how do they go through the mud and not get it caked on their paws and hooves. So then I gave thanks to the weather today. Thanks for showing me how easy I have it, that I can stay in my house when the weather isn't nice and stay warm and dry. And that the animals endure the storms, the cold and the rain. 

As I sat under my spruce tree, I was thankful for the full branches as they kept most of the rain off me. Then I watched the geese fly by, appreciating the honking to each other, like they are building each other's spirits to keep going. Then a smaller bird with faster wings flapping sped by and noticed the ducks have migrated in for a stop over to our pond. How do they all fit on this little pond? As I watched them fly faster than the geese, I enjoyed watching them all fly together, like dancing in the sky. 

And one last thanks I would like to share. And that is to the rain. Many people don't appreciate the rain, but I am thankful for it fills our ponds, our aquifers and rivers so that our overwintering friends will be protected during the cold freezing winter months. So thank you. 


Coming in 2013, we have Young Explorers program for 3-5 year olds, After School Program for 5-9 year olds, and Chicks in the Sticks, a girls outdoor club for 9-14 year olds. For more information visit http://www.naturesbackpack.ca






Monday, 3 December 2012

Gratitude Challenge Day 5

Today will be an interesting one. Giving gratitude to people in your life. In the past year, I have learned how to communicate better with the people in my life, to be forthright and honest, and accept people where they are in their own life. The biggest lesson I have learned is to be open to other's opinions, that it is ok to disagree and most times a lot of knowledge and learning comes from it. The biggest gift I have been given though, is the gift of friendship... that I treasure dearly.

I look forward to hearing about your gratitude for the people in your life today. Here is Gratitude Challenge Day 5 (click). Have fun


I am very blessed when it comes to people in my corner. The people who are always there for me, no matter what, my family. I remember going through a tough crisis and my dad flew all the way from England to be with me and help me through it. So grateful for that. I also remember my freinds always being there for me when I need that shoulder to cry on, or someone to tell me straight what I need to hear and not what I want to hear. I am grateful for their honesty and love. And to the strangers who have helped me as well. To a couple with the same names as myself and my husband, who found my purse and returned it, money and all. To the stranger on the highway that told us our wheel was smoking on our trailer and we pulled over just in time before our wheel fell off. They are all around us, supporting and helping us. For that I give thanks. I hope you can all join me in that.

Coming in 2013, we have Young Explorers program for 3-5 year olds, After School Program for 5-9 year olds, and Chicks in the Sticks, a girls outdoor club for 9-14 year olds. For more information visit http://www.naturesbackpack.ca

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Gratitude Challenge Day 4

How is it going? Are you feeling good? I am always surprised by some of the feelings that are provoked when I sit and give thanks to various things. Yesterday was a surprise for me. For today, take 10 minutes and enjoy today Gratitude Challenge (click). Enjoy.

Today on my way to my sit spot, I noticed new holes from an animal. I wondered who made them and looked for tracks. Gave thanks to my eyes for observing it and look forward to figuring out the hole mystery. As I walked closer to my sit spot. I felt a sudden urge of excitement. A feeling of giddy and joy welled up inside of me. Not sure where it came from, but I acknowledged it and let it flow through me. It was a wonderful feeling. As I scanned the forest before I walked in as I always do, there was a scent in the air that was new. It smelled musty and I thought perhaps the coyote is near by, or was earlier today. It made my senses sharper as I tried to see what other scents I could smell, but that was the most powerful one. 

As I settled in to my spot under a spruce tree, I closed my eyes. I could hear the geese honking away and flying. I heard the jay with their "jay, jay" call and in the far distance to the NW of me, I could faintly hear the red tailed hawk. I kept my eyes closed and gave thanks for all I could sense, feel, smell and hear. Then I fell asleep. 

When I awoke, I decided to take a different way back out of my forest sit spot. Looking for a walnut shell that the flying squirrels leave behind. They make a great conversation piece and wanted one for my friend. Instead I found 100s of white and a few black feathers. A bird had been eaten and found part of its carcass. I then gave thanks to this bird, for it gave up its life to sustain another. Sang a short song for it to rest in peace.  A great day that was filled with a lot of gratitude and thanks. 

