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1. The Spring of Ideas - Liz Kessler


A while ago, I wrote a blog about the Seasons of Writing. It was an idea that my good friend Jen Alexander shared with me, and I’ve loved it and referred to it on countless occasions ever since. The idea is that the process of writing a book is very much like the calendar of seasons in a year.

Well, if that’s the case, it is definitely spring right now.

I’m at the very start of working on a new book. It’s an idea that has been patiently waiting underground for quite a few years, and its time has now come. Just as I’m beginning to see snowdrops appearing in the countryside, and tiny shoots starting to come through the ground in my own garden, my new story is beginning to show its head. Little tiny shoots coming up, one by one, all pretty and fresh and exciting.


For over a decade, writing has been my job, and there are times when I’m very aware of that. I make myself sit at my desk for a certain length of time; I set targets that involve writing a set number of words; I organize events, I attend book festivals, I do publicity, I write emails, blogs, articles; I reply to lovely letters from readers. All of these things are wonderful, and all make me feel glad that this is how I make my living. But a lot of the time, my job doesn’t feel especially creative.

But it does now.

A couple of months ago, I attended a writers’ retreat that I run with my author buddy Elen Caldecott. Four days where eighteen children’s authors come together to share thoughts, ideas, inspiration and workshops all about writing and creativity, set in beautiful countryside.

(I made a kind of slideshow of my photos while I was there. You can watch it here if you want to see why it’s such a lovely place.)

This was the fourth time we’ve run this retreat, and I have to say I think it was the best yet – especially in terms of creativity. But the point of this blog is to share what was, for me, the best thing to come out of this year’s retreat. And that was that my new book started to open up – yes, like a beautiful new crocus slowly unfurling its petals.

Part of the way that this happened was to do with my surroundings. Each morning of the retreat, I got up early and went out for a walk with my camera. The mornings were so quiet and the light was so soft, as a mist gradually lifted from the fields and trees. Something about the mornings felt right for my book, and started leading me towards the background mood and setting.

Then one evening, another writer buddy, Kelly McCain, and I had an amazing couple of hours sharing music and downloading each other’s favourite songs. So on the final morning when I went out for my walk, I took my headphones and listened to these new songs at the same time – and the most amazing thing happened. As I walked, and watched the mist and the dew, and listened to the songs, I started almost seeing my book begin to take shape in front of me. I almost heard my characters singing lines from the songs as I listened to them. Almost felt their moods and their emotions, as I felt the mist rising on a storyline that was starting to take shape after five years of waiting in the shadows.


And it’s carried on like that for the months following the retreat. I’ve added more tunes and now have a playlist of about thirty songs. I play them when I walk the dog, trudging along a muddy coast path and hearing the characters singing the words. I play them in my study, writing away in my lovely new notebook, as I try to capture the feelings, the moods, the words and the moments in the same way as I saw them out on the cliff path.

I have written about fifteen books, and I can honestly say that I have never experienced anything quite like the process that is taking place with this book. It feels so creative, and such a journey of exploration. It’s intense, emotional, exciting and kind of magical. It reminds me that, after all, this isn’t just my job. It is my passion; it is one of the things that is at the heart of who I am, how I see the world and how I live my life.

The book is due to be delivered in September this year. I have two books coming out before then and a busy year ahead – but for now, I’m enjoying taking the time to nurture these seedlings of ideas that are popping up every day. 

So yes, this is work, and yes, sometimes it’s hard. But right here, right now, it feels like a privilege that I get to do such a magical, wonderful, creative thing and get to call it my day job. I hope that over the coming months, I can do my characters justice. I look forward to the rest of the spring, and am hoping for a summer filled with bright colours, delightful scents and a beautiful, blossoming story.

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2. Nest, by Esther Ehrlich | Book Review

Esther Ehrlich’s debut novel, Nest, is an arresting story of an eleven-year-old girl named Chirp Orenstein, whose life becomes acutely sharp and complicated as her mother’s illness overtakes the family

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3. Poetry Friday -- Surprises



AUDUBON METRO PARK

The sun -- a low-hanging smudge.
The pond -- a layer of ice over mud.

