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Blog: The Light of Aurora

Life Lessons Learned in the Forest

20:50 PM - April 28, 2023

Life Lessons Learned in the Forest

“In the beginning I was so young and such a stranger to myself I hardly existed. I had to go out into the world and see it and hear it and react to it, before I knew at all who I was, what I was, what I wanted to be.” — Mary Oliver, Upstream

Oakwood Village began with the building of a lean-to shelter. Then, there was the discovery of the birch balancing log. Next, Dragon Hill came into existence. In the fall, the children cleared a space for a Story Circle. They surrounded the perimeter with fallen branches and raked before creating, in the center, a Blessing Circle with stones. They planted bulbs around its circumference.

The village and its surrounding forest provide the children with many rich experiences and many meaningful life lessons. Most importantly, however, this forest space is a place to grow roots; it has the feeling of home.

It is a gift for children, who are relatively new to the earth themselves, to find “home,” in the natural world, with one another. For the first seven years of development, children are primarily growing their physical bodies. They experiment with boundaries and are reassured by protection stories. When given the time and space to do so, they build forts and play shelter games. We support the young child’s healthy development when we assure them that it is a good thing to be on the earth, that they are safe and that the world is full of goodness.

Young children thrive when goodness, present all around us, is recognized. In our forest, there was a beech tree that stood with a rotting base for many years and, somewhat miraculously, leafed out every spring. We often visited the “Tree That is Still Standing” and wondered at its beauty and balance. In December, the old beech tree finally fell. When we discovered it, some of the children felt sad. One said, “That’s too bad.”

Just a little way along the path, Hans the Hedgehog, a beloved puppet, shows the children a thriving nurse log. Long ago, the rotting log that lay before them had been a silver beech. Now, it is the home to many lush mosses.

When the children look closely into the world of the moss, they see a kingdom of plants and insects. Hans lets them know that the beech tree can look forward to becoming the caregiver to many beautiful kingdoms of moss and insects. Hans also shows them the young beeches that eagerly thank the fallen tree for giving them more room to grow.

The children thank the beech tree for all that it gives. Hans lets them know that the beech is grateful for their recognition of its newest becoming and that it returns their love.

Hans identifies and celebrates the diversity in the forest. He helps them notice the differences in bark, size, and shape of the forest’s trees. He shows them the variety of nuts dropped by the many species. Noticing and identifying the diversity becomes the gateway to perceiving the forest as a whole. The closer the children look, the more they see. Every discovery they make plants a seed of appreciation in their hearts. The natural world’s inherent wisdom becomes the garden in which the children practice gratitude.

After a morning of working and playing in and around Oakwood Village, the children face the center of their Story Circle. Each child is given a pinch of dried lavender to drop into the Blessing Circle as an offering to the earth and a show of thanks for all she provides. One by one, the children give thanks for a blessing in their lives. Some give their thanks quietly. Some speak their gratitude aloud.

“I am thankful for the world.”

“The earth.”

“The trees.”

“My family.”

“My family and my friends.”

“I am thankful for spring.”

“I am thankful for the sun.”

“I am thankful to be on the earth.”

I am thankful to be standing in this circle, with these children.

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