Getting Children Back Outdoors

When today’s older adults were young, most children spent as much time as they could playing outside. However in recent years, with the popularity of electronic media and parents’ fears for children’s safety, this has changed. Our children are becoming indoor creatures. And this brings many problems in its wake.

In his book Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv identified a phenomenon we all knew existed but couldn’t quite articulate: nature-deficit disorder.

Louv cites research to show that all manner of childhood problems, especially those labelled ADD, ADHD etc. show remarkable improvement with even low level exposure to green, outdoor spaces such as parks.

Since its initial publication, Last Child in the Woods has created a national conversation about the disconnection between children and nature, and his message has galvanized an international movement.

Louv’s second book The Nature Principle, revisited this theme, but in a wider sense, in that it examined the deficits in our own adult lives and our adult psyches when we try to remove ourselves too far from the natural world and spend the bulk of our lives in human-built environments.

Louv’s website, with full details of his books and other writings may be found on his website at: http://richardlouv.com/

Another initiative which is rapidly gaining popularity worldwide is the concept of forest schools, where children spend a certain proportion of their school day out of doors.

See: http://www.forestschools.com/

See also: ‘Playing Outside’

and How We Connect with the Earth

 

Playing Outside

by Marian Van Eyk McCain

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A friend’s six-year-old son had one of his friends to stay. The two little boys were playing out in the yard when suddenly, from behind the hedge, came the loud crowing of a rooster. The visitor screamed in terror. “What was that?” he cried.
“It’s just a rooster,” said my friend’s child, quite perplexed at his little mate’s reaction.
“What’s a rooster?” the friend asked.
The little boy stared at him in amazement. “It’s a boy chicken, silly. Don’t you know anything about chickens?” The other one shook his head.
“Come on then, I’ll show you.”
He took his mate next door to see the chickens, but it was obvious that the other boy was intensely uncomfortable about the experience. He didn’t relax until they were both safely indoors again.

It might seem amazing to us that a child could have reached the age of six without ever having encountered chickens. But sadly, more and more children are becoming indoor dwellers.

Where most people my age recall spending as much time as we could outside when we were kids, climbing any tree we could find, capturing beetles in matchboxes like Christopher Robin, and making mud pies, today’s youngsters are more likely to be found inside, staring into an electronic screen.

A study in the USA some years ago revealed that while the average American can identify fewer than ten types of plants, he or she recognizes hundreds of corporate logos. The same is probably true anywhere in the world that the modern, consumer culture has taken over hearts and minds. In just a couple of generations, our Western societies have turned their kids from children of nature to children of mass culture. To me, this is child abuse of the worst kind.

In their book Affluenza, authors John deGraaf, David Wann and Thomas Naylor, write:

Thirty-four percent of Americans polled in 2000 rank shopping as their favorite activity, while only seventeen percent prefer being in nature. The Las Vegas Strip is ranked as the number one ‘scenic drive’ in the country. One fourth-grader, asked if he preferred to play indoors or outdoors, replied,’ Indoors, ’cause that’s where the electrical outlets are.’ Another child poked a stick at a dead beetle, commenting to her friend that the insect’s batteries must have run out. On a field trip to trace the source of their drinking water, inner city New York middle school kids were spooked by the cool, starry darkness and crescendo of silence in the Catskills.”

One of the authors recalls helping a college student to plant a garden. She confided in him that until that time she had always thought that potatoes grew on trees.

It is no good leaving it to our educational institutions to remedy this situation. The schools themselves are becoming infected with the same malady, as the corporate world makes deeper and deeper inroads into classrooms, creating curriculum materials with commercial messages, attaching commercial strings to financial gifts, and so on. There are powerful vested interests in turning us and our children – particularly our children – away from the natural world and towards an increasingly artificial, sick, dumbed-down world of consumerism, working, getting and spending.

Besides, even an interested child tends to feign cynical disinterest in anything unfashionable in front of his or her peers. And Nature is unfashionable right now. Virtual reality is in. Real reality is out. Pop stars are cool, stars in the night sky are boring. There’s no money to be made from breaking off a willow branch and making your own bows and arrows, or hunting for birds’ nests and watching the babies hatch. A rooster is a fast food logo, not a natural noise from next door’s garden.

What to do?

I take heart, as always, from the writings of Paul Shepard. He reminds us that we carry in our every cell the genes of hundreds of generations of hunter-gatherer ancestors who lived their lives totally immersed in the rhythms of nature. This artificial civilization we have created is still only skin-deep. To re-awaken the natural child, in ourselves or in another, especially a little person, takes only a touch. But it must come from us – the parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, big brothers and sisters. And it is really important that we find a way to do it.

So get out there. Turn off TV and go and play outside. Take a little person (or your own, inner Child) for a walk this week. Or better still, a camping trip. Lie in the grass, climb trees, peer into the creek. Have a picnic. Listen to the birds. Make daisy chains. Re-connect. And if you hear a funny noise behind the hedge – just go and look. There’s nothing to be scared of.

‘The Story of Creation’ by Christa Muths

Once upon a time there were 5 siblings who lived in the middle of the universe right amongst all those millions of stars with whom they liked to play.  Light was the first-born daughter and the other 4 siblings were quadruplets and were called: Fire, Water, Earth and Air. Their father was Matter and their mother Vacuum and thus all five siblings had like all other children traits of their father and their mother.

The father, Matter, was made up of very tiny particles, the atoms. All Atoms have a minute nucleus and around it move equally little energy particles, called electrons. Mother on the contrary, who was Vacuum, the void  was a totally empty space. And although the parents were complete opposites, they got on very well and enjoyed their children very much.

Muths1The children were very lively and curious. Of course they had such an enormous playing field, in which they could let off steam: our cosmos, the universe. Air was blowing stars across the room so that some stars actually shot right across the universe and left a long tail behind, similar to the air tail behind airplanes in the sky. Fire was creating new stars which consisted only of fire, like our sun and other stars. Earth enjoyed  throwing about  large rocks which flew across the universe as meteorites, which created huge craters when they hit another star. But Earth also created new stars or planets when some stars collided.Water sent rain everywhere and because of the icy coldness in the universe it was in charge of the comets’ tail. Light was playing with all objects and was responsible for dark and light, as well as for light and shadow.
Our adventurous five discovered new games all the time and caused a lot of mischief and did many silly things so that sometimes stars crashed into each other. Then there was an enormous bang and huge dust clouds covered whole galaxies. Sometimes galaxies were covered in dust for many years,  there was fog everywhere. Even Light could not shine through, so was unable to do much about it. Occasionally stars  exploded when they collided and the sound of the explosion roared and raged across the universe, even father Matter and mother Vacuum  got really scared, because the huge sound waves shook everything including both parents.

One day, when the children were playing again and had caused yet another collision followed by an enormous roaring, huge sound wave disturbed mother and father in their afternoon nap. That’s it, finally  the parents had enough and were totally fed up.

Fire, Water, Earth, Air , Light!!!!!!! Come here at once, they shouted and their voices roared across the universe like huge thunder. Our Five knew at once that this time they had gone too far and they came back to their parents very quietly, eating humble pie, in order to avoid more trouble.Muths2
There was a huge blow up and father threatened severe punishment: next time if ever they were to cause such a huge noise and destruction of a whole galaxy, they would be grounded, meaning the universe would become a forbidden zone! If they ever caused as much noise and destruction again that would mean being grounded for several thousand years. Their playground would just be a small part of the universe a play pen within the universe which would be so small that they would be unable to do any more mischief to the remaining universe.

Suddenly our Five became very quiet indeed, never had they seen mother and father so angry. They went with their heads down knowing full well that they had to be good from now on.

Quietly they discussed what to do next in order to make up for the stress they had caused their parents. In fact they were not bad children and had a good heart. Sometimes they were a little bit frolicsome and playful and overlooked the consequences of their actions. They did not really mean to destroy anything or harm anyone.

Although the Five were very mischievous, they were also very helpful and did a lot of good deeds.