A movement under the ice -- a darker oval.
A late afternoon surprise -- a winter turtle.


©Mary Lee Hahn, 2015



Last Friday, we had the surprise of discovering a new metro part that's right inside the city, just south of downtown -- Scioto Audubon Metro Park. We were also surprised by this turtle sighting. I'm sure s/he is buried deep in the mud this week!

Friday kind of snuck up and surprised me this week, too. It's been an odd first week back, with school every other day M, W, F. Hard to get routines reestablished (in the classroom OR in my personal life)! Having four day weeks next week (PD day) and the next (MLKing Day) won't help either. Oh, well. Gotta do the best with what you've got, right?

Tabatha has the Poetry Friday roundup at The Opposite of Indifference today.


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4. Pitter and Patter



I have a lot of books that fit under the theme "landscape" so here's some more artwork. This is from Pitter and Patter, written by Martha Sullivan, published by Dawn Publications, and illustrated by me, Cathy Morrison. It comes out this spring and is about the water cycle.

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5. LANDSCAPE ILLUSTRATIONS

Johnny Appleseed
Steven James Petruccio
Opening spread from Johnny Appleseed for Scholastic, Inc.
Watercolor on Arches Paper






Lake at Night
Steven James Petruccio
Natural Science book for  Parachute Press
Watercolor on Arches Hot Press Paper

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6. Druids and nature

What was the relationship between the Druids and nature? The excerpt below from Druids: A Very Short Introduction looks at seasonal cycles, the winter solstice, and how the Druids charted the movement of the sun, moon, and stars:

How far back in time European communities began to recognize and chart the movements of the sun, moon, and stars it is impossible to say, but for the mobile hunting bands of the Palaeolithic period, following large herds through the forests of Europe and returning to base camps when the hunt was over, the ability to navigate using the stars would have been vital to existence. Similarly, indicators of the changing seasons would have signalled the time to begin specific tasks in the annual cycle of activity. For communities living by the sea, the tides provided a finer rhythm while tidal amplitude could be related to lunar cycles, offering a precise system for estimating the passage of time. The evening disappearance of the sun below the horizon must have been a source of wonder and speculation. Living close to nature, with one’s very existence depending upon seasonal cycles of rebirth and death, inevitably focused the mind on the celestial bodies as indicators of the driving force of time. Once the inevitability of the seasonal cycles was fully recognized, it would have been a short step to believing that the movements of the sun and the moon had a controlling power over the natural world.

The spread of food-producing regimes into western Europe in the middle of the 6th millennium led to a more sedentary lifestyle and brought communities closer to the seasonal cycle, which governed the planting of crops and the management of flocks and herds. A proper adherence to the rhythm of time, and the propitiation of the deities who governed it, ensured fertility and productivity.

The sophistication of these early Neolithic communities in measuring time is vividly demonstrated by the alignments of the megalithic tombs and other monuments built in the 4th and 3rd millennia. The great passage tomb of New Grange in the Boyne Valley in Ireland was carefully aligned so that at dawn on the day of the midwinter solstice the rays of the rising sun would shine through a slot in the roof and along the passage to light up a triple spiral carved on an orthostat set at the back of the central chamber. The contemporary passage grave at Maes Howe on Orkney was equally carefully placed so that the light of the setting sun on the midwinter solstice would flow down the side of the passage before filling the central chamber at the end. The passage grave of Knowth, in the same group as New Grange, offers further refinements.

Stonehenge, by .aditya. CC-BY-NC-SA-2.0 via Flickr.
Stonehenge, by .aditya. CC-BY-NC-SA-2.0 via Flickr.

Here there are two separate passages exactly aligned east to west: the west-facing passage captures the setting sun on the spring and autumn equinoxes (21 March and 21 September), while the east-facing passage is lit up by the rising sun on the same days. The nearby passage grave of Dowth appears to respect other solar alignments and, although it has not been properly tested, there is a strong possibility that the west-south-west orientation of its main passage was designed to capture the setting sun on the winter cross-quarter days (November and February) half way between the equinox and the solstice.