Coming in 2013, we have Young Explorers program for 3-5 year olds, After School Program for 5-9 year olds, and Chicks in the Sticks, a girls outdoor club for 9-14 year olds. For more information visit http://www.naturesbackpack.ca



Saturday, 1 December 2012

Gratitude Challenge 3

We got about an inch of snow last night. The first snowball fight of the year started when my husband opened the door, grabbed a hand-full of snow and threw the first one at me. Yes it was inside! That was it, we all grabbed our coats, boots, hats and mitts and ran outside for the traditional snowball fight kickoff. Was so much fun! Feeling thankful for that snow right now.

We are on day 3 of our challenge, how is it going? Here is Gratitude Challenge Day 3 (click). Keep sharing.

Today was a mix feeling day, as I thought of family members and friends. I was giving thanks to my family, as spread out across the globe as we are, we are still family and we will always support and love each other. The feelings were of gratitude, thankful and sadness. Sadness? Why was I feeling sad at being grateful for my family? Perhaps because we are so far apart and when I look at other families, I see how lucky they are to live so close together.  I embraced this sadness and gave thanks to it. It allowed me to inner track my feelings and where it was coming from. 

Then I turned my thoughts to my friends. To the ones that are no longer part of my life and to the ones who have stayed with me and to the new friends I have made in the last year. Thinking about them, I realized that they all have taught me one thing or another and gave thanks for their support, their arguments and their love. And as I look at the people whom I met online and have yet to meet, I give thanks to them and for the opportunity to meet them in the future. 

What kind of feelings were provoked for you? I was surprised by a lot of my feelings, were you?


Coming in 2013, we have Young Explorers program for 3-5 year olds, After School Program for 5-9 year olds, and  Chicks in the Sticks, a girls outdoor club for 9-14 year olds.  For more information, visithttp://www.naturesbackpack.ca

Friday, 30 November 2012

Day 2 - Gratitude Challenge

So how did yesterday go? Did you spend 10 minutes reflecting all that you are thankful for? I don't know about you, but it felt great to think positive and give thanks.

Here is Day 2- Gratitude Challenge (click). I look forward to your emails, posts and comments.

Have great day and see you tonight.

 Today my mind was focused on the question for today. What are you thankful for in regard to the season change of Autumn to Winter. A true test for today as the wind was very cold. I put on my  long johns and head out to my sit spot. As I walked across the field, I watched over 100 Canadian Geese take off and form thier groups of half hazard V's. And I noticed that they are getting better at their formations. Before they were just a clumb, now you can see the formation. So I am thankful for the insticts of the Canadian Goose, to practice everyday with its family and fly South for the Winter. I wonder when they will go. 

As I settled in to my spot, I noticed not a lot of movement in the forest. It was windy and it was cold. But the little birds that were most active were the Juncos and the Black Capped Chickadees. I enjoyed watching the white flash as the Juncos flew from ground to branch and back down. The Black Capped Chickadee that visited me today. So I am grateful for the changes of the birds that occur in this changing of season. And I am thankful for the settling down and thinking of warmth and gatherings of friends and families this time of year. And I am thankful for that hot cup of coffee that was waiting for me when I got home.

Coming in 2013, we have Young Explorers program for 3-5 year olds, After School Program for 5-9 year olds, and  Chicks in the Sticks, a girls outdoor club for 9-14 year olds.  For more information, visit http://www.naturesbackpack.ca


Thursday, 29 November 2012

Gratitude Challenge Starts

I am taking a field naturalist course called Kamana. It teaches nature awareness and increases your library of local flora and fauna. A great course that encompasses the whole mind body and soul into nature connection.

One of the great teachings in this course is to give thanks. Thanks from the heavens to the soil beneath your feet. Kamana offered a Gratitude Challenge at the beginning of the month and sad to say, I didn't do all of it. So I have challenged myself to do it on my own and wanted to invite anyone else who would like to join in. Everyday I will share my gratitude with you and if you so feel inclined you can share yours too in the comment boxes, or even email it to me if you like. Or you can share your own blog about your gratitude. Whichever way you would like to participate. You can even be a silent gratitdude challenger.

So here is the first Gratitude Challenge Day 1. At the end of the day I will enter my thoughts. Enjoy.

