Wonder, then wisdom

Erv, a friend of my family, took a vacation in the early spring every year and spent it in a cabin on a lake up north, hoping he timed his vacation right. He took vacation to hear the ice crack when the lake began to thaw.

Have you heard the sound of lake ice cracking? It's a sound that sweeps in the air around you like the aurora borealis is light that sweeps across the sky above. The sound of the ice cracking is eerie and changes as it moves across the lake. It's a loud noise but you can't quite place where it is, and sometimes feels like it is behind you or on either side of you and not on the lake at all.

Like Erv, my father loved the outdoors. He was a man of few words, a tough man with a tender spot for wildflowers. 

When we hiked in the woods together, my dad named all the plants if he were in the mood to talk, and he usually was in a talkative mood when he spotted wildflowers. If we saw a patch of wildflowers growing alongside a road while in the car, he pulled over to look at them.

These two men were big influences on my life. When I became a parent, I began to think about what I would do with my children when they were very young. In my blood, in my bones, in my heart, I wanted them to spend their childhoods outside, not inside a school building all day.

I felt like I found a friend when I read Charlotte Mason's ideas about early childhood and the outdoors:

It would be well if we all persons in authority, parents and all who act for parents, could make up our minds that there is no sort of knowledge to be got in these early years so valuable to children as that which they get for themselves of the world they live in. Let them once get touch with Nature, and a habit is formed which will be a source of delight through life. We were all meant to be naturalists, each in his degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world so full of the marvels of plant and animal life and to care for none of these things.

The goal I had in the early years was to instill a sense of awe about nature, to love it, and to delight in its changes.

That's a simple goal and doesn't require textbooks, lab equipment, science kits, a big budget, or a school.

It does require time, though.


Top: We visited Stephen Foster Lake, Mt. Pisgah State Park, Pennsylvania while on a road trip. As we walked around the park in the early morning, the kids thought they heard bears roaring around us. It was the sound of the ice cracking on the lake.

Middle: A medley of wildflowers I drew while sitting in an NYC park called the High Line. The park was created on top of an abandoned stretch of an elevated freight railroad.

Bottom: We spent Christmas Day a couple of years ago hiking by a waterfall in Letchworth State Park in western New York, but we couldn't hike far on the paths because the paths were covered with ice. And, ice chunks fell off the trees - the chunks hurt if they hit you on the head! The photo is of the ice that fell from the trees. Can you guess why the ice looks that way? The trees were near a waterfall and the water was full of sediment. The water sprayed from the force of the waterfall and fell on the trees. As the brown water froze, it made an impression of each leaf. Since the temperature was right around freezing, the ice chunks slid off the leaves...on top of our heads.

Wonder is the beginning of wisdom ~ Socrates.


  1. What a testament to bringing your children up with a love for nature.

    Those leaf impressions are amazing. I'd never seen such a thing - they look like maple candies.

  2. I am so thrilled to have stumbled on your awesome blog! We too are CM learners. I sold my CM volumes when moving into the RV and now I miss them TERRIBLY!!

  3. So you're telling me what looks like brown leaves is really ice? That's amazing.

    You're way ahead of me on the nature thing. I'm feeling a wee bit depressed by it all. You were blessed to have such a dad. My dad was a country boy that spent his entire childhood roaming the woods. And he can tell you stories about it. But that's all I remember --- his stories. I can remember a few walks in the woods with him at his parent's farm, but mostly I remember him snug in our home. Oh well, enough of feeling sorry for meself. Let me get my boy and head outside. It is in our nature walk afternoon.

  4. Richele: They remind me of maple candy too.

    Rambling Heather: Welcome! You are traveling around in an RV?! Wow, I want to hear more about that!

    Kay: Yes, it's really ice. Such a beautiful surprise.
    The nice thing about going out in nature is that you can start anytime, whether you did it all or your life not. Sometimes I resist going outside, but I ALWAYS feel better once I do, even if I'm out for just a few minutes. There is something about fresh air that feels so good. I hope you enjoyed your nature walk today.