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Archive for the ‘Getting Children Outdoors’ Category

hare eyeCapturing nature up close fascinates me as much today as it did when I first started photographing the outdoors years ago.   The nearness amplifies the wonder I have for my subject, whether it’s a wild animal visiting the yard, a flower blooming in the garden or a fungus feeding off an old tree in the forest.

As a photographer, I’m also fascinated by how these small wonders figure into our human environment…

 

 

 

 

under the daffodil

… especially that of children.

digging around the daffodilsAs a preschool teacher, I frequently marvel at how a single earthworm, ladybug or salamander can sustain the attention of a group of children. At what point do we lose this curiosity and passion for nature’s small wonders?

Those of us who continue to dig in the dirt or walk among the trees as adults have certainly retained some of this magic.  (Do those adults who don’t get up close and personal with the natural world actually know what they’re missing?)

Opportunities for discovery are all around us.  Even older children will display amazing determination in searching a forest for fungi…

fungus

A gorgeous polypore fungus

or animal holes in trees.

what s in that hole

Hello in there! Is anybody home?

If children learn more from example than by the written or spoken word, then a few minutes spent outdoors with a child is key to transferring a passion for nature to future generationsI hope my photographs incite others to go outside and see what they can find out there with their own eyes.

bunny seen from kitchen window

A wild snowshoe hare as seen from the kitchen window

My photographs act as a witness to the wonders around me… both in the natural world and in the young eyes of those who are only just beginning to see it for themselves.

looking forward

This post is in response to Views Infinitum’s Assignment 25: Your Photography Passion  
Scott’s challenge is open to all.  Submission deadline is Wednesday May 22nd 2013 at midnight (your time zone).

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2013.

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salt marsh trail between first two bridges

The salt marsh can be a nasty place in the winter.  Even on a sunny day, the wind can be harsh and the salt spray biting.  Regardless of the elements, my grandson and I set out on our adventure on New Year’s Eve along the salt marsh trail, determined to make it at least as far as the first bridge.

The trail was icy in spots and the wind was convincing us to turn back with every step past the shelter of the trees.  However, as we approached the end of the Canada Goose bridge, we caught sight of the first of four bald eagles hunting in the marsh.

eagle flying over salt marsh

Inspired to plod on, we forced ourselves forward in order to get a closer look.

eagles in the salt marsh

We caught sight of one on the next bridge.  It too was clearly fighting the wind, clinging to the wooden bridge rail with its mighty talons.  We ignored the pelting salt spray but the wind kept thrashing us about.  It became more and more difficult to just hold onto the camera, let alone take a decent photograph of our subject.

eagle on bridge

Despite the difficulty, we were quite elated to have had such a close encounter with such a magnificent creature.  Doing hard things has its rewards.

an eagle eyeing us from the bridge

Before flying off, the eagle looked directly towards us.   Wow.  We headed back, glad that we had dared to venture out into the marsh on such a windy day.

heading back from the salt marsh

Later at Tim Horton’s, I wondered if the bald eagles were having duck or fish as we enjoyed our soup and coffee .

Happy New Year to all!  May you always find the joy in doing hard things in the year ahead.

All photographs and text copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2013

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The end of summer may be on the horizon, but there’s still some time left to cram some sparkle into the last week of August.  There are still opportunities to pick berries, squish sand between your toes and enjoy starlit nights outdoors.

As a child, golden rod flowers reminded me that my grasshopper and butterfly-catching days were coming to an end.  They still prompt me to make the most of the summer’s last days.

Yesterday my grandson and I picked blackberries in patches overlooking the ocean in the morning.  In the afternoon, we let the waves crash into us at the beach.  After nightfall, we explored a woodland path with flashlights.  It was both exhilarating and exhausting.  The best summer days are like that.

Some blackberries still haven’t ripened.

It could have been better.  I could have had the sense to not get my legs all scratched up by the blackberry brambles before I went into the stinging salt water.  That’s minor.  Scrapes, scratches and bug bites are all part of the outdoor summer experience.  But it could have also been worse.  Just before putting down my foot, I spotted a large, active wasps’ nest on the ground beneath an apple tree where we were attracted by some low hanging fruit.

Recently we tented in the yard, thrilled to witness the flight of bats from behind the screened door after sundown.   We didn’t see any bats last night, though we did get to see a shooting star.  The best summers are a series of moments such as these, strung together on a necklace that sparkles around our necks until the following June when we begin to gather gems for a new one.