Suddenly they had an idea: they wanted to create something new, no, not what you are thinking now  — making a cake to sweeten the parents, but to create a new star of their own. To our five children of the universe  Fire, Water, Earth, Air  and Light creating a new star, would be like you and me making a new cake or preparing breakfast for the angered parents. Yes, they wanted to create a new star which was just like themselves. This new star should have new life which would also consist of Fire, Water, Earth, Air and Light. They wanted their new star to be a mirror of themselves, the way they lived, played and worked together and also a reflection of their personalities.Muths3

In unity together they stormed like a vortex through the cosmos, to find a suitable place where the new star would feel at home. And because they just stormed and raced across the universe without thinking, they sort of “overstormed” and suddenly they had lost their way. Totally confused  they stopped helplessly somewhere in the universe and had no idea how to get back. They were afraid that their parents would miss them,  and they would be grounded again. Even Light was scared and loosing its shine more and more; Water cried tears of despair; Earth bored herself deeper in the ground and became more and more rigid; Fire was spitting and hissing, flared and flickered angrily but mainly because of helplessness. Air flapped and stormed up and down, up and down, just like a hurricane running in circles.However, they lost all their energy after a while, had no more strength and were in despair and felt very lonely and lost, despite being together. Light gained its courage and strength back first and said to the others: we need to tackle the problem differently. We just stormed out into the universe without thinking straight, we had no clear thoughts or plan, we just rushed out in the blue and far to further a field as we should have dared and without realising where we went.  I will now send a ray of light to our parents Vacuum and Matter to let them know that we are fine and will be back soon. I am sure you all know that light travels within the speed of our thoughts.

That being said and done, now they were more relaxed and considered what to do. And suddenly the quadruplets Water, Fire, Earth and Air had a brilliant idea: what was actually missing was an orientation system, something like a map of the universe. No wonder, they had been lost, or “over stormed”, there was simply no orientation points whatsoever.

Talking together they tried to retrace their steps, how they raced, how they got to where they were now. The next step was to  develop a kind of orientation system, a kind of map for the universe. They sat together and each placed themselves in their own centre, they looked ahead, behind, right, left, above and below and suddenly they had the solution:  – using the connection from their own centre to develop a sense of the four directions NORTH, SOUTH, EAST and WEST in relation to themselves and each other. They also used the two other directions: ABOVE and BELOW. By doing this they were able to develop a seven point orientation system in the whole universe.

And from that moment on every place in the universe had a seven pointed orientation system.

Now the Five went home to their parents, now they knew that how to get home they could relax from the hard work and adventure of their universe storming. During the next days and weeks they discussed what their newly created star would need to enable life to survive.

Soon they found all the answers: the new star needed a lot of light and warmth so it should be close to a star that radiated enough light and energy, but not to much. It needed sufficient light, as well as times of darkness, so that all creatures living on the new star could relax and restore their energy and have a sufficient rest. It needed earth so that the creatures could walk on it, find their habitat and rest and sleep. Water was necessary so that all water creatures could survive and be happy in their habitat. Water would provide nutrition for all. Air was also necessary so that all creatures could breath; and air could carry earth, sand and water across the star. Also, they planned creatures being able to live in the air. Fire’s responsibility was to provide warmth and to give light in the dark, to burn old material to make space for new growth and also to nourish the creatures.

After that our Five took off again, to find a suitable place for their new star. They found it right next to our sun, it gave enough warmth and energy for the star to be able to survive but there was also enough distance so that no creature got burned.

When the energy vortex of fire, water, air, earth  and light had reached this place, they blew all together with all their power and strength to send energy into this place: Air blew and blew and formed the sky; Earth created the continents and the mountains; Water was everywhere and created the oceans and the rivers; Fire spit its energy like a firework in the whole area and also created the inner core of the new star. Light spread everywhere and created day and night, light and shadow.Muths4
There was actually much more work involved to create our lovely star Earth then they had imagined at firstDuring this time of creation they got tired and needed some rest. Thus they talked it over and decided to set up a rota, so that nobody was too exhausted. This was the first time in the history of the universe that beings worked in cooperation and developed a rota.

Light being the oldest sister had had more experience and therefore more responsibility but was supported by all the quadruples.

Slowly the new star was created and as he rotated around another star, our sun, it became a planet: so in fact our planet earth was the result of a project which Fire, Water, Earth, Air and Light had wanted to do together in order to appease their parents Matter and Vacuum.

Eventually our five siblings whizzed back home to relax, exhausted but at the same time full of joy and happiness about the creation of their new planet.

After they had recovered from their stressful work and were full of energy again, they invited their parents on a day-out to see their new planet. Now it was easy to find their way as remember, the universe now had a seven point orientation system: their own  centre, the four directions, we call East, South, West and North and also the below and above.

The parents Matter and Vacuum were thrilled to bits about their children’s idea. They were very proud indeed. They were especially proud that their children had worked together in a team and had sorted out all occurring problems themselves.

But now there was the small matter of actually designing planet earth in such a manner that it was possible for all creatures to live upon it . Again the siblings  had a meeting and discussed this issue together. And because each one of them was very innovative and full of ideas they created their own playmates:

Light gave life all colours and with water as rain and air to the rainbow.

Water created oceans, rivers, lakes, creeks and ponds.

Earth created continents, landscapes. mountains, trees and plants.

Fire formed the magna of the core of the earth and provided the warmth for us.

Air created winds, storms as well as high and low pressure of the different atmospheric levels and after another meeting with it’s sisters and brother, they created our famous weather, including storms and weather. You see, lightening is also a child of Fire.

Now they needed a longer break before they were able to tackle their last project to make all creatures and life forms on earth.

The creatures of Water are the fishes, the creatures of Air are the birds, the creatures of Earth are us humans and animals, the creatures of Fire are the little fire devils, dancing merrily and happy around all burning fires.

As you can see now: all living beings on earth were created in the image of our five siblings: for all of us need air and oxygen in our bodies, so that it can work and function. We have water in our blood and loose water by excretion and perspiring. We need fire to be able to digest.

Yes, we even have earth in our body: all our little cells contain earth and it is also part of our blood. The red colour of our blood (haemoglobin) is  related to the green colour (chlorophyll ) of the leaves of trees and all plants.

Light, the older sister of our Five carries all information with ultra speed throughout our bodies  from one place to another. All this happens much quicker than we can imagine.

The Five had so much fun and joy creating our planet and its creatures. The sun heats up the water which evaporates into the atmosphere and returns as rain, snow or hail and waters depending on the season and it will therefore water all land and all continents. Rivers flow through the earth just like arteries and veins in our body.

Earth is providing food for all small creatures, plants that live on her as our cells provide us with food in our body. All our cells have an important part in providing us with energy. Mountains and caves also protect us, should one of the other elements become too boisterous, for instance during catastrophes.

Fire burns old material so new can grow from the ashes, just like the digestive fire helps in our body to burn the food we have eaten.

Air helps us to breathe so we can survive. Blood transports oxygen, as well as nutrients to all the appropriate places.

Light carries all information within a flash from one place to another and we need light, given to us by the sun, for our body to function.

Therefore, we have therefore characteristics from all five siblings and their parents Matter and Vacuum in us and are thus are all part of fire, water, earth, air and light. Therefore we are all connected to each other, even if some of us may lack a little bit too much of one element or have too much of another.

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Yes, we are the children of Light, the elements and Matter and Vacuum are our grandparents. They are our ancestors and at the same time exist in ourselves now.

Each one of us is a miracle and an expression of the mutual creation of all elements and Light on the base of Matter and Vacuum and because we all have the characteristics of our parents and ancestors in us, we can live our lives creatively.

All this goes hand in hand with a cycle: as below so above.

All creatures on or planet have therefore a spark of the original-creators Matter and Vacuum. Each living being which vanishes returns its elements and energy into the big cycle of creation and passing,  which again creates new life of Matter and Vacuum, Light, Air, Water, Earth and Fire.

The rainbow is not only very special to us, but also to the siblings. Whenever they are very happy about their work or want us to be happy, they all get together and form a rainbow to make us dream and smile.

Like our creators, we need to smile and dream to be happy. In many dreams during our sleep we can remember where we come from. Therefore our dreams aid us to stay in touch with our creators. Thus dreams assist us to understand ourselves and support us also do understand the world and therefore we are able to find our own way.

Smiles are also important because they give us joy and make our heart laugh. The rainbow itself looks like a smile and radiates the joyful energy of a smile out to the world so that we can radiate like a rainbow and smile at the world.

 

 

Review of Pullman’s ‘Northern Lights’ trilogy, by Jean Hardy


AALittNorthernLightsPhilip Pullman: Northern Lights 1995. The Subtle Knife 1997. The Amber Spyglass 2000.
All published by Scholastic Children’s Books.