The first day of Gratitude and it was great to get outside and just reflect on this question today.  To check in and reflect on all the great things going on in my life. It didn't take long, I have so much to be grateful for. First thing I thought of was all the amazing opportunities that are presenting themselves to me for my business and for personal growth. Opportunities to write articles and guest blogs and to be asked my advice on hikes and how to start one. Another is the friends and family I have in my life. In the last year I have met some amazing people who have become dear to me and I really treasure their friendship. And my family whom I know I can always count on. I am also very grateful for my sitspot, it teaches me so much about nature, and gives me an opportunity to reflect and do some inner tracking on things that bother me, why and what to do. When to let something go and when I should stand up and fight. And about the trees, the plants and bird language, all taught while going or at my sit spot. And lastly, I am grateful for the courage to take a chance and do what I love the most, working with children and teaching them about nature. I found once I started listing off the things to be thankful for, my list is long. For that I am most grateful, that I have so much to be grateful for. And with that, I will hold on to for the days when I may not feel so thankful and remember this day. 




Coming in 2013, we have Young Explorers program for 3-5 year olds, After School Program for 5-9 year olds, and  Chicks in the Sticks, a girls outdoor club for 9-14 year olds.  For more information, visit http://www.naturesbackpack.ca.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Nature IS Important to our Children



Children and nature, it is two words that go together. Yet, when we look at our communities today, we are seeing little of the two interacting together. But I believe that is changing, as people are learning and understanding the importance of nature for our children.

You may think that it is all just play and the children are not learning anything by just playing, but on the contrary, that is exactly what they are doing. And when you allow children to play out in nature, the learning is intensified.

A child playing in nature gives them a sense of place, an attachment to the place in which they grow up and play in. As they grow older, they take ownership of the place and want to protect it.

The build a sense of self, through playing, balancing on logs, navigating through a bush etc. They recognize their independence as they learn new skills out in nature.  It also restores their well-being, reduces stress and benefits them physically and mentally. Through activities and play, nature offers possibilities to control and master, to manipulate loose parts in nature and learn different ways of moving and risk taking.  The outdoors stimulates creativity, imagination and symbolic play.

In our schools we hear of many children diagnosed with ADD/ADHD and anxiety. When you offer opportunities for these children to spend time out in nature, the disorders dissipate and you see a child focused, relaxed and interacting with others.

We want our children to succeed, we see it in how we make sure they are ahead academically, the sports we put them into and the activities we expose them to. .  Nature teaches them all of that, teaches them to get back up when they fall, to renegotiate the obstacles on the path (or off it), to learn the changes in the seasons, what animals do to adapt, the power in nature, the beauty and the ancient laws. Awareness of surroundings is amplified and how things are inter related are experienced first hand. 

In the end a resilient child is raised into an unknown future. Nature offers an environment that allows questioning and observing. Uncertainty is built through the questioning process and this is where our children build confidence in themselves and decisions they make. To learn through play and manipulation and find answers to those questions. It is through play and testing that creativity is encouraged to come up with ideas, concepts and innovation.  A child is now armed with innovation, creativity, and calmness, confidence, active, social, and empathetic member of our community. Everything needed to be “successful”.

Coming in 2013, we have Young Explorers program for 3-5 year olds, After School Program for 5-9 year olds, and  Chicks in the Sticks, a girls outdoor club for 9-14 year olds.  For more information, visit http://www.naturesbackpack.ca.


Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Be Still


It had been awhile since I had the chance to go to my sit spot. My spot out in nature where I reflect use my senses and explore nature. Today, I decided, after my amazing weekend with Jon Young, I needed to anchor myself and just be with nature. 

As I walk towards my spot, the cornfields have been harvested and look at all the remaining cobs on the ground that the animals had eaten. I was looking for tracks, but they were mostly washed away from the morning rain. 

I decided to turn off my brain, I usually bring my phone with me, but this time I made sure it stayed home. I didn't want any distractions. I followed that inner voice as to where I should sit, and I was drawn to the other side of the 200 paces circle I usually sit at. I passed the big walnut tree and then past the tall towering spruce tree to a pair of smaller spruce trees with a fallen tree beside it with raspberry canes growing over it and some bushes. I will have to find out what kind of bush it is. 

As I walk closer I startle a flock of morning doves. There were about 20 of them that shot up into the trees from the ground and near by trees. My presence is announced and so I settle in with my back on the spruce tree and I sit and wait for the forest to calm back to its original peace. 

