We can learn so much from children. When I say, “Stop, look and listen” I’m not talking about how to cross a road; I’m certain adults know more about that than children. No, I’m talking about something entirely different. Are you like me? Always so busy, rushing around, trying to cram as much into each day as you possibly can? A successful day is one when everything is ticked off on the long to-do list?
Children have an entirely different agenda, they see the world through completely different eyes. Today was a good reminder to me that we all need to slow down, stop, look and listen. We’re missing so much …
As you know, I love to run. I’ve explored lots of the local quiet roads, fields and footpaths. Today I set off with my three children and the dog to go up to Bluebell Woods. It’s quite a hike but at this time of year when the bluebells are out in force it’s worth the effort to see the purple carpet that covers the woodland floor. I knew we’d have to get a bit of a move on to get there and back in time for my son to get to his climbing lesson.
Striding out and leading the gang I was marching us all along the country lane which climbs up out of the village when my daughter who was meandering along at the back said, “Look at this mummy”. Retracing my steps and parting a leafy bush at the side of the road she’d found this:
We named her The Lady of the Woods. I don’t know how long she’s been there. I run along this road all the time but I’ve never spotted her. I’m usually thinking about the killer hill up ahead. She’s beautiful.
Next my son pointed down to the river and said, “I’ve never been down there”. With the heavy rain and floods earlier in the year, this section of the river has at times been so fast-flowing and dangerous that we’ve always just stayed away. This wasn’t part of the plan. We’d never get to Bluebell Woods if we diverted off there.
Suddenly I knew the right thing to do was abandon my plan, chill and let the children dictate what we did. So what if we didn’t make it to the wood? It was just a stunning morning to be out exploring.
We actually didn’t get more than a mile and a half away from our house but we had a really special walk. Following rarely trodden paths and at times, walking up stream along the dried up river bank.
Observant young eyes spotted these unusual markings on some rocks and we each had a theory about how they got there; fairy footprints was the best! I just saw rocks, they saw textures and shapes. They wanted to touch and feel and understand.
My climbing son spotted endless opportunities to hang off branches and found the perfect balancing activity for us all. I saw flood damage and trees, they saw adventure and a natural playground.
We explored a stone structure which is usually inaccessible in the middle of the river, we thought it was the remains of an old mill but a local told us on the way home that it was part of an old fish ladder.
We found a massive beetle floating in a rock pool. We heard, then found a wind chime hanging in the trees. Who knew you could play ‘name that tune’ with a single note?
Of course there was the usual river side activities of seeing whether you can throw a stone over to the other side and who can make the biggest splash. It was also the perfect place to just sit and ponder.
The smell from wild garlic leaves is over powering. I knew it was wild garlic, they wanted to pick it, tear it, rub it between their fingers and smell garlic bread. I recommend it; you’re transported to Italy with a nice glass of Chianti!
We made plans to start up a cottage industry making pesto. (Does anyone have a good recipe for wild garlic pesto?)
We never made it to the official Bluebell Woods but who cares. We found a wood with some bluebells and saw so much more than just the purple carpet we’d set off to find. My other plan for that perfect bluebell photo was scuppered by my child’s agenda!
It’s easy to get caught up with life. It’s also too easy to sweep up our kids in our own rushing and stressing. It’s refreshing to forget the deadlines, take time to just BE.
Exercising outdoors is brilliant for mental wellbeing but we can find ourselves head down, marching (or running!) along and not benefitting from all that’s around us. We jumped, twisted, turned, balanced, threw, hung, walked and laughed. A TOTAL body workout. We saw and discovered so much by just taking our time.
The inquisitiveness we had as a child takes some finding, it’s easily lost and we need to relearn how to spot the detail in natural beauty. How to forget everything else that’s going on in our lives for a short time. There’s no better teacher than a child. They do it naturally in their quest for knowledge. Be guided by them and just slow down, stop, look and listen.