A painted lady butterfly basks in the summer sunshine

Stalk butterflies, visit the beach or simply take in the wonders of the night sky, but do make the most of these last days of summer.  Cramming has never been so enjoyable.

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2012

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Whether you’re six or sixty, if you don’t already have a secret place where you can be uninterrupted by yourself, perhaps it’s time you found one.  Either in nature or near it, such a place offers you the opportunity to escape from the world for a few minutes and just… enjoy the view.

Your secret window on the natural world allows you to be refreshed and restored with a minimum investment of time.  You needn’t engage with anything except your imagination.

X marks the spot of this secret place in the woods.

Your secret place need not be large or spacious.  You only need room enough to hunker down for a short while to take a moment from the demands of the world.  A woodland setting is ideal, but  less remote places offer good possibilities too:  a spot beneath a special tree or the quiet corner of a deck, balcony, rooftop or beach.

A secret place beyond the sand dunes

Even a secluded park bench or stone can work.  The key ingredient is that it is available to you when the stresses of the day call you to it.

The view from here is especially magical on a foggy day.

As children, many of us had a secret place.  Perhaps we knew something back then about the need for balance that we forgot along the way…

I have a house where I go
When there’s too many people,
I have a house where I go
Where no one can be;
I have a house where I go,
Where nobody ever says “No”;
Where no one says anything –so
There is no one but me.

~ A.A. Milne  ~ Solitude

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2012

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Bugs may be small and easily taken for granted, but they are most children’s first intimate encounter with a wild animal.  How they are taught to deal with these small creatures sets the tone for their relationships with larger ones such as birds and amphibians.

To a two year old, there’s no such thing as an ant, a wasp or a spider.  They’re all bugs and worth a closer look.   Unfortunately, in their zeal to teach children to be wary of dangerous bugs, many adults tend to not discern between those which are poisonous and those which aren’t.

Wounded wolf spider

By showing their disdain for all bugs and killing any that cross their paths, many adults  inadvertently teach children that all are to be feared and destroyed at every opportunity.

If you want to live and thrive, let the spider run alive.
~ American Quaker Saying

If handled carefully, even a stink bug will not release the smelly substance in its glands.  A gentleness and reverence for all creatures should be taught at an early age.  It’s important to remember that, the younger the child, the more she/he learns by modelling rather than by verbal instruction.  Colonies of ants found under stones are fascinating to watch as they go about their business.  A child who’s shown how to put overturned stones back in place to leave insects undisturbed is more likely to take that care than a child who’s simply told to do so.

Now where did that ant go?

Teaching a child not to step on a caterpillar is as valuable to the child as it is to the caterpillar.
~ Bradley Millar

Butterflies seem to be the least threatening of bugs to adults and children alike.  Colorful and delicate, a child has to learn both patience and quietness in order to approach them successfully.  This isn’t easy but well worth the effort and practice.

Red admiral butterfly on a crabapple blossom

The reward is a lifetime of being able to see nature in an up-close and personal manner that allows awe and wonder to enhance any time spent outdoors.

Mourning cloak butterfly

He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.
~ Samuel Taylor Coleridge ~ The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

All text and images copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2012

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snowshoe hare

Where am I going? I don’t quite know.
Down to the stream where the king-cups grow —
Up on the hill where the pine-trees blow —
Anywhere, anywhere. I don’t know.

If you were a bird, and lived on high,
You’d lean on the wind when the wind came by,
You’d say to the wind when it took you away:
“That’s where I wanted to go today!”

Where am I going? I don’t quite know.
What does it matter where people go?
Down to the wood where the blue-bells grow —
Anywhere, anywhere. I don’t know.

~  Excerpted from A. A. Milne’s poem ‘Spring Morning’

Arnold Schwartzenegger read this poem as he put his class down for a nap in the movie Kindergarden Cop.  Putting children down for a nap is seldom easy, but these words are so soothing, they might even put an adult to rest… especially if they were read by Arnold’s strong yet gentle voice.

Milne, who became known for his stories  of Winnie the Pooh, wrote another poem ‘Puppy and I’ which has a similar theme.  In it he asked rabbits he had met on the road where they were going in their brown fur coats, which made me think of the hare I saw along the trail this morning. 

In trying so hard to figure out where we’re going, sometimes we miss the wonders of the world around us, where we are, right now.  Sometimes it’s just enough to go… outdoors.

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