I’ve always loved some children’s books – the Earthsea trilogy (Ursula le Guin): Penelope Lively: C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series. But finding Philip Pullman’s trilogy just before Christmas has been the greatest experience yet. At their best, adults write for children with an imagination, warmth, often spirituality, which contrasts with the bleakness of much grownup fiction. The many accolades for this prizewinning trilogy stress that it is for people of 8 to 80 (why stop there?), and it has certainly kept me completely hooked over this winter. As one critic, Francine Stock, says: “this is classified as children’s fiction, but it is as uncompromising and passionate as writing gets”.
It is partly the sheer scale and quality of Pullman’s imagination. There are many parallel Universes in his world. Lyra, the heroine (and she truly is one), finds her way into another world in her search to defeat her father’s cruel work: “so Lyra and her daemon turned away from the world they were born in, and looked toward the sun, and walked into the sky” . But they subsequently discover the Subtle Knife of the second book, which can cut through into any different universe its owner wants it to. The inhabitants of the many realities live in worlds within worlds of their own – the millions of Witches and thousands of Angels can move through barriers at will: the Gallivespians of the third book are tiny , spurred, highly mobile creatures who are professional spies: the armoured bears of the first book, whose leader Iorek Brynison is Lyra’s great friend, live in the northern areas of the earth and are truly formidable: the mulefa community are a benign group who are diamondshaped, wheeled, and have trunks and appear later in the story. These are just some of the glorious creative variety of beings co-existing in the different spheres.
The story is a spiritual journey in the classic tradition – a search for an understanding of the evil underlying our present situation, and for its remedy. In the third book Lyra and her friend Will journey to the land of the dead – a Hell quite as frightening as Dante’s Inferno. There is also a numinosity to the books, a sense of spirit, and an acceptance of soul. In the very first line, Lyra appears in her world in Oxford (but rather different from our Oxford) with her daemon. Everyone has a daemon in her world. Hers is called Pantalaimon: he was born with her and will die with her, and never go far from her. He is her life’s companion. If they are separated by force, they will both die, at least in spirit. He can take many different shapes to express the circumstances they are in, and to aid her. With his presence she is never lonely. Each person has a deep connection to soul. And with this, for Lyra, comes a lifelong sense of work to be done – a Great Work.
Pullman is wonderful at fear and terror. He doesn’t shirk anything. He really looks at the pits of experience. He is also a very lyrical writer, with great appreciation of beauty, truth, courage and stoicism. The books are about ways of seeing, different kinds of knowledge, and a recognition of how spirit could be recognised by all.
We begin to find out through the books that there is an old Authority who ran the world, but he has run out of steam, though he is still supported by many significant forces with Inquisitorial weapons who are persecuting people from a very Calvinist sense of evil. Old religion is seen as a very different form from spirituality. Lyra’s separated and frightening, very powerful parents, play strong different roles in this fight between Wholeness and Division, Love and Hate, Biodiversity and Sameness, Heaven and Hell, Compassion and Cruelty, Original Blessing and Original Sin. However, Lyra, on the edge of adulthood, with her friends, is the person who must make the journey and the choices that are necessary to save all the universes from destruction.
In his final acknowledgements, Pullman cites Milton’s Paradise Lost and William Blake. A work of this quality has to have great inspiration. I also found great resonances with my favourite Dante’s Divine Comedy and Dante’s journey (with his ‘daemon’ Vergil) through Hell, Purgatory and Paradise. I do feel that Pullman has written a true myth for the early 21st century, using modern physics and technology, a great sense of our time, wide reading, and a huge gift of story-telling. It is altogether 1288 pages of real enjoyment and involvement: what more, for an avid reader, could you want?
I was disappointed in the two Harry Potter books I have read. J.K.Rowling has many great skills, particularly in naming and in action. She also has a great sense of evil and different realities. But, for me, there isn’t much soul in her work. I find Philip Pullman’s trilogy light-years on from this, as his vision is truly conceived and inspiring, maintaining a strong and gripping storyline through the diverse realities of hell and paradise in many forms. For me, it feels like what it is to live now.
Jean Hardy.

‘The Mossman’ by Christa Muths

THE MOSSMAN

Since the moment of his birth the Mossman knew only laughter. “Look at the greenness of my coat and the softness of my fur. Sink your hands into my cool, moist carpet. Everywhere in these woods you’ll see me, want to touch me and feel my mossy embrace.”

 As the moss expanded, the Mossman roared with delight. You could see him all over the woods – on rocks, on trees and hiding in shady pathways. Until…. One day  a man approached the Mossman’s special rock and detached what he thought was a twin-pronged stick lying below it, and touching the Mossman himself.

 “Just what I need in my shack. It’ll look good in my kitchen and I can hang mugs on it.”

 What the man didn’t know, was that the stick was the Mossman’s Power Generator, with its prongs conducting power from the Secret Source that gives life to all things. With this stick removed, the Mossman began to lose energy, and his gigantic grin started to fade. The end of the Mossman, and therefore the moss that has covered much of planet Earth loomed ominously.

But, miracle of miracles, as the man left his shack the next day, the Mossman’s ecstatic laughter could be heard rolling around the woods. Once more the rivulets, dancing their way down to the Great Lake, shouted their defiance:

  “You’ll never catch us Mossman, no matter how much you laugh.” At which the Mossman laughed so much that he nearly detached himself from the Power Generator!

And on a branch, above the stream, sat a giggling squirrel munching on some nuts, and yelling taunts at the man, as he passed by:

“You can take the stick, old man, but I’ll always steal it back. The Mossman will always hide my food for me, so long as I keep the Power Stick stuck his belly!”

‘A Fable for Our Time’ by Christa Muths, with pictures by Birk Bristow, aged 13

fable1A FABLE FOR OUR TIME

It was Sunday afternoon. The sun was slowly disappearing towards the horizon. People were going home to eat and prepare themselves for a new week and Oakie, the giant oak tree stood alone, thoughtfully looking across the huge meadow, the little lake on the horizon and the small forest on the other side of him and at the trees in the graveyard opposite.

He watched the people packing their bags and their blankets and moving out of the Common in all directions, back to their cars. He noticed the litter they had left and the mess.

Car fumes were reaching Oakie, first a small trickle of fumes but then the smell and amount of fumes became heavier and thicker. Oakie started coughing and shook himself as much as he could to shake the smell and dirty smoke and soot off of his leaves. Being sooo huge he caught a lot of  the soot and other stuff which otherwise would have fallen down on smaller trees and bushes and onto the ground.

While he was still shaking himself, small trees and bushes near him complained loudly. “Oakie!”, they cried, “will you stop it?! We can’t breathe and it smells so awfull!”

“What do you want me to do?” Oakie said, “just  put up with it all? I just get so much because I am so big and tall. I can’t put up with it all alone!” And he kept on shaking himself, just like a dog when it comes out of the water.

Suddenly there was a chorus of indignation from all sides: foxes complained loudly about the smell and the fumes blinding their vision, squirrels, rabbits, badgers and all sorts of animals joined in the chorus of complaining. Even the insects stood still and joined in, as they also had problems breathing properly when hit by the fumes. The birds rested on Oakie and other trees around and told stories of how the fumes affected even their surroundings and lives. The seagulls were the most angered and cried out again and again how the fumes of the humans’ cars are even affecting the sea air. Some seagulls who had been flying out with big containerships reported that it was much better far out on the sea, but no other animal could go so far out. So they talked about how fresh the air out on the seas was, how blue the sky and how wonderfully clear the nights were.

Oakie was dumbstruck by all the complaining and unhappiness of the animals. So he called them all to join with him and together try to find a solution to the problem: how to make the humans aware of their problems, their unhappiness, and the difficulties in their lives, that the humans caused.

Serpy, the only surviving snake of the common was the last one to arrive. She also listened to what everybody had to say and said with a very sad voice: “I understand all your complaints, but at least you have many, many relatives or friends of your own kind left! I am totally alone here now.” And a few tears rolled down on either side of her eyes.

There were a few seconds of silence and sympathy for the snake..

Even the owl, a nocturnal animal, felt the unusual atmosphere. It woke her up before normal waking time. When she saw what was happening on the common, she informed her night friends, the bats. So they all joined the circle.

After Serpy, the snake had spoken Oaky said thoughtfully: “These humans are only a few compared to all of us. How could we have allowed them to become so powerful and to destroy our environment?”

“Oh, that’s easy!” said the speaker for the aggressive foxes “We did not fight them! You are all cowards, well most of you. Only some poisonous spiders or snakes take on humans and maybe some wild or angry dogs. But here we do not have any poisonous snakes anymore, so there are just a few spiders and some dogs left. We are just too peaceful to attack them. I think we should change our tactics and find a way to destroy them. Why not? That’s what they do to us! What goes around comes around. So the humans will only get what they already deserve!”

The speaker for the clever rats said: “I second the idea! What a brilliant move! We have to find a way to give them our diseases, so that these will spread and they will all be die! Hehehehehehehehe, and we will the feasts of our lives!”, he laughed and was very pleased with himself being so clever.