Other monuments, most notably stone circles, have also been claimed to have been laid out in relation to significant celestial events. The most famous is Stonehenge, the alignment of which was deliberately set to respect the midsummer sunrise and the midwinter sunset.

From the evidence before us there can be little doubt that by about 3000 BC the communities of Atlantic Europe had developed a deep understanding of the solar and lunar calendars – an understanding that could only have come from close observation and careful recording over periods of years. That understanding was monumentalized in the architectural arrangement of certain of the megalithic tombs and stone circles. What was the motivation for this we can only guess – to pay homage to the gods who controlled the heavens?; to gain from the power released on these special days?; to be able to chart the passing of the year? – these are all distinct possibilities. But perhaps there was another motive. By building these precisely planned structures, the communities were demonstrating their knowledge of, and their ability to ‘contain’, the phenomenon: they were entering into an agreement with the deities – a partnership – which guaranteed a level of order in the chaos and uncertainty of the natural world.

The people who made the observations and recorded them, and later coerced the community into the coordinated activity that created the remarkable array of monumental structures, were individuals of rare ability – the keepers of knowledge and the mediators between common humanity and the gods. They were essential to the wellbeing of society, and we can only suppose that society revered them.

The post Druids and nature appeared first on OUPblog.

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7. Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman & Rick Allen

Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman and Rick Allen is a stunning book. Before I could even read a word (and believe me, ever since I read The Catcher in the Rye when I was in high school, in which Holden Caulfield discusses the fate of the fish in the lagoon near Central Park South when it freezes over, I have been intrigued by how certain animals survive winter, and was

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8. Nature in Poetry




by David Elliott
illustrated by Becca Stadtlander
Candlewick Press, 2014

As I noted last Wednesday, J. Patrick Lewis' anthology title says it all: "Everything is a Poem." On Thursday, we looked at science in poetry. Today, the focus is on nature in poetry -- specifically, birds. Upcoming posts include history, biography and imagination in poetry.

My students and I have loved David Elliott's short, pithy poems in his collections On the Farm, In the Wild, and In the Sea. In this book, the essence of seventeen species of birds, from the ordinary sparrow to the exotic Japanese Crane pictured on the cover are captured in Elliott's words and Becca Stadtlander's gorgeous and evocative illustrations.

Sadly, last June, Holly Meade, David Elliott's illustrator for the other books in this series (On the Farm, In the Wild, In the Sea) died at age 56. David Elliott dedicates this book to her.


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9. How to naturalize God

A former colleague of mine once said that the problem with theology is that it has no subject-matter. I was reminded of Nietzsche’s (unwittingly self-damning) claim that those who have theologians’ blood in their veins see all things in a distorted and dishonest perspective, but it was counterbalanced a few years later by a comment of another philosopher – on hearing of my appointment to Heythrop College – that it was good that I’d be working amongst theologians because they are more open-minded than philosophers.

Can one be too open-minded? And isn’t the limit traversed when we start talking about God, or, even worse, believe in Him? Presumably yes, if atheism is true, but it is not demonstrably true, and it is unclear in any case what it means to be either an atheist or a theist. (Some think that theists make God in their own image, and that the atheist is in a better position to relate to God.)

The atheist with which we are most familiar likewise takes issue with the theist, and A.C. Grayling goes so far as to claim that we should drop the term ‘atheist’ altogether because it invites debate on the ground of the theist. Rather, we should adopt the term ‘naturalist’, the naturalist being someone who accepts that the universe is a natural realm, governed by nature’s laws, and that it contains nothing supernatural: ‘there is nothing supernatural in the universe – no fairies or goblins, angels, demons, gods or goddesses’.

I agree that the universe is a natural realm, governed by nature’s laws, and I do not believe in fairies or goblins, angels, demons, gods or goddesses. However, I cannot accept that there is nothing supernatural in the universe until it is made absolutely clear what this denial really means.

