"I am an online teacher for an alternative learning program for a special group of kids. We have been discussing about nature and wildlife and while looking for information, we came across your web page … and we wanted to say thank you!
One of my students did some research and she sent in this article with a lot of really great information on creating a wildlife watching room!
This is what she found:

I suggested that she share this with you because it had such great information we thought it could be useful to you and your other visitors."

I received an email this week that took me right back to my childhood – head in a bush, playing tree houses with my tiny Pippa dolls, or lying in the long grass, pretending I was a Borrower and looking up at the ‘giant’ bugs waving on stalks high above my head. I can taste the sweetness of the new growth in grass stalks when I learned to pull the flowering tops out of their fibrous sheaths.  I can hear the sub-clarinet squawking of grass blades held and blown between my thumbs (and the protesting adult squawks that often followed).
Often these experiences were far from home in childhood terms as nature was my retreat from the noise and demands of a big family.  No-one could find me in the long grass, or when I was wading up streams, pretending I was David Livingstone in the Zambezi

This simple lesson in self-care and the healing call of nature has stayed with me all my life. As a frazzled student nurse I climbed high up Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh to look down on the hovering kestrels and bustling streets. As a young mum I learned that if I retreated to my garden, magically my children would not call for me every time it looked as if I might sit down for a rest.  Later, when I was grounded by fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue, I wrapped up on winter days to meditate on the plum tree and sparrows in my front garden, or swung in my hammock, watching the clouds scud by, remembering that all things pass and that the world carries on whatever my troubles may be. I was lucky to grow up with such easy access to nature, to learn so early on that I am part of a wondrous, exciting creation and that I am at my happiest and healthiest when I am connected to it.

While I craved solitude, the children  who have found my website have lived through an isolation that I never experienced or imagined.  They are part of a generation who have been cut off from each other and, in many cases, from nature, by the pandemic, but also by a culture fearful of strangers and of dirt, by homes in cities where they have never been shown the life that surrounds them, even in a concrete jungle or tarmac playground. Even in rural villages like my own, many children have parents who are afraid to let them out of sight or to get dirty, and so they have never learned, as I did, the nooks and cranny’s, streams and valleys that lie beyond the end of their street.

All grown up and working as a volunteer manager, I ran a programme that inspired, supported and taught food growing. Some of the best and worst moments in this job revolved around the joy that children can find in nature:

a toddler whose mother laughed as he pitched head-first and mouth wide into a tray of potting compost (it did look and smell deliciously sweet!);

the thrill of primary children running across a playing field to share in the delights of freshly podded broad beans;

a small ‘problem’ boy, sent out to the garden by a frustrated teacher, whose sullen complaint that, ‘this is all s**t’, evaporated into a grin on being told that, ‘Yes, all this soil is worm s**t’;
children plunging their hands into the heat of a pile of wood chips on a cold February day, and serendipitously learning the science of decomposition as they sunbathed on its steaming slopes;

children wading in dipping ponds, lost in a green, watery world of sea monsters and pirates.

 a forest school club, seated around a real fire in a school playground on a bitter February afternoon, chatting with their teacher and learning the joys as well as the dangers of fire.

Sadder moments came with children I met at local fairs: keen to get their hands in the compost of our volunteer’s stalls and plant some seeds, but thwarted by irritated adults worried about getting dirty or making a mess. I spent hours talking to staff in schools who were keen to apply for funding to install raised beds, but unwilling to invest the staff time and commitment to support the children in their growing.  Sometimes it seemed that every primary school had  a set of expensive raised beds on show, surrounded by tarmac and containing nothing but the neglect-proof joy of daffodils in spring.  School garden grants are wonderful, but without people there are no gardens, and sadly there is rarely money on offer to pay for the people, like the sender of this email, who can guide children and introduce them to connect with the wonderful natural world all around them.

Now I can say with confidence that I am fully recovered from my fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue.  I have learned to look after myself better and to notice the days when that fuzzy-headed overwhelm of sitting inside too long threatens, and only a walk in the fresh air will clear it.  

My blog writing has temporarily slowed as my energy has returned, and I have begun retraining for a new career as a well-being coach.  My passion for nature, and understanding of its core role in a healthy and happy life, has only deepened, and if I am not writing so much, I am reading more about nature, health and the exciting new approach of eco therapy. I am  planning for a future career in which I hope to bring together my writing and my passion for the natural world with my new role as a coach, helping other people to flourish and connect in this wonderful world, to remember the uninhibited joy of childhood, when an uncut hedge was not a chore waiting to be done, but a doorway into a world of imagination and adventure.

Was nature a source of wonder and excitement for you as a child, something to be wary of, to keep clean in or ...?

How do you feel about going outdoors now?

When did you last stop to feel the wind, rain or sun on your face, or to really look at the shape and detail of a tree trunk, a butterfly, a daisy?

Do you worry that people will think you are childish if you kick through the autumn leaves or splash in a puddle? Does it matter what they think?

If you can't get outside today, try spending a few minutes losing yourself in the details of a photo from my galleries, an online nature webcam, or a YouTube video–Kneppflix has some fabulous films

(Cartoon nature images courtesy of my MacBook Pro emoji keyboard)