The speaker for the spiders spoke out: “Well, we can travel very fast and far a field with the wind. We need many, many poisonous spiders here to sting them, so that they die; well at least most of them. Let’s get on and do it.” Spiders are very practical insects, they like to go ahead and do it

The seagull speaker also talked about the plight of the fishes in the sea and at that point the fishes in the lake joined in. Fishes have a communication system with their relatives in the big seas, rivers and oceans: they communicate through the water of the rivers and the rain. All water drops bring with them information from where they have been and the fishes can understand it. Trees too use a communication system. They communicate through the rain and also the wind and even the insects bring them news. Even stones communicate with each other, so the whole animal and plant world, even the mineral world have ways of letting each other know what is happening around them.

fable2
The biggest communicator of all is, however, light. All rays of light can tell stories about where they have been. So the whole of nature takes part in a giant communication system to inform each other. Humans used to be part of it too, but far too many of us lost this talent.  So most of us humans are now separated from this huge communication system of nature.

The stones also complained about the fumes, which stick to them and make them slippery, smelly and looking much darker and ugly. The stones said it feels like being covered with a dark, smelly and disgusting coat. ”Uuuuuuuuuugh!”, they trembled with disgust and anger. The speaker for the stones told stories of other stones being to built huge big buildings which give off even more fumes.

Some trees which stood a bit further away had been communicating with tree friends in their area, these trees talked of even bigger buildings with some parts reaching very high up in the sky and spitting out yellow and white fumes. The birds confirmed the story.

Every speaker from every species complained in anger, or disappointment. All species were very unhappy about the actions of the humans. All were sad and some deep in despair.

The owl and the bats complained about the artificial lights at night and how it made their lives and finding food at night so much more difficult.

The seagulls suggested that birds should eat through all the powerlines to cut them and than there would be no more artificial light at night.

The lake reported on the pollution of all the waters and suggested that with the help of rain, the rivers should overflow all the land and in the process all humans would simply drown.fable3

The speaker for the seagulls, Gully, got very irritated and said: “Lake, don’t be stupid! There would be far too many dead bodies. That would mean all the waters in the world would be poisoned and would in turn poison all the fishes. And then we birds would have a no food! You Lake, being the home of fishes should be aware of that! What’s gotten into your head?” And angrily he flew up and down making loud and strong noises of disappointment about the lake’s suggestion. His seagull mates joined him in his protest and everybody in the group became restless and even more unhappy.

The more all the complaining grew and became stronger, the more silent Oakie became. Suddenly the wind got angry too, picking up all the unhappiness of the trees and plants, all the animals and even the rocks and crystals and blew it out all over the world. The rain joined in and there were rainstorms, hurricanes and tornados everywhere howling: The humans have to go! The humans are destroying us! The humans have to go! We must make the humans go! Forever!

Oakie called out very loudly to everyone to calm down and to continue with the debate sensibly. He turned to wind and rain and said angrily: “Stop that nonsense at once! You are not helping! Please support us all to find a solution.” The wind was quite shocked that such a small tree (speaking in wind-terms) had the courage to tell him off. The rain started laughing, he was always up for every mischief and said, bowing to the tree: “Yes, Oakie, I will do! I prefer to rain happily and jollily anyway”, and stopped immediately.

But still they all talked about how to defend themselves and how  to attack the humans. After everybody had given their ideas of how to punish the humans and get rid of them for good, the snake Serpy stood up, raised her head up so far, that even the furthest animal and tree could see her and feel her presence and said thoughtfully: “Do we really want to destroy them, all of them? Look friends, that is not realistic! How can we do that? They have been controlling the world for a while now. There will always be some survivors left. Look at me! I am the only survivor of my species here in this area.

Do we really want that kind of fate happening to the humans? All the humans? Not all humans are bad! Some really help us! Some even understand us and speak with us! So how do we make sure we are not killing the wrong ones?”

The snake sighed in sorrow about the troubles of the world.

After she had spoken, there was a silence. Even the aggressive foxes stood silent and were thoughtful, the spiders sat quietly in their nets, the squirrels sat on their back legs, the upper ones folded in front of them, even the wind who was now quietly listening in was thoughtful.

“What on earth can we do with the human race?”, everybody thought in despair.

Just at this very moment, a human family with two children, who had taken shelter under the trees of the graveyard moved out of their shadows into the open field of the common. The two younger children 7 and 11 years of age saw immediately the congregation of animals and they felt that something was different. They stopped their parents and held their hand up them for them to stand still and wait.

Oakie looked sadly at the family and then said to the others: “Well? Do you really want to kill all humans? Look at the children, how sweet and innocent they look and they are even aware that something is different here.”

“Forget it”, said the Foxie, the speaker of the foxes, “they soon become adults, you are too soft Oakie! Believe me, these innocent looking kids loose their innocence once they have been to school for a few years.”

The father wanted to continue walking but the mother stopped and said: “We cannot interfere here. Our children are right. Let’s turn back and go home.” The children protested. They wanted to stay and wait and watch.  Well, deep down they wanted to join the group. So the family stood in silence and waited.

Blacky, the huge raven, knew the children. In winter times he and his mates had been fed very often by this family. They had a big garden and fed the birds throughout the winters. Blacky thought for a bit and than took off and flew near the family. He turned to the children and said: “Thank you for feeding us during the winters.” The young girl Sophie understood what Blacky was saying and told her brother Mark. The parents overheard what she said and stood there in total surprise.

“What you are all doing all over there?”, asked Sophie.

“Well”, said Blacky, “dealing with complaints.” He did not know how to explain to Sophie with what kind of complaints they were dealing.

“Complaints about what?” Sophie asked.

“Mmmmmmmmmmmh”, Blacky said, “just complaints.”

“Don’t be a coward!”, the fox cried. “Tell her! So that she can tell everybody, we will wipe out the humans, all of them, once and for all!” His temper had got the better of him.

“Calm down Foxy, she is just a kid”, Blacky answered.

Little Sophie took the hand of her bigger brother and moved closer to him. But she did not translate. Mark and the parents asked her: “What is happening Sophie? Tell us!”

Then Oakie spoke up and said: “something has to be done very soon, but something good, not something bad. We have to find a way out of this whole mess. The humans are destroying everything not only for us but also for themselves. But what can we do?. Owl” turning all his leaves up to the huge old and wise owl who sat in his crown, “Owl, you are old and wise and have flown far afield, do you have any ideas

Owl sat in silence, slowly shaking her head. “No”, she said, not yet. But Serpy is also very wise in a very different way, she knows all about the earth. Do you have any ideas?” she turned asking  Serpy.

Serpy also slowly shook her head. Foxie’s temper got hold of him again and he cried: “Kill them, they must all  come to a gruesome end. Let’s get rid of them now!”

Oakie was the oldest one of the lot. He looked at the speaker for the foxes and said: “You hothead! You should go and run off that temper!  Getting rid of all humans is not going to work and is also not very clever. We have to come up with a much better solution, so that we can all live happily together.”

Serpy and Owl nodded silently.  They were the senior animals and their opinions did count for a lot.

Sophie had listened to all of this and when the animals, trees and even the stones were thinking quietly to find a solution, she told Mark, what she had heard and her parents listened in.

Suddenly Sophie knew what to do. She left her own family group and went quietly to the trees, birds, lake and stones. They were so deeply in thoughts, that nobody had noticed Sophie coming closer.

“Excuse me please”, Sophie said when she was close: “I have an idea. Would you be so kind and listen to me?”

Oakie, the other trees, the birds, all the animals, and even the lake were shocked. But the Sophie’s parents and  brother were shocked most of all. Strangely enough, nobody did anything, everybody stared at Sophie in total disbelief.

So Sophie continued: “I’ve heard enough to understand you all. Not very many humans understand the language of plants, animals and rocks. I do and I can tell everybody about your problems. My brother Mark will certainly help me and also my parents.

Sophie’s parents and brother saw her moving her lips but could not hear anything. Well they were too far away but even if they had been closer, they would not have been able to understand, because Sophie spoke a language normal humans could not understand but the group in front of her could.

Sophie continued: “My brother is clever, my mother is a writer and knows many people who publish what they have written, my father is a service engineer. He services machines in big houses and also in television studios. You don’t know what that is, but it means we can reach many, many humans. Grandma and Grandpa are teachers, so they can reach many other teachers and in turn can teach the children, who can teach their parents. We just have to teach the politicians,” she said.

None of the group she was talking to knew about writers, machines or television studios. Not that the birds had not seen machines or television, but they had no word for it. Certainly nobody knew that the word politician meant the people who ran the human world.

But Sophie spoke from her heart and her words were spoken so honestly and with love,  that everybody stopped complaining and listened. Everybody felt the power, strength and magic of her words and was enchanted by it.

Sophie talked about how the children of the world could bring about the much needed change and although animals, plants and trees and also rocks and stones did not understand much of the actual words she spoke, everybody understood that she was speaking from the heart.

When Sophie took a deep breath, to gather air and strength to continue, the wise Owl flew a little bit lower and sat down on a branch so that everybody could see: “Little girl” she said, “You are a wonderful ambassador for more love, understanding and communication in the world. You speak from your heart, everybody will understand you.”