The trouble is that the term ‘naturalism’ is so unclear. To many it involves a commitment to the idea that the scientist has the monopoly on nature and explanation, in which case the realm of the supernatural incorporates whatever is not natural in this scientific sense.

Others object to this brand of naturalism on the ground that there are no good philosophical or scientific reasons for assigning the limits of nature to science. As John McDowell says: ‘scientism is a superstition, not a stance required by a proper respect for the achievements of the natural sciences’.

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Lonely place, by Amaldus Clarin Nielsen. Public domain via The Athenaeum.

McDowell endorses a form of naturalism which accommodates value, holding that it cannot be adequately explained in purely scientific terms. Why stick with naturalism? In short, the position – in its original inception – is motivated by sound philosophical presuppositions.

It involves acknowledging that we are natural beings in a natural world, and gives expression to the demand that we avoid metaphysical flights of fancy, ensuring that our claims remain empirically grounded. To use the common term of abuse, we must avoid anything spooky.

The scientific naturalist is spooked by anything that takes us beyond the limits of science; the more liberal or expansive naturalist is not. However, the typical expansive naturalist stops short of God. Understandably so, given his wish to avoid metaphysical flights of fancy, and given the assumption that such a move can be criticised on this score.

Yet what if his reservations in this context can be challenged in the way that he challenges the scientific naturalist’s reluctance to accept his own position? (The scientific naturalist thinks that McDowell’s values are just plain spooky, and McDowell challenges this complaint on anti-scientistic grounds.)

McDowell could object that the two cases are completely different – God is spooky in the way that value is not. Yet this response simply begs the question against the alternative framework at issue – a framework which challenges the assumption that God must be viewed in these pejorative terms.

The idea that there is a naturalism to accommodate God does not mean that God is simply part of nature – I am not a pantheist – but it does mean that the concept of the divine can already be understood as implicated in our understanding of nature, rather than being thought of as entirely outside it.

So I am rejecting deism to recuperate a form of theistic naturalism which will be entirely familiar to the Christian theist and entirely strange (and spooky) to the typical atheist who is a typical naturalist. McDowell is neither of these things – that’s why his position is so interesting.

The post How to naturalize God appeared first on OUPblog.

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10. Science in Poetry



Winter Bees: & Other Poems of the Cold
by Joyce Sidman
illustrated by Rick Allen
HMH Books for Young Readers, 2014

As I noted yesterday, J. Patrick Lewis' anthology title says it all: "Everything is a Poem." Today we'll look at science in poetry. Upcoming posts include nature, history, biography and imagination in poetry.

Joyce Sidman's Winter Bees is the perfect book to usher in this year's first Polar Vortex. Every day, compliments of the TV weather reporters, we are getting a science lesson in meteorology. Sidman's book will answer questions about how animals survive in the cold.

Each of the dozen poems, most about animals ranging in size from moose to springtail, but also including trees and snowflakes, is accompanied by a short sidebar of scientific information that expands the scope of this book to topics such as migration, hibernation, and the shape of water molecules, and introduces such delicious vocabulary as brumate, ectothermic, furcula, and subnivean.

The illustrations are simply gorgeous. You will want to spend as much time with them as you do savoring Joyce's poems. Watch out for that fox -- s/he wanders throughout the book!

As you and your students explore this book and Joyce's others, don't forget to check out Joyce's website. It is a treasure-trove for readers, writers, and dog lovers.


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11. Sweet thoughts

DSC_1672Little bee, no swerving from your line when you deliver the goods back home.

A busy place with no door but when you enter you still use your buzzer.

Then back again from flower to flower, collecting the pollen that gives you power.

It’s home again, little bundles carried to feed the Queen


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12. Justice

Justice is a matter of belief that fairness has won the day, that truth and honesty has prevailed …

But alas, Justice is only a perception that many times is corrupted by greed …JDMartRedRoadJustice11520142


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13. Maple & Willow Together – Perfect Picture Book Friday

Title: Maple & Willow Together Written and illustrated by: Lori Nichols Published by: Nancy Paulsen Books, Nov. 4th, 2014 Themes/Topics: sisters, sibling dynamics, making up Suitable for ages: 3-7 Fiction, 32 pages Opening: Maple and her little sister, Willow, were always together. … Continue reading

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14. Poetry Friday -- Shadow


Flickr Creative Commons Photo


Shadow

The shadow before me shimmers,
then waddles,
then has a white stripe
and a tail that's lifting
as I'm backing away
hands up
not a word.