I watch the morning doves, working to move my body in a comfortable position so I can stay still and stay warm at the same time. I should have brought full mitts, so I squeeze my fingers between my legs to keep warm. I start my sense meditation and in the crisp cool air, I hear the little coos of the doves as they flutter from branch to branch and hear a "chew-teepee" call of a bird beside me that I can't find. Using just my eyes to search where the call is coming from, I can't quite find it. Then blue jays fill the air with a "jay, jay" call. I am feeling there is so much action going on I can't decide whom to watch: the doves, the jays, find out who is making that noise? So I calm again, and unfocused my eyes so that I can see all around me, in my peripheral and listen with my ears to the sounds around me and just take it all in. To stop thinking of what I am seeing and just absorb. 

In the corner of my eye I see movement up a tree and follow that movement to a gray squirrel following a black one. It is like they are playing follow the leader with the gray one always following. Then another black one cuts in-between them and now it is three of them following the leader. This new squirrel jumps to another tree with the second black one about to follow when you can see he rethinks that jump. Second black squirrel takes a different route and follows. The gray squirrel patiently waits for them to come back down. 

All the while, I am noticing the morning doves are a little edgy. Some of them on the outskirts of the forest fly further in to the forest. I wait to see why, but nothing is revealed. I lose track of the squirrels and just settle in and turn my head to look into the bushes. I hear a dove moving to the North of me and turn my head. There, 5 feet from me, my eyes meet with a beautiful morning dove. We look at each other, and then she is off. It was too close for her comfort. 

Then, I hear a little russelling and notice one of the black squirrels had made its way over to where I was sitting and it was looking for nuts/seeds. I remain as still as possible. Not moving even though my nose started to itch. (Doesn’t that always happen)? It comes closer and closer to me until it is about 5 feet away from me when it stops dead in its tracks. Eyes big looking at me. I am out of place. It knew that I was not supposed to be there and it jumps back. But it is very curious and comes back towards me again. All I was thinking was, this is very cool if it will come right up to me and think of me as part of the tree. And then thought, hope it doesn't bite me. LOL

So it starts to flick its tail and make a small quiet chip sound as it inspects me. I remain still, not moving anything but my eyes. Does it notice my eyes? It slowly makes its way to the spruce tree beside me and gets to a higher advantage point where it started to make grunting and kissing noises at me. I can no longer see it in my peripheral so I switch to using my ears. I am picturing it sitting on the trunk of the tree looking at me, flicking it tails making those noises. In the corner of my other eye, I see another squirrel that has come to it's friend's aid to keep an eye on me and is 20 feet in another tree looking at me and flicking its tail. This goes on for 15 minutes. The black squirrel, I have now named George for his curiosity, had climbed up the spruce tree I am leaning against and is above my head. I see the hanging branch above me move and I think... oh my... it is going to climb on my head. But it doesn't. 

Instead the forest bursts in action as almost 50 morning doves all take flight at once and fly to the other side of the forest. The burst of energy makes me want to fly, but I remain motionless to see what caused it. The squirrel gets bored of me and heads off on his regular routine and that is when I see the cause of the alarm.... a large bird flies in front of me, about 20 feet onto a lower branch. It is about the size of a crow, maybe a bit bigger. I don't have my glasses on so can't make out details. So you are the one who sent off the alarm with the morning doves... so what are you? What kind of raptor are you? You have a white breast with black speckles... can't really make out a band, but that really doesn't mean anything. Your hooked beak and majestic stance on the branch as you look away doesn't really give too much away. Then it looks to the East and takes off and I see a bright red tail! Whoooo, my friend has returned! Buteo is back! 

The forest returns to a quiet calm and I decide it is time I head back home. Thankful for all I had experienced today and the gift of all the encounters. 

Until next time, I hope to connect with George again and see Buteo again. 

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Taking the Sense Meditation to a New Level


Tonight my daughter wanted to join me in my sense meditation. What is a sense meditation you ask? Well it is where you focus on each of your senses one by one adding them to the next. 

First you start with your sight, since it is the most dominant one we use. Focusing on a spot in front of you and slowly bring your awareness to above, below, to the left and to the right, without moving your eyes. Using your peripheral vision. Then you use your hearing, listening all around you to all the sounds you hear. Then you pair it up to your sight awareness. 

Once you feel comfortable with that, you add your sense of touch, feeling the wind, the bugs that land on you, where the wind is coming, or the sun hitting your skin. Adding that to the other senses until you feel comfortable. 

The last sense is the sense of smell, breathing in deeply and noticing what you are smelling, the trees, the car that passes by, the dirt etc. As you are aware of the different smells, you add it to the rest. With all your senses on fire, you open up and use all of them together for as long as you want. 