Serpy, the snake, again moved her head up as far as she could and continued: “You have the special gift of being able to feel love and understanding for all species. You can even communicate with us. A gift, most humans lost a long time ago! You can see the beauty in everything and can show everyone else how wonderful the world really is. You can even teach the humans how to communicate with nature again!”

Oakie nodded and all his leaves moved up and rustled his agreement. The wind murmured.  “Yeaaaaah”, said all the animals in their own languages, because everybody was touched. Even the stones sent out feelings of understanding and support to Sophie.

Sophie thanked everybody and tears rolled down her cheeks.

“Listen, everyone”, she then said with a clear voice, filled with emotion: “We need to find a way to open peoples’ hearts. They need to learn to feel with their hearts first before they use their minds. Peoples’ hearts are drying out, becoming hard and narrow. They try to make up for their  the lack of love with greed,  power and control and in the process destroy not only themselves but also our planet.”

“Yeaaaah”, everybody nodded. Not everybody understood her words but the language of the heart reached everybody.

Her parents stood outside near the trees, dumbstruck, but secretly very proud of their daughter. Mark, her brother, had come a bit closer to the group but kept his distance. He still was a bit anxious that something might go wrong and that his little sister might get hurt. He felt he was far enough away not to threaten the group but close enough to be able to help her if need be.fable4

“We all need to open our hearts! – all animals, all plants and trees, all stones and crystals. The more of us open our hearts, the more we can reach out to other people. Even the hardest hearts cannot resist a constant flow of love and understanding for one  another”, she said.

She then was silent and the animals, plants, trees and stones started to discuss how to open their hearts, to let go of anger and disappointment and concentrate on letting strong feelings of love and understanding flowing out across the world.

The wind took off in a very soft and light manner and started singing. Everybody in the streets looked up and listened. People spoke to each other about the wonderful singing voice of the wind. The wind did not only sing in all octaves we humans know and understand but also found new, unknown sounds. He went all over the world and caressed all cheeks, especially of children but also of all adults.

In cities all over the world groups of people started talking, their hearts warmed up, everybody had a smile on their face. People felt warmly towards each other, many began to hug each other, some people cried when their hearts opened up.

Meanwhile Sophie had looked at the heavens and asked again fervently, with a clear but very emotional voice: “Sky, heaven, rain and wind, how can you all work together to help us? PLEASE, you need to help us to save the planet!”

At this very moment rainbows appeared, all over the world. People watched in awe and said: “This is a sign that something is changing, we have to go and find out how we can help.”

In the same moment the waters and oceans of the world came gently forward to all the beaches, water drops danced on top of the waves and they were shining in all rainbow colours. The waves moved forward and backwards, like a gentle dance. People on the beaches and in the airoplanes watched in total disbelief and were also very moved by what they saw.

The rain was so happy about his part in the production of rainbows worldwide that he decided on a special treat for everyone. He spoke to light and said: “Why can’t we have little rainbows around the leaves of all the trees?”

The light, always being a very jolly girl, giggled and said: “Well, it takes a bit of trying out. But fellow rain, you know what needs to be done can be done!”

So they went to a remote island in the world and tried to produce rainbows around the trees and very little one on the leaves. They had a few failures, where the rainbows didn’t come out in clear colours, but suddenly they got it and guess what?

They could even produce rainbow hearts!

fable5

Totally excited they started producing rainbows and rainbow hearts all around the trees in the world and also on the leaves. They kept on giggling with joy while they were doing it. So everyone who saw the rainbows in the sky and the little rainbows of hearts on the trees also heard the giggles of joy.

Everybody, humans, trees and plants, animals, stones and crystals were touched deeply in their hearts. Almost everybody cried either out of happiness or from letting go of old wounds, disappointment, anger or even hate. Nobody ever forgot what they saw and their joy of experiencing it with all their senses.

So many people had never felt happy before and with their new happiness came trust and deep love for all creatures in the world. People started communicating honestly with each other and in time, with the help of the children, lead by Sophie, they started to communicate with nature again!

Even the politicians were moved and couldn’t escape the trend of the time and now they also wanted to change the world for the better!!!

Sophie and her family and everybody who was present at the original meeting of animals, trees and plants, wind and water, stones and crystals, went around the world for the rest of their lives, reminding people again and again how important it was to keep their hearts open and to keep love for the beauty of the world flowing in everything they did.

‘The World Weaver’ by Luvia Jan Swanson

The World Weaver      

Daniel, walking through a purple-scented garden, passed a well. It beckoned him, so he returned to look more closely. Down he gazed into the water, his gaze drawing him ever deeper. As he leaned toward the depths a stone dislodged, dropping with a splash into the well. Daniel followed, sinking at first, and then abruptly, startlingly, he felt himself propelled into a channel that became increasingly like the tunnel of a mole.

There were twists and turns and networks of passageways in this land-beneath. Sometimes he saw light, sometimes only shadow. Within a final passage that led through something like an arched doorway Daniel became aware of sound. A buzzing murmur increased as he listened, until it clearly seemed to be the sound of voices.

Yes, it must be speech, but Daniel could discern no comprehensible form of language. Short, dark beings, shadowed and unclear, appeared all around the edges of his vision as the light increased. But when he turned his gaze in their direction he saw nothing there.

The force that had been propelling him along began to weaken as he moved forward through strange and unfamiliar realms among the inhabitants of Inner Earth. When he finally emerged he found himself surrounded by a bustling, open-air marketplace. Vendors of every sort were hawking their goods. Some had luscious, fragrant fruits and some had loaves of bread. Others displayed sparkling stones of brilliant colors, set with feathers in elaborate patterns. There were baskets and musical things—bells and pipes and chimes.

Daniel visited the yarn seller, whose brilliant threads included every possible shade and texture. He bought two large armfuls, along with a basket; then crossed to the far side of the market to where he’d noticed crafters working side by side.

Potters shaped clay into bowls while carvers fashioned birds, spoons and whistles out of wood. Glassblowers blew illusions. There were kite makers and thought collectors, but Daniel was attracted to the circle of looms where world weavers were busy weaving worlds into existence. One loom was empty. Daniel set down his basket and took a seat at the vacant loom. Carefully he began to tie on the warp threads that would form the underlayment of a brand new world. 

Meanwhile, back on the surface, in the land from which Daniel had departed, day was breaking. Jennifer of the Valley woke to find a butterfly firmly anchored to her face, perched directly in front of her eyes. She blinked, shook her head and wondered, but as the day unfolded it became clear that the butterfly would not be dislodged.  

She stepped outside. It had been raining for several days on end; the sun had not been seen for several more. Day after day the world had appeared gray and bleak. But today, for Jennifer, the world had changed. Rain still fell, but as it did each raindrop now became a streak of color. It looked to Jennifer like it was raining rainbows.

Most curious of all was that no matter where or how she moved, no rain seemed to touch her. She could still splash in puddles and sink her hands into the wet mossy ground, but she could not leave the sphere of clear, dry air that surrounded her body. She simply could not get rained on.

Looking down the lane, through a wondrous atmosphere of color Jennifer could see her neighbors walking from their houses to the street, huddled under dripping wet umbrellas. She saw her best friend, Alice, running to her mother’s car, hair hanging wet all down her back. But Jennifer was dry. As she walked toward town she realized that she was the only one who was not getting rained on. And no one else seemed to be enjoying—or even noticing—that the rain was coming down in colors.

Inside the park, on a hill that overlooked the town, was a lovely garden. In it grew wisteria and lilacs, violets and pansies. In springtime wild irises bloomed thick beside the stream; in summer all the ground was covered in a carpet of lavender and mint. Jennifer was now headed toward the garden, where she liked to sit beside an old stone well. There was a bench beside the well, snugly tucked beneath a gnarly arch of grapevines. The bench was now empty and entirely dry. She sat down, and no sooner had she done so, than the butterfly was gone from her face. In its place appeared a small old woman sitting right beside her.

Jennifer blinked, as the wiry, gray-haired woman, wrapped tightly in a colorful shawl, told her, “Yes, yes, now is indeed the perfect moment.” Jennifer listened as the woman told of a land where worlds are woven and illusion wrought and where the newest world weaver happened to be a sandy red haired man named Daniel. It seemed that some sort of mishap had affected Daniel’s loom, rendering a leak between this world and that. Daniel must be alerted right away, she said, before any more physical laws began to shift.

Jennifer of the Valley didn’t know just what the woman meant by physical laws, but she did get the sense that shifting physical laws might have something to do with the rainbow rain and the butterfly…perhaps even with the old woman herself.

So down the well Jennifer went, following a sinking stone. She passed quickly through the tunnel, heard voices and saw the shadowed forms of Inner Earth beings. When, like Daniel, she finally came forth into the marvelous marketplace, Jennifer caught her breath in surprise. Never had she beheld such an array of colors, sounds, and smells. Each of her senses felt as if it had just opened for the very first time.