I'm just a tall shadow
that will disappear as suddenly
as it appeared.

We both walk away
more wary,
changed.

© Mary Lee Hahn, 2014



Early morning walkers in our neighborhood can't afford not to be watchful.


Speaking of watching...I'll be watching for many of YOU at NCTE! I was going to try to plan an official Poetry Friday Meet-Up, but it's going to be a busy couple of days. Hopefully I'll see you at one or more of these Poetry and Poetry Friday Peeps' events:

THURSDAY: 
Elementary Section Get-Together where our very own Margaret Simon of Reflections on the Teche will be recognized as the Donald Graves writing teacher of the year!  4:30 PM - 6:00 PM in Gaylord National Resort, Maryland 1/2/3/A

SATURDAY:
NCTE Committee on Excellence in Children's Poetry is presenting a review of the 2014 Notable Poetry Books (2013 pub. date) 11:00 AM - 12:15 PM in Gaylord National Resort, National Harbor 12

Books for Children Luncheon with speaker Jacqueline Woodson. The 2014 NCTE Committee on Excellence in Children's Poetry will announce the children's poet who has been selected for the 2015 NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children 12:30 PM - 2:30 PM in Gaylord National Resort, Maryland C

CLA Master Class: Reading Poetry Across the Curriculum (roundtables hosted by Paige Bentley-Flannery, Jacqueline Jules, Heidi Mordhorst, and me; chairs/respondents include Laura Salas, Janet Wong, Sylvia Vardell, Tricia Stohr-Hunt, and Katie Button) 5:45 PM - 7:00 PM in Gaylord National Resort, Chesapeake J/K/L

SUNDAY:
Poem as Storyteller: Collaborating with Authors to Write Narrative Poetry (Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Irene Latham, Katie DiCesare, Ann Marie Corgill, Kathy Collins) 12:00 PM - 1:15 PM in Gaylord National Resort, Chesapeake 4/5



Diane has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Random Noodling this week.



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15. Congress of Crows

JDM_G_ConOcrows11420142

 

As they come together and chatter about this and that the world watches to see if they can really fly or are just a lot of noise …


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16. Welcome the Birds With Make-Your-Own Suet Cakes.

With days getting shorter and cooler, we often lament the coming of winter. When we move indoors it seems like we miss out on some of the creatures in the natural world.  But, you can have birds in your yard all winter long by spreading out seeds and suet to attract them.  Here’s Shiela Fuller’s recipe for HOMEMADE SUET:

HOMEMADE SUET for bird feeding

Feeding winter birds is a rewarding winter activity for adults and children. The general agreement is if you provide winter foods, you should also provide a water source and hiding places for protection from predators. This means, place your feeder near trees or bushes that give quick cover.
There are many different varieties of bird species to see right outside your window. Common seed eating varieties are the blue jay, tufted titmouse, and black capped chickadee. If you are lucky you might catch a glimpse of an Eastern towhee or yellow-rumped warbler passing through on migration. The insect eating winter birds such as the downy woodpecker, the red-bellied woodpecker, and the nuthatch especially enjoy suet.
Making your own healthy version of bird suet is so easy to do.

Gather the ingredients:
1. bacon fat (the leftover liquid fat after you’ve cooked it)-throughout the year collect the leftover fat in a jar and keep in your fridge.
2. rolled oats
3. peanut butter
4. dried fruits , nuts, and/or seeds
5. commercial bird seed
Process:
Combine one part bacon fat and peanut butter and melt in a saucepan. Add the additional ingredients to make a thick concoction.
Cool and pour into an empty box that give will your suet shape. A half gallon milk or juice carton is perfect for this.  Place in freezer.    suet photoWhen solid, peel back the carton and slice the cake into ONE INCH THICK pieces that you can insert into your suet feeder or hang from a wire basket.