With my daughter, it wasn't very long, but she did the sense meditation for about 10 minutes. Pretty good for a child. Then she wanted to play in the cornfields. So we ran walked out of our spot into the cornfields and started making our way home. 

I asked her questions like what she is hearing, how she would know the way home. Since it was getting dark, what markers would she use to tell her which way was home. And to my proud mommy moment, she answered "the street lights and the trees.... and the sun going down" Such a smart girl. 

As we came out of the second last field of corn, my daughter lets out a blood-curdling scream that she cut her leg... then that something was in her pants!!! WHAT!!!.... She yells, "It's a FROG!!!!! AAAAAA it is scratching me and biting me! It running up and down my leg! Get my pants off!!!!"

Now I am freaking out as I am feeding off her terror and as I am trying frantically to pull her pants off, this THING, whatever it was, was running up and down her leg. I am now assuming it was a mouse. 

As we got out of the long grass and onto the edge of the cornfield, and safe from the running up and down animal in her pants, we both started to laugh. "Well that was terrifying!" my daughter says to me. And I reply "That brings the whole sense mediation to a whole new level! Manifesting the sense of touch..." 

We are laughing now about it. Luckily, it hasn't deterred her and she asked to do it again tomorrow... minus the mouse in the pant leg.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Sustainable Farming? What is that?


This past weekend, we visited the Boar and Chick farm in Troy Ontario. Mark and Tania Veenstra are down to earth, caring people that open their doors to anyone who wishes to visit their farm. They even have people passing by stop to sit on their front lawn and destress.

Our visit to the farm was a great way to learn about sustainable farming. Mark and Tania have various animals on the farm, sheep, brkshire boar, chickens, dexter cows, long horn cattle and horses. There were many piglets running around and Tania introduced us to many of the resident boars by name. The sows had given birth and raised piglets and many were resting in between the pregnancy or they were pregnant ready for the spring births. To ensure health and longevity of the sows, they are given a rest period to recovery. Something that in larger establishments they do not practice.

You can tell the animals are well cared for, they have large pastures to roam in, lots of areas to root around, play in the mud and run.

A great farm to visit with your family and learn where our food comes from. To appreciate what goes into raising healthy animals for our table and that it is possible.

We finished our tour with some horse rides. I was volunteered to be the first one. I love horseback riding.

If you would like to contact Mark or Tania, visit their website at www.theboarandchick.com

Oh, and their rooster and two sows, are famous models for Chatelaine. They were not available for autographs though. :)





Enjoy the video of our visit.


Wednesday, 19 September 2012

THE Question...

I have just been shocked at the record high at teen suicides.  I can't help but ask myself how self worth,  information and proliferation are so unbalanced due to the digital age. How are you, or better yet, what are your views as a parent on mentoring on moderation and self worth?

Friday, 14 September 2012

The found art of barefoot tree climbing

It all started out as a need (on my part) to go for a hike and do some shooting... not bow and arrow kind of shooting, but with my camera. So I invited a few friends to come with me.

With camera and friends in tow, we started off a trail, just off a side road, part of the Bruce Trail. We look around in amazement at the tree formations. One I name the "pom-pom tree".

As we got further into the forest, I was drawn to take my shoes off and walk off the trail towards a fallen tree. As my friends looked at me with a "oh what is Rhonda doing now" kind of look, they too soon followed me in balancing on the fallen log.  They, however, kept their shoes on. :)

I turned around and found a fallen tree balanced on another. A perfect scaling tree. As I started to scale up it... in my barefeet... I soon came to the realization that if I fell, it would hurt. Nothing inspired concentration, focus and spider like senses than the realization of your own mortality.

I got up to the top and then slide off the tree (on purpose) and down to the ground. Then it was my friend's turn. And guess what, this time they did it barefoot. A new sensation of feeling the bark and tree through your hands and feet enable your senses to guide you as you climb. You also have more agility and balance in barefeet.

This fun experience has inspired what we call the NatureFit Hikes. A free hike where we encourage everyone to climb trees barefoot, to walk the trail and off trail barefoot, and to get dirty. And learn self confidence and sense of accomplishment through climbing a tree.

Give it a try! And share your experiences and photos with me.

Here's a goofy video of walking nature's balance beam at our latest NatureFit Hike.