This year was almost the year for us to go to Disneyworld.
My wife Carla has a professional conference in Orlando later this year, and so we had a little debate about whether it would be worthwhile for our family to piggy-back with mama and go to the land of mouse.
Around this same time, I read “The Man Who Planted Trees” by Jim Robbins. It’s the book I’ve discussed in my last two blog posts. If you couldn’t tell, I was more than a little inspired by the story of David Milarch and in small part this led to our decision to forgo taking a trip to Disneyworld for at least another year.
Thank You, Jim Robbins! Your book has just messed up my children’s lifelong dream of going to Disneyworld!
Reading the Robbins book, I really wanted to take a trip to visit some of our local forests and have the opportunity to enjoy nature with our kids. Moreover, given the expense of going to Disneyworld, we thought it would be a much better investment for us to take a summer trip to the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
Yeah, forests and trees have been on my mind lately.
This past Monday, I had a dentist appointment. After the appointment, I was waiting to be picked up by Carla and I couldn’t help but notice the trees around my dentist office. There was a huge tree next to a nearby school. I was standing on the sidewalk and a passing lady looked at me with a puzzled expression. She looked at me and then looked in the direction I was facing.
“What are you looking at?”
“Just looking at the tree,” I responded.
The young lady looked at me as if I was slightly unhinged.
“Yeah, I’m looking at that tree that’s probably been there for the last 50+ years, as if it just appeared out of thin air.”
This is all to say that it’s easy for us to busily go about our business, immersed in our agendas and plans without really taking a look at the world around us. We truly see the forest without seeing the trees. In this particular instance, I must have seen that tree countless times, but it took me reading a book, for me to really look at this tree and see that it was wonderful looking old fellow.
Sometimes it’s good to slow down and take the air out of my tires, if only because this forces me to take a look around. Many times, I’m pushing and trying to force things in my life, instead of seeing those things God is trying to do right here and now. There are wonders in my backyard. I don’t need to go several hundred miles away to visit some artificial fantasyland, when there is real beauty right here.
3. Spend 5 minutes in nature where you can only see things that are God-made, not man-made.
6. Purchase seeds for a vegetable garden, patio garden, or indoor herb garden.
14. Turn table scraps into nutrient-rich soil by starting a compost pile. Live in the city? Investigate a worm composter or solar cone.
21. Plant a tree. Trees clean the air, provide shade, and beautify the landscape.
For the purpose of this post, I’ve just included those Lenten exercises focusing specifically around the environment. I would definitely recommend going over Sleeth’s other ideas as well.
The Sleeth post reminds me how I need simplicity to bring me back to the present. I need simplicity to cut away the crap and let me see what God is doing in the here and now. I need simplicity to understand how the small choices I make each day can make a difference.
One of the challenges for me is to translate this desire for simplicity and these moments of inspiration for my girls.
In keeping with this desire to pay more attention to slow down and pay attention to the world around me, I went to our local library and brought home a bagful of books. One of the books the girls enjoyed the most was Tell Me Tree: All About Trees for Kids by Gail Gibbons. This book is a great introductory primer for small children on the world of trees. I can honestly say it’s great, because when I tried reading this book to my girls, they were actually attentive and very engaged (a rare enough occurence which makes me take notice). It also led into a broader discussion on the trees around our neighborhood.
One of the great things about the Gibbons book is that it offers some suggestions for making your own tree identification book. It seems like a great and fun idea for the kids. A tree book would be especially appropriate for my girls. Johanna would probably enjoy drawing pictures of the different trees. Both girls would embrace the idea of pressing leaves and making both leaf and bark rubbings. Keeping in mind that my girls are litttle hoarders and with a little encouragement they would probably bring every rock and twig they found into the house.
Unfortunately, with New England deep in winter, our tree identification book might need to wait. Leaf rubbings can be difficult when you don’t have leaves. One the other hand, maybe we can just start off with the conifers.
The above song is ”C is for Conifers” by They Might Be Giants. Note all of the names of the different types of conifers in the song. Sadly there is no song entitled “D is for Deciduous”.