Keep the remaining suet in the freezer until needed. Since this has no artificial preservatives, recommended use is at 38* F or colder.

It won’t be long before the birds will make your backyard their home.

Shiela Fuller has been a Cornell University Project Feeder Watch participant for many years and an avid birder since 1988. Currently, she enjoys writing picture books, yoga, chicken raising, wildlife photography, and is the legacy keeper for her family.


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17. There’s a Bug in my Blossom, by J.C. Donaho | Dedicated Review

J.C. Donaho is a photography hobbyist that has combined his career in animal welfare and biomedical research, to create an early reader book well suited for young naturalists.

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18. “Illegal” movement of populations

What’s on my mind?
Indigenous peoples and their worry about being over run by other populations I guess could sum it up.
I suppose if cougars, wolves, elephants and such learned to shoot guns or band together better they would kick out the human populations who have transgressed on their land but as people go I believe we need to understand the reason for others unlawfully entering areas already overpopulated.
Overpopulation where they come from, economic despair, greed, the making of money into a God and the lust for power over others seem to be good places to start .
Seems to me that as people from a planet with finite resources we need to try to make all places a good place to live so people want to stay where they are. Make everywhere a good place to be.
Sharing with others does not have to mean give away my happiness but it could mean helping you gain yours. I hope I can do that with more than one other and if we all did it for just two other people it would cure the problem in my mind at least.
Bee6720081_copy


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19. Sing like nothing else matters !

When you are feeling all alone, if you just sing out loud you may be surprised how many others will join in with you …JDMn6Birds62920141


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20. Author/Photographer Interview – Cat Urbigkit

About three years ago I saw Cat’s photos popping up regularly in my friend Terri Farley’s Facebook feed (Terri is a fabulous advocate for wild horses and a children’s author). I quickly friended Cat and look forward daily to her … Continue reading

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21. Shark Baby

Shark Baby
Author: Ann Downer
Illustrator: Shennen Bersani
Publisher: Sylvan Dell
Genre: Children / Animals
ISBN: 978-1-60718-6342
Pages: 32
Price: $9.95

Author’s website
Buy it at Amazon

Shark baby is snug in his egg case, tied to a strand of kelp, wondering what’s outside. But when a storm hits, the rough ocean waves break the case loose, tearing it slightly. Shark baby can now see where he is and who he is encountering as he drifts about. But now he has a new question – what kind of shark is he?

Shark Baby introduces children to the life cycle of a shark and shows them a variety of shark species. A discussion guide with questions is also provided for classroom use. This book would be a great resource for science lessons.

Reviewer: Alice Berger


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22. AUTUMN

This is the cover art for a book in an outdoor science series I did way back when...

The Wonderful Woods
Acrylic on watercolor paper
Steven James Petrucccio

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23. Fox's Garden



by Princesse Camcam
Enchanted Lion Books, 2014
review copy provided by the publisher

This newest book in Enchanted Lion's Stories Without Words series is magical and perfectly suited to being a wordless picture book -- it is the story of a fox who needs a safe place to give birth to her kits. 

The snowy nighttime scenes have the silence of secrecy as the fox moves towards a secluded house. She is chased by a woman and a man, but quietly observed by a boy as she finds shelter in the greenhouse. The boy brings her a gift but doesn't interfere. In the end, the fox repays the boy's kindness.

The quote opposite the title page captures the quietness of the story:

"On the fresh snow,
as in my heart,
footprints, traces."


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24. Trees Sing?

This is an article after my own heart.  Check it out: “If Trees Could Sing” http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/tennessee/if-trees-could-sing/index.htm?src=e.gpFiled under: Nature's design Tagged: benefits, conservation, nature, NatureConservancy, save, shade, trees

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25. Going inside to get a taste of nature

For many of us, nature is defined as an outdoor space, untouched by human hands, and a place we escape to for refuge. We often spend time away from our daily routines to be in nature, such as taking a backwoods camping trip, going for a long hike in an urban park, or gardening in our backyard. Think about the last time you were out in nature, what comes to mind? For me, it was a canoe trip with friends. I can picture myself in our boat, the sound of the birds and rustling leaves in the background, the smell of cedars mixed with the clearing morning mist, and the sight of the still waters in front of me. Most of all, I remember a sense of calmness and clarity which I always achieve when I’m in nature.