Dazzled, she followed her nose to a mountain of jellybeans and filled her pockets before proceeding to a stone oven, big as a house, where sticky cinnamon buns were just coming out. She sat down to her heavenly feast on a grassy knoll surrounded by juniper trees. Leaning back against a tree, Jennifer closed her eyes and listened contentedly as the music of crystal bells and wind chimes wafted all around her. She began to doze…and dream… In her dreams she wandered in her favorite garden, where an old woman sat on a bench beside a well… The old woman!

Jennifer came wide-awake, aware that she had been sent here on a mission. She reluctantly got up to begin in earnest to look for the world weavers’ circle.

At once a gray bird with turquoise tail feathers flew by, then circled back around her head, so close that it stopped her in her tracks. Thus assured of her attention, the bird flew off in a deliberate arc, slowing to look back at Jennifer, then resuming its direction. She followed and together they crossed a mossy wetland, entered a piney grove and came to a clearing where a circle of weavers sat utterly absorbed at their looms. A low chorus of sound arose from the group, as if they—or perhaps their tapestries—sang, hummed, or chanted the progress of creation.

The scene awed Jennifer. She felt flooded, as if a rushing river had swept through her heart. She dropped to her knees and would have fallen once again into stupor but the bird roused her with a loud caw. And again she remembered her task.

Clearly, she thought, the gangly, sandy redhead must be Daniel. His tapestry was only recently begun. He had started sensibly, with solid blues and grays, weaving water, adding waves and eventually sand. Just as she was admiring a splendid dawn over water Jennifer noticed what appeared to be a mottling of tiny holes. She looked closer, then bent to examine the scene from underneath.

And there she found the problem. A moth had laid its eggs right in the middle of Daniel’s warp threads. The newly hatching larvae were beginning to nibble their way through his unfolding world. Jennifer knew she must rouse Daniel, but he was deeply absorbed, entranced as all the weavers seemed to be. In fact, she could only maintain her own alertness with vigilant effort.

Jennifer thought to awaken Daniel by shaking his shoulders, but the nearer she approached the more powerfully she felt pulled into the river of his trance. So she began to dance around and to sing loudly, in a rhythm very much at odds with the weavers’ drone. “The moths are eating sunrise, wake up, wake up! There’s a leak between the worlds, wake up, wake up!”

Daniel weaved on, apparently unaffected, but across the circle an old man yawned and stretched. He arose from his loom to walk over to where Jennifer jumped and waved, singing her “wake up” song. In a glance the world weaver took in Jennifer, the moth-eaten tapestry and the unresponsive Daniel. He began to laugh a rich deep rumble that sounded like the ever-so-distant approach of thunder.

Jennifer stopped singing to observe the man. He was brown and gray, ruddy and robust. His eyes were like none she had ever seen. So clear! She thought of crystal bowls as she met his glance.

“No worry,” said the man, his voice tumbling like water over boulders. “This kind of thing happens with the new weavers. They haven’t yet learned how to hold their focus in both worlds at once. It’s all about attention, you know.”

As he spoke Jennifer watched a shifting scene of riverbed, flat stones and sandstone cliffs playing somewhere at the bottom of his remarkable eyes.

“Daniel has mastered concentration, but for him it’s still a this-or-that sort of thing. Either he’s focused entirely on his inner world or he’s in this outer world and loses the inner image altogether.” The man laughed again and Jennifer watched a pair of herons swoop across the depths of his eyes. “It comes with practice,” said the man as he fixed his eyes on hers. She could almost hear a high-pitched hum, like when she ran a wet finger around the edge of a glass. She began to realize that the weaver, though no longer sitting at his loom, was nonetheless continuing to weave his tapestry, all the while he was conversing with her.

“That’s right,” he said, as if she’d spoken her thought. He nodded his head toward his loom, where Jennifer could see unfolding, a mirror image of the scene she’d been observing in his eyes. “All about attention,” he repeated. “Some of us can work with five or six worlds at once, but every one of us starts out in this-or-that mind, just like your friend Daniel here.” With that he reached out and gave a snap to Daniel’s warp threads and Daniel came abruptly awake, though just a bit disoriented. He glanced up at Jennifer and the smiling old world weaver, then down at his moth-eaten tapestry.

“Oops!” he said, laughing a little with the old man. Gently and politely, Daniel asked the hungry young moths to move to some nearby trees. He then introduced himself to Jennifer. Learning how and why she’d come, Daniel expressed concern about the world-above. He had never intended to harm anyone in any world as he learned his new trade.

“Nonsense,” said the older weaver. “No harm, never any harm, it’s all one bigger tapestry.” The other two looked questioningly at him. 

“Look at it this way,” he said, and turned to Jennifer. “Where would you rather be right now, here or at some other here?”

“Here,” she answered.

“Of course you would,” said the old weaver. “If you would rather have been in some other here, then that’s where you would be. Your rather and Daniel’s weaving lesson matched up in perfect harmony and so the three of our warps and wefts were woven together into this meeting.”

“But how?” asked Jennifer. “Who did the weaving?”

“We all did,” said the old one. “Everyone weaves worlds all the time, on looms of wishes and desires and focused attention. There are infinite worlds to create and to explore, but all worlds are woven together as one, by the total creative collaboration of all that is. Most people are too caught up in this-or-that to be able to see their part in the pattern. They can only see this world or that world. With practice we become skilled at opening our attention to encompass many worlds at once.”

“I want to see the collective tapestry that shows all worlds as one,” said Jennifer.

“So do I,” replied the weaver. And around the circle, all the weavers’ heads nodded in agreement, as one.

Despite her longing to see it all, Jennifer perceived that she was still of this-or-that mind. She knew that she would have to return to the surface, much as she wished that she could never leave. But already, she discovered she was losing touch with the world that she had previously known. “If I stay much longer,” she thought, “I’ll forget that Alice and my home on the surface ever existed,” for she could feel herself beginning to get pulled into the same narrow-focused trance that had held Daniel, and had thus brought her to this world.

The clear-eyed world weaver summoned her over to his loom. “Come,” he told her, “I’ll weave you home.”

Jennifer observed his tapestry and saw the purple garden with its stone well and bench beside it. She noticed the rain had stopped, the air seemed fresh and a gentle breeze now stirred the grape leaves. “But how can I keep from losing this world and you?” she asked the weaver.

“Practice remembering the one big pattern that contains all worlds,” he said. “Remember that you are part of something very grand.” With that, he fixed her gaze with his and she was drawn into the depths of those eyes, where a butterfly alit gently on a stalk of lavender within a lovely garden.

 

LuviaJane Swanson   2001

‘The Magic Bird’ by Luvia Jane Swanson

The Magic Bird
As the boy awoke his jungle world awoke with him. Morning greetings trilled and trumpeted, squawked and chattered back and forth across the forest canopy.  Many shades of greens, reds and golds added to the chorus as the sun rose up and brought them into life. Each day this feast of sound and light was recreated, and the boy grew to recognize the voices. From his hammock he would send “good mornings” out to each bird or frog or monkey as it called. He’d stretch and yawn, and open up his eyes so they might drink their fill of color.

One morning as the boy lay in his hammock an unfamiliar sound caught his ear and brought him sharp awake. In among the voices of his morning friends rang out a new birdsong of the purest, clearest sound he’d ever known. The silver tones seemed to resonate within him, making his heart ache with joy and pulse with sweetness. The boy ran out into the forest to see who could possess such a voice.

He caught merely the barest glimpse of a large bird’s wingtip as it flew within the treetops. Even so, he could see it was the most marvelous of birds. Iridescent feathers shimmered in every shade and tone, catching and sending out sparks of light like rainbows after the afternoon rains. The beauty of the bird moved through the boy. It filled his chest with a heavy warmth and brought tears into his eyes. But the bird had emerged just for a moment before it was again swallowed up in the sounds and colors of the canopy.

Later the boy’s old grandmother noticed the change in his eyes and in his soul. She asked and he told her of the marvelous bird, wondering aloud who it could be. She shook her head and said it must have been the Magic Bird he’d seen. She’d heard its legend told once, long ago though it was. It can be dangerous, she warned, for those who come too near the Magic Bird. “That bird has bewitching powers…see, it has already put a change in you.”

The words of his dear grandmother had little effect, for all day long while the boy collected roots from the forest he could think of nothing but the bird. He dreamed and dallied through the evening meal until his mother wondered if he’d caught fever. That night in his hammock, such a wistful longing filled him that he could hardly sleep, but only half-dreamt, half-prayed about flute-like tones and splendid colors.

