Welcome to a Jurassic swamp with dragons in the deeps and dinosaurs hiding in the grass. A child sits watching with open-eyed wonder. It’s the stuff of children’s fiction. But it’s real and better than any made up story or computer game. There are things going on in that garden mini pond that are guaranteed to catch the imagination of any child. Not least our granddaughter. Then all of a sudden, as if from nowhere, out crawls a monster breathing fire and looking fierce. What prehistoric creature is this?
Our knowledge tells us it’s a dragonfly nymph, but to our creative imagination it’s a new discovery of a real life ‘mini dragon’. No wonder that in such situations children are fully involved imagining themselves as explorers of the deeps. Just watch their faces when engaged in school gardening, in ‘forest schools’ and pond dipping. There’s no inattention here! All eyes are open and full of expectation as they explore a new outdoor world outside and beyond the school ‘curriculum’. This elemental hands-on contact with soil, water and damp vegetation, proves that we learn best by personal discovery.
Thank God for children’s creative imagination, they teach us all a lesson. If we parents and our schools have set up our youngsters for a life of imaginative exploration and adventure, learning about themselves in a wonder -filled world, newly discovered, then we have done them well. On this theme see my earlier post ‘Nature’s Classroom’
Where is our Creative Imagination?
A few years ago the National Geographic magazine had an article about an 81 year old guide in one of America’s famous national parks. After a busy day with tourists he was back at base sitting with a heavy heart. One of the tourists had said that since she had only one hour to spend in the park, what should she do and where should she go? The old park ranger replied:
’Dear lady, only an hour? If I had only an hour to spend in this wonderful park I would just walk over there by the river and sit down and cry!’
A sad story of an over-busy adult who has forgotten their childhood imagination and sense of wonder. Thank God for that park ranger. Would that we were all like him.
The Echo with new music in it.
In his poem ‘Personal Helicon’, the Northern Ireland poet Seamus Heaney described his childhood fascination with wells. He loved ‘messing about’ in the damp moss, fungi, slime and around the wells themselves with their sense of mystery. He recalls seeing the reflection of his own face in shallow wells, and of shouting down into deep wells and hearing his own echo coming back up to him, but ‘with a clean new music in it’. He had discovered something new about himself through his interaction with the natural world. Later in life, he sensed a call to be a poet against the dark background of the ‘troubles’ in Northern Ireland. These childhood experiences no doubt played their part in that ‘call’.
“Now, to pry into roots, to finger slime,
To stare, big-eyed Narcissus, into some spring
Is beneath all adult dignity. I rhyme
To see myself, to set the darkness echoing. “
From ‘Personal Helicon’
Young and old we all need to hear that childhood echo and discover that ‘clean new music’ coming to us as we explore and delight in the wonder of this natural world. We can then discover our ‘calling’ and seek to live so as to ‘set the darkness echoing‘ with light and hope.
Thank God for grandchildren and for the lessons they teach us. Building a mini-pond can be a pathway to adventure!