Posts Tagged ‘outdoors’

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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Giving your child immunity against loneliness may be as simple as fostering within them a kinship with the natural world.  A love of nature begun in childhood can last a lifetime. 

It is astonishing how little one feels alone when one loves.
~John Bulwer

Playing with doll furniture and worms on the back steps circa 1961

Some of my earliest memories are of playing with worms and doll furniture in my grandparents’ backyard.  I could never understand why the worms didn’t survive the baths I’d give them.  In the springtime, my younger sibings and I spent hours creating dams and controlled waterways with the water from melting snow that would stream in the lane next to our yard. After a long Canadian winter, seeing the sun sparkling on those streams of water gave me such a wonderful feeling. My mother and grandmother both scolded us for getting wet and muddy but it seemed like such a small price to pay for such happiness.

In the summer and fall, we went for picnics in the woods.  We’d enjoy tomato sandwiches wrapped in waxed paper under a big spruce tree while my mom moulded faces in the spruce gum that ran on the tree trunks.  The ‘devil faces’ would harden and we’d see them again the next time we picnicked there.  So began the magical enchantment that’s always been a part of my love for trees.

So much snow

Eventually my grandparents purchased the land where we picnicked most frequently.  Old firefighting hoses were made into swings that my grandfather suspended from the large branches of white pines.  My younger brothers would climb the trees but I was content to swing for hours, daydreaming and singing to myself. 

Climbing a white pine

In the summer we were out in the fields picking berries and flowers or catching grasshoppers and butterflies.  I learned how to drive a tractor in those fields when I was about ten years old, as did my sisters and brothers.  I also had my own little axe with which I was able to trim dead limbs off trees, an activity I still enjoy doing to this day. 

Growing up outdoors

In the winter we’d play in the snow, go sledding or skating at one of many outdoor rinks.  There was always something to do outdoors, either together or on our own. My siblings and I all brought our love for nature with us into adulthood.  Giving children the opportunity to be outdoors, as did my parents and grandparents, truly is a gift that lasts a lifetime. 

Thanks to Gerry at Torch Lake Views for suggesting a post about memories of growing up outdoors

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kids climbing rocks

Are kids testing the limits of your patience?    Perhaps you’re feeling cooped up with a baby who won’t settle down for a nap, a whining toddler  or older children who are arguing incessantly.  If so, maybe it’s time to take it outside.

scaring away wildlife with a teething baby in florida

Scaring away wildlife with a teething baby in Florida

When I was a young mother, taking a crying baby outdoors in my arms or in the stroller always seemed to take the edge off.  Even if the baby didn’t settle completely, at least I felt better.

When my sons were older, having them run around the house several times was my favorite solution to behavior that was spiralling downwards.  They always came back in refreshed and in a better mood than before they went out.   More often than not, time outside can be more effective than a time out.

we don't want to be outside

But we don't want to be outside!

Of course children don’t always want to go outside.  They might complain that the sun’s too bright or it’s too windy, too wet, too cold, too hot or too early in the morning.  Never mind.  Dress them appropriately and throw them out.  Better yet, go with them.  If they’re climbing the walls, you probably are too.

outdoor kids

You can’t stop kids from horsing around, but you can have them take their loud voices and rough play to a place where noise isn’t an issue and they can inhale fresh air while exercising their large muscles.

Climbing the walls isn’t half as much fun as climbing trees.  Besides, the trees don’t mind.

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Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better. It’s not.
~ Dr. Seuss The Lorax

How do you get a child to care about nature?  You’d think it would come naturally to all children, but it doesn’t.  Bright light, rough textures and cold winds can all make it difficult for some children to like being outdoors.  It helps to make it personal.  Just as children learn how to love other humans by first forming an attachment to their primary caregiver, so too do they learn how to love nature by first forming a personal attachment to an individual natural setting.  This setting could be a backyard, a garden, park or a wood. Sometimes, all it takes is an attachment to a solitary tree to begin a lifelong relationship with nature.

Exploring textures

A simple walk around with your child can provide them with the opportunity to get to know every nook and cranny of their outdoor world.  Even in your own yard, you’d be surprised what creatures share your space.  Encourage your child to look under rocks and peek inside bushes.  The more you know about local wildlife, the more you’re going to want to know.  Field guides can be helpful and the Internet can offer a great deal of information, but neither resource is a subsitute for personal observation. 

Just playing a game of hide and seek can help increase a child’s comfort level outdoors.  If you have safety concerns, pair a young child with an older child or adult as they hide or do a search.  The goal is to get them accustomed to outdoor textures such as the prickliness of evergreen needles and the roughness of tree trunks. 

Keep your sense of proportion by regularly, preferably daily, visiting the natural world. 
~ Catlin Matthews

You needn’t stay outdoors for long.  Frequent visits in different seasons and weather will reveal that bright sunshine, precipitation, wind and cold are all part of nature and can even be enjoyed when dressed appropriately.  Once a child gets beyond their initial comfort zone, it becomes easy to take next steps to forming an attachment with the natural world.  Before you know it, they’ll be crying to stay outside.

This post is the third in a series about Getting Children Outdoors

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