In the morning he arose once more to familiar trills and chatters of the jungle, but as he knelt to wash beside the river he was startled by the sound of liquid silver birdsong. He looked up to see the sparkling radiance flying toward him from across the river. As it turned downstream the boy jumped up to follow, calling out to it, “Wait, please wait for me.”

Higher and higher the bird flew and the boy pursued, leaving behind the river and the lowlands, across tall grassy plains into the foothills, then up and up tall mountains. Many days they climbed, the air grew thinner, cold and clearer, and the sun grew stronger. Still the bird flew higher and the boy pursued until they both rested atop the highest peak of the very tallest mountain in the land.

There the bird turned to offer him a seat upon it’s feathered back. But, it warned, in choosing to pursue the Magic World, the boy must leave behind his home. In doing so, he would forego all events and experiences that would have otherwise unfolded to become his life. “One does not return the same from the Magic World,” the bird explained.

It gently waved a rainbow wing across the boy’s eyes and bade him look with his heart while scenes of his life appeared. He saw the jungle with his friends and family, smelled flowers, smoke, damp earth, tasted fruits sweet and sour, listened to the morning music of the forest and his heart felt full and torn.

He lamented, “Oh, I couldn’t bear for you to leave me where I’d never hear your song or see your feathers, but I fear that I’m not ready. Maybe if I just returned to touch it all once more, then surely I could take my leave and follow you without regret.”

The bird nodded. “I will wait.”

So the boy returned home to where all was as he’d left it, but now he felt exquisite love and thankfulness for all to which he’d previously been accustomed. At the evening meal he savored the essence of each bite. He gazed deeply at his mother and endured her hugs without squirming. Again she worried that he might be ill, but the grandmother just watched, knowing and resigned.

All day long the boy relished every beauty and pleasure that he touched, saying to himself, “I’ll just go to fish with my brother one last time,” or, “One more taste of coconut milk for me, then I’ll be on my way to be forever with the Bird.” His state of rapture and anticipation continued as day after day he found one delight after another that he could not quite yet relinquish.

Bit by bit, as the days turned into weeks and then to months, the boy thought less often of the Magic life to come. He wisely told himself, “I’ll just take my time and finish with this world so that I’ll be absolutely sure and ready when it’s time to go.”

A year passed by, then two. Often the boy thought he had nearly completed his sampling of experience. Then he’d think of the new game he’d heard his friend speak of and told himself, “Better to wait and have no regrets.”

When the boy grew old enough to make his way in the world he thought, “I’ve never seen the city. Surely my earthly life would be incomplete if I never knew what wonders might exist there.” And so he moved away from the sounds and colors and the rich and heavy smells of his jungle home.

As the boy’s life took him further from the jungle and deeper into the world of human society, the memory of the Bird grew increasingly unreal. He longed instead for the company of his fellows in the taverns and for their jokes and stories. In time he doubted that his childhood meeting with the Bird could ever have taken place. “It must have been a dream,” he decided, and let it go at that. And so his life went on, as did the lives of all he knew, with little memory of his jungle youth and none at all of the wondrous Bird that had once so captivated his heart.

One day the boy went on a journey to the home of his childhood. He no longer ran barefoot along the forest floor and his graying hair had long ago been cropped short about his ears. But he recognized the earthy smells and was cheered by greetings sounded by long-forgotten animal friends.

That night he slept near the riverbank in his hammock. Rising before dawn to once-familiar morning sounds, he began to recall an image from so long ago, of one special birdsong and feathers like the brightest rainbow. And as his memory cleared he suddenly recalled the agreement that the Bird had made to wait for him, remembered the passion he had felt in its pursuit, and knew a new sense of sadness. How undeserving he had been, he thought. So many opportunities and so much time had passed. He had no doubt that he had strayed so far as to have finally lost his chance to journey to the Magic World.

A chastised boy returned to the home he had made in the city. He no longer sought the company of lively friends with their entertaining stories, and no longer took pleasure in the beauties of his world. In his shame he believed himself unworthy of life’s joys and so became an outcast from his very soul. He began to drink, not now for the pleasant lightness of heart that it had once brought, but to dull the senses that still cried out in their desire to celebrate life. Day by day his misery grew as he condemned his wasted life, then pitied his miserable condition.

The boy was now an old man who wandered. He had lost his city home and lived as he could, begging as often as not. And so it was that in his wanderings one day he found himself beside the river, gazing into the deep rushing water. He had not eaten that day or the one before, so at first he thought himself delirious when the water seemed to change in color. Then he recognized the change as a reflection on the water’s surface. He looked up to face the wondrous Bird of his youth. Only this time he felt none of the old exhilaration, for he believed that he had long since lost his right to claim the grace of its favor.

The Bird peered steadily at the boy, and as he met its gaze he was surprised to learn that it had never left him, but, as promised, had been waiting patiently. In that moment of awareness, he realized it had been his own self-censure that had blinded him to the Bird’s presence. Tears came as the boy’s old body relaxed. He felt relieved, but also troubled, for still his plight remained. “Please,” he asked the Bird, “Tell me what to do. I’ve tasted all of life that I might ever care to, but my heart still clings to my world. I long for nothing more than for the freedom to go with you, and yet my mind has not found that freedom.”

The Bird nodded, saying, “Go and see the Lady of the river. She will help you.”

So the boy stepped into the river to seek the Lady. She appeared at the edge of his vision as a silvery, fluid shimmer. Her gown flowed out in liquid ripples and blended with the water’s currents. He felt from her the comfort of familiar, loving welcome. This was one he’d spent much happy time with in his youth.

She pointed to the water’s surface, alive with swirling currents where bubbles arose and popped again as they flowed downstream. A rainbow, from reflected sunlight, seemed to dance inside each bubble. The Lady showed him how to see the bubbles on this river as entire lives within the boy’s world. Every living creature had its own bubble, which briefly and magnificently shone before becoming, once again, indistinguishable in the stream of life’s river. Next she pointed out the bubble of the boy’s own life. He watched as it changed from newly formed, when he had first seen the Bird, to this point when it had already passed its fullness.

Seeing that the rainbow bubbles were created from the play of river and light had no effect upon the boy’s dilemma. Ardently, he loved the illusion and wished that each bubble could be real and complete in itself. He suffered because he knew it was not so. An anguished boy cried, “How can I dispel this obsession and become free to accompany the Magic Bird?”

Once more, the Lady of the river pointed to the water, but this time what she showed him was the way the pattern of the bubbles looks to one who sees it from the Magic World. This viewpoint, she said, was the reason that no one ever returned unchanged from that world.

Observing now, he noticed that the light, reflected on each bubble’s surface, emanated from the Bird’s land. When the bubble popped the light returned to its source in the Magic World. In the outpouring and intake of rainbow rays he saw that nothing was lost, or even changed; that nothing could ever be lost. It was just an endless dance of possibilities. Each bubble, once popped, could continue downstream in its liquid form or could arise again as another bubble; could last long on the surface or pop as soon as it was formed.

At last, the boy filled with joy. For the first time since he had met the Bird so many years ago, there was no struggle. He would go with the Bird and become part of the outpouring of light. He’d see what it was like to be on the creative end of the world dance.

The boy returned to the high mountaintop where he had once asked for more time to experience his world. The Bird was there, waiting as agreed. The magnificent wings opened wide in a near blinding display of rainbow light. The boy stepped into the embrace. As he immersed himself in the beloved brilliance there came to be a merging of boy and Bird…and off they flew together, as one, toward the Magic World

 

© LuviaJane Swanson   1997

 

‘Games for Groups’ by Hilary Norton

childrensknees
1. BATS: A game for children
SCIENCE CONCEPT:
Bats are the only known flying mammal that as they fly can emit sounds to locate their prey or judge distance of a fixed object. A bat’s internal sense of “hearing” allows him or her to receive a sound picture back of where to locate the object or prey. Bats are fantastic fliers. They are able to truly fly. Bats are the only mammals able to have powered flight.
A bat’s body is made for flight. The neck is short, the chest is large and the stomach is narrow. In order to fly a body must have a wide, thin surface. It also needs the power to push through the air. This thin surface we call an airfoil in flight terms. The power to push we call propulsion. In a bat it is the wings that are both.
The wings of a bat are made of bones like those bones in our arms and hands. The long arm bones and extra-long finger bones are covered with skin. This double layer of thin skin is called a membrane. This skin is so thin that you can see light through it.
The membrane covers the arm bones and finger bones to the sides of the body and legs. This makes an airfoil surface. Some bats have this membrane covering the legs and tail. The small thumbs are left free for climbing.
OBJECTIVE:
The children will simulate the sonar method of echolocation that a bat uses by playing a game with other children solely using sound** as a locator.
OVERVIEW:
Children will explore how bats use the sense of echolocation in a game version of “Marco Polo” by sending out sound signals to find the other players simulating bats and insects accordingly.TEACHER TEXT:

Similar to insects and birds, strong muscles provide powerful wing strokes that aid flight. Unlike insects and birds, many bats rely on echolocation to fly and hunt for food. Echolocation works like the radar or sonar in planes or ships. A bat hears the echoes and its brain works out a sound picture of the object. It can tell if the object is prey or part of the landscape.
While most humans are unable to hear the ultrasonic beeps of bats, some children can. Some moths can hear the ultrasonic pulses of bats and will change their flight path or drop to the ground in order to evade capture. Others, like the Tiger moth, will click back to resemble ultrasonic bat calls to confuse bats into thinking they are another bat. >

PREPARATION: Locate large area for group to play the game in.
LESSON TIME: 25 minutes
Group activity for 6-10 children

WORDS TO KNOW:  echo   location   bat   insect   vibration   sound.

