Friday, June 30, 2017

Summer School

Monarchs #4 & #5, female and male on common milkweed
By Mary Oliver

Isn't it plain the sheets of moss, except that
they have no tongues, could lecture
all day if they wanted about

spiritual patience?  Isn't it clear
the black oaks along the path are standing
as though they were the most fragile of flowers?

Every morning I walk like this around
the pond, thinking:  if the doors of my heart
ever close, I am as good as dead.

Every morning, so far, I'm alive.  And now
the crows break off from the rest of the darkness
and burst up into the sky -- as though

all night they had thought of what they would like
their lives to be, and imagined
their strong, thick wings.  

"Isn't it plain the sheets of moss . . . could lecture all day if they wanted . . . "  School is out and it is time to listen and learn from moss, insects, birds, trees and the flowers in the field.  They may not be able to formally lecture to us, but they are there to teach us nonetheless, if we care to listen.  I suspect one lesson is simply that they are amazing.  Anything that has evolved and found a niche in nature has an amazing quality and something to teach to those who listen.  

A couple of months ago, I had the good pleasure of sharing my green iguana, Harold, with an after-school science class.  The students ranged from six to nine years old and my little presentation was on reptiles.  I need to say that had you asked me ten years ago if I could imagine myself having an iguana, I would have said, "never!"  Never say never.  It's a long story, but I find myself in the unusual position of caring for and opening my heart up to a cold-blooded reptile named Harold.  Iguanas are amazing creatures, and Harold is no exception.  As I was sharing my reptile with this group of students, I was mentioning that anytime you spend time with anything in nature, you should be prepared to be amazed.  This little girl started bopping up and down in her seat and pumping her hand in the air . . . "I love snails!" she exclaimed.  "Aren't they amazing?!" I replied.  We talked a few minutes about the wonders of snails.  How fun!  Snails and the children who delight in them make me happy.   

Insects on wildflower
The more I explore the natural world, the more amazing it becomes to me.  I suspect I could spend the rest of my life wandering the trails and wild places in my small neighborhood and be amazed and delighted every time, and "if the doors of my heart ever close, I'm as good as dead."  

The monarchs above were found as eggs in our schoolyard.  I have fifteen more chrysalises that will open in the next few days, and I will release them all into the wilds of my backyard.  I'm hoping that I'll find more eggs to take in and raise in the days and weeks ahead.  Each monarch I have had the pleasure of raising is unique, and every time I watch one grow and transform it is amazing.  Aren't insects amazing?!  I don't yet know the flower and insect above by proper names but hope to learn more about them in the days ahead.  For now, I just enjoyed spending a moment with them and taking their picture on a lovely summer day.  

Here's what I think . . . when we take time to appreciate the small wonders in this world, we are reminded that we are all small wonders in this world.  Let us imagine and remember who we are.

. . . the crows break off from the rest of the darkness
and burst up into the sky -- as though

all night they had thought of what they would like
their lives to be, and imagined
their strong, thick wings.  

A wonderful summer to everyone!

Monday, June 12, 2017

School Year's Close

Spring Monarch Eggs found in School Yard

Russ and Students Birding!

Outside in the field

This spring we have had the good pleasure of going birding again with Russ Schipper!  We saw and identified several more birds this May than during our February outing and we heard the calls of even more species.  Thank you Russ for your ongoing support!

The monarchs are back!  We have been finding monarch eggs on our school property!  It's very exciting to take my students outside for their daily run around the trail and then take a few moments to hunt and find eggs in our front yard!  We have about a dozen caterpillars in various stages of development.  They are eating milkweed voraciously and pooping at an incredible rate.  (I'm hoping I can send a few caterpillars home with eager students.)

Thank you to everyone who has supported my students and the outdoor learning center this year!  We continue to grow.  The large garden in the back will be getting a beautiful sign in the days ahead and we will be doing additional planting at that site next fall (I still have grant money from the Wild Ones organization).  In addition, I'm scheming a new trail down to a small pond on the corner of Blue Star Highway and North Shore Drive.  It would be a pretty small undertaking, but would add a wonderful view of a small hidden pond.  If you are interested in helping, let me know.

We are down to our last two days of school and it is always a bittersweet time.  I have enjoyed watching this amazing group of students grow and learn over the past several months and I will miss them.  It was a privilege to be a part of their lives for a short time.  I hope that they learned to love the process and challenge of  learning just a bit more and perhaps they also learned a bit more about this amazing planet that we call home from looking right in our own backyard.

Happy summer everyone!