Nature takes us away from the demands of life, and allows us to concentrate on the world around us with little to no effort. We can easily be taken back to a summer day by the smell of fresh cut grass, and force ourselves to be still to listen to the distant sound of ocean waves. Time in nature has a wealth of benefits from reducing stress, improving mood, increasing attentional capacities, and facilitating and creating social bonds. A variety of work supports nature being healing and health promoting at both an individual level (such as being energized after a walk with your dog) and a community level (such as neighbors coming together to create a local co-op garden). However, it can become difficult to experience the outdoors when we spend most of our day within a built environment.

I’d like you to stop for a moment and look around. What do you see? Are there windows? Are there any living plants or animals? Are the walls white? Do you hear traffic or perhaps the hum of your computer? Are you smelling circulated air? As I write now I hear the buzz of the florescent lights above me, and take a deep inhale of the lingering smell from my morning coffee. There is no nature except for the few photographs of the countryside and flowers that I keep tapped to my wall. I often feel hypocritical researching nature exposure sitting in front of a computer screen in my windowless office. But this is the reality for most of us. So how can we tap into the benefits of nature in order to create healthy and healing indoor environments that mimic nature and provide us with the same benefits as being outdoors?

Crater_Lake_Garfield_Peak_Trail_View_East
Crater Lake Garfield Peak Trail View East by Markgorzynski. CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Urban spaces often get a bad rap. Sure, they’re typically overcrowded, high in pollution, and limited in their natural and green spaces, but they also offer us the ability to transform the world around us into something that is meaningful and also health promoting. Beyond architectural features such as skylights, windows, and open air courtyards, we can use ambient features to adapt indoor spaces to replicate the outdoors. The integration of plants, animals, sounds, scents, and textures into our existing indoor environments enables us to create a wealth of natural environments indoors.

Notable examples of indoor nature, are potted plants or living walls in office spaces, atriums providing natural light, and large mural landscapes. In fact, much research has shown that the presence of such visual aids provides the same benefits of being outdoors. Incorporating just a few pieces of greenery into your workspace can help increase your productivity, boost your mood, improve your health, and help you concentrate on getting your work done. But being in nature is more than just seeing, it’s experiencing it fully and being immersed into a world that engages all of your senses. The use of natural sounds, scents, and textures (e.g. wooden furniture or carpets that look and feel like grass) provides endless possibilities for creating a natural environment indoors, and encouraging built environments to be therapeutic spaces. The more nature-like the indoor space can be, the more apt it is to illicit the same psychological and physical benefits that being outdoors does. Ultimately, the built environment can engage my senses in a way that brings me back to my canoe trip, and help me feel that same clarity and calmness that I did on the lake.

On a broader level, indoor nature may also be a means of encouraging sustainable and eco-friendly behaviors. With more generations growing up inside, we risk creating a society that is unaware of the value of nature. It’s easy to suggest that the solution to our declining involvement with nature is to just “go outside”; but with today’s busy lifestyle, we cannot always afford the time and money to step away. Integrating nature into our indoor environment is one way to foster the relationship between us and nature, and to encourage a sense of stewardship and appreciation for our natural world. By experiencing the health promoting and healing properties of nature, we can instill individuals with the significance of our natural world.

As I look around my office I’ve decided I need to take some of my own advice and bring my own little piece of nature inside. I encourage you to think about what nature means to you, and how you can incorporate this meaning into your own space. Does it involve fresh cut flowers? A photograph of your annual family campsite? The sound of birds in the background as you work? Whatever it is, I’m sure it’ll leave you feeling a little bit lighter, and maybe have you working a little bit faster.

Image: World Financial Center Winter Garden by WiNG. CC-BY-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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