STEPS TO FOLLOW:
1. Choose a child to be the “bat”. Blindfold the child.
2. The rest of the group will play the role of “insects ” (bat food). They will spread out randomly around the bat within the designated boundaries (approx. basketball court size).
3. Bat calls out “Beep, Beep”..
4. The insects respond “Buzz, Buzz ” while they walk around the area.
5. The bat continues to call out and the insects continue to respond while changing positions.
6. Bat tries to tag an “insect” by listening for the sound they make and moving in the direction of that sound.
7. A tagged “insect” must go sit in the ” bat cave ” (designated area) until the next round.
8. The last person tagged becomes the new “bat”.

Adaptation for Hearing Impaired Students:
“Bat” and “insects” stomp or tap on the floor to produce vibrations to locate each other.>

2. Co-Operative games

Angels Dancing on the head of a pin
We may never know how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, but the challenge is to balance these 14 angels on the head of this pin.
Supplies:
* One 4 inch nail, with a head on it, nailed securely into a 4-inch or larger square block of wood.
* 14 additional nails of the same size.
The angels are common nails with heads, about 4 inches or so in length. All should be the same length.
The goal is to figure out how to balance all 14 nails on the head of the one that is already secured in the wood block.
The solution:
(1) lay one nail down on the table.
(2) Take 12 nails and lay the heads across the shaft of the first nail in alternating directions, with the nail heads resting against the shaft of the first nail.
(3) Lay the final nail across the 12 nails, in the same direction as the first nail.
(4) Pick up the entire nail sandwich by the first and last nails and balance this nail sandwich on the nail in the wood.

Balloon Train
Have the children stand in a line like you would for the bunny hop. Each child has a balloon and the balloon is placed between their chest and the person in front’s back. Object is to have the train move around the room without the balloons falling and without using arms and hands. If a balloon falls they must get the ball back up trying not to let any more fall. This will take teamwork!

Buddy Necklaces
You need 6 really long strands of wool. The children work in pairs twisting the strands together, holding them taut as they twist. The wool will eventually double up on itself. Keep twisting until all the wool has doubled up. Tie a reef knot with the two ends. One buddy necklace to pin swaps on! The pair of children then make another one so they have one each. These necklaces cannot be made by one person because of the length of the wool and the fact that it needs to be kept taut while twisting.

Caterpillar Relay
Each team forms a line and each child must hold onto the waist of the child in front of her/him. They may stretch out as far as possible so long as they don’t separate. When the whistle blows, the child at the back goes down on hands and knees and must crawl through the legs of the whole group. When she/he gets to the front she jumps up, her/his waist gets grabbed, and the child who is now at the back goes through. You can either do this down to the finish line or down and back (by reaching the turning point and having all children spin around so they are facing back the way they came).

Geometric Figures
Supplies: a strip of cloth (shorter strips tied together/him) or soft rope 25 to 30 feet long tied in a circle
One blindfold for each person
How to play:
For this game, you should have a group of 8 – 10 people. Everyone in the group needs to be able to stand inside the circle holding it up behind them with space between each person. After each person has blind folded themselves, have them stand inside of the strip holding it behind them. Have them make a shape such as a square. When they think they have it, have them take off their blindfolds and see how they have done. >

Hula Hoop Relay
Take a hula hoop (2 is better … they like to compete with them) Have the children pass the hula-hoop over their bodies while their hands remained linked.

Human Knot
Children get in a circle & put their hands all together in the centre. Children grab hands without looking at whose hands they are grabbing…. they are “knotted up” and have to untangle without letting their hands go. They can twist their hands but never let go.

Lego Building
Give one person a box of Lego blocks, the other three have a picture of an item to build. The three together/him have to give the directions, with their backs to the builder, on what to build.
OR
Divide the groups or group into the following one is the designer, 2 are the runners and 2 are the workers, also the workers get the same amount, shape and colour of Lego pieces as the design. The designer is the only one that sees the Lego construction. She/he has to describe to the runners how to build it piece by piece without talking. Then the runners then have to go and tell the workers how to build it. The runners can talk to the workers and the workers can ask the runners questions
After doing this a couple of times the designer may now talk but she is not allowed to tell the colour or shape of the Lego. For instance, if the piece she needs to tell them about is a yellow piece with 4 dots on it. She could describe it as the sun that is the length of our fingernail. The runners then have to describe it as it was described to them, even if they know what the piece should be they are not allowed to tell the workers. This continues on till the piece is finished.
Then the workers are allowed to ask 3 questions to the runners who in turn ask the designer. They then have to relay the answer back to the workers. Then compare what the workers build with the original design. Remember the designer has to be able to get across where the pieces go as well as the colour and shape, like the front, back, sides. Everybody needs to listen to everybody to make it work.

Line Up
Tell the children that they have all lost their voices, and they have no writing equipment, etc. (no sign-language, etc.) They have to line up by: (Choose…)
Age
Height
Date of Birth (in Year)
Alphabetically
Alphabetically by middle name
Add blind folds to these too

Magic Shoes
Participants : 10-15
Equipment : Something to make 2 lines
Time : 15-25 minutes
Directions: Set the boundary lines about four feet apart. Have the team stand behind one boundary line, facing the other line. Tell the children all of the directions. The entire team must get from one boundary to the other boundary. In between the boundaries is a pit. The only way to get across is by using the invisible magic shoes (any pair of shoes). All players must end up on the other side.
Rules :
1. Everyone may wear the shoes one time going one way.
2. Shoes may not be tossed back to the other side.
3. Once you have worn the shoes you may not wear them again.
4. Both shoes must be worn by the same person.
Let everyone work as a team to figure out a solution

Not on the Team
Divide into 3 or 4 groups. Each group is given a set of rules for playing a game of cards that was made up by the trainers. First, everyone in each group learns the rules of the game for their group. Then one person from each group moves to a new circle. The other children in the circle are not allowed to talk so the new player has no idea what the rules are, and just plays along as well as she/he can. After a round or two of the game, another person from the original group should go to another circle, but the first player who moved should stay in her/his new group and so on, so that everybody gets a turn of sitting in on a game of cards that they have no idea of how to play. At the end of the activity you get to look at the rules.

Shrinking Boxes
Needed: Concentric masking tape squares ranging in size from where your chosen group of people can fit comfortably down to where the task seems impossible.
People: The number depends on how small your smallest square is. You may have to play with the size a bit – or maybe someone has some dimensions to offer.
Set-up: have everyone step inside the biggest box
Goal: have everyone fit into the next smallest box. After they accomplish that, have them move another box smaller.
The catch: while they may step on the tape, their shoes (or feet if they are brave enough to do it barefoot) must not be on the ground outside the tape

Team Walker
– Take two 2×4 pieces of wood, around 8 feet long.
– Drill 6 holes into the wood, spaced evenly down the length of the piece of wood. Drill the holes large enough holes to put a piece of rope through. (Could drill a larger hole around the hole on one side (the bottom side) to sink the knot–so if the board is lying on the ground, the knots don’t stick out and the board can lie flat.)
– Tie 4′ pieces of rope through each of the holes. (It’s best to use cotton rope–something that’s not going to get bristles in your hands.)
Now, lay the two planks side by side, about shoulder length apart. Pick a team of six people. The people stand in a line, each with one foot on one piece of wood and one foot on the other/him. Each person should place their foot so it is immediately behind a piece of rope and they should pick up and hold that piece of rope.
Now they try to walk. 🙂
It’s actually harder than it sounds–it takes a lot of teamwork to do it. After they get pretty good, you can have races. If that doesn’t challenge them enough, have them try to walk up or down a hill.

Turn the Circle Inside Out
A circle is formed using all the players. Everyone joins hands and faces the middle of the circle. Everyone closes their eyes and tries to turn the circle inside out so that everyone is facing the opposite direction (outside of the circle) without letting go of each others’ hands.
(Hint: the solution is that two players hold up their hands and everyone else follows through underneath.