Ramona’s best friend has a middle name the same as one of New Zealand’s native trees, Rimu. A rimu is tall and sprawling with weeping leaves and ladder like branches that are amazing for climbing. The three of us hiked to the top of the hill together to check our cows in the top field. They scaled the rimu next to the fence and as they sat there, swinging their legs, her best friend told her how this tree was his brother.
Ramona accepted it, a fact, and now speaks of all the forest as our family, as if she’d always known we were related, underneath this skin and bark.
Whatever you believe, there is truth in the idea that we are in a relationship with the earth. (It’s up to each of us to decide how far we wanna take it!) I’ve found myself thinking about the fundamentals of healthy human relationships… imagine if we were to apply them to our human-earth thing? I feel like it could be beautiful.
Since coming back to New Zealand we’ve been on a bit of a journey with Tim and the girl’s Māori whakapapa- how to acknowledge and breathe life into a part of their identity that was shut down generations ago? We hope to begin speaking more Te Reo in our everyday and we also want to live by some of the beliefs that have been lost. Traditional Māori perspectives on the land are that humans and all living things are all connected, interwoven. Land doesn’t belong to people but people belong to the land – but even more than that; people are as much as the land as a mountain is.
It’s important for people to consider where they stand in relationship to the land. All healthy relationships are based on individuals understanding themselves, their identity and how they relate to the person in front of them.
Are people here just to make the most of the land, to profit from it? To look after it? Protect it? I think we are all turning back to more ancient views of the land – we are not just here to be stewards, but we are inherently connected. Our wellbeing is caught up with nature. When the earth is sick, we are sick. When our relationship with the earth is strong, we are healthy.
We had a new friend come and stay recently and she told me about how she read Gladwell’s book, you know, the one about how all the experts have spent 10,000 hours on their “thing”- the Beatles, the Olympic gold medalists; 10,000 hours is the magic number for greatness. My friend’s brain began whirring. She homeschools her twin girls and she realised she could give them the opportunity to be at one with something by the time they were 16! She racked her brain and settled on the thing she thought mattered most:
For the last four years her aim has been to provide as much opportunity for her kids to be in the outdoors and she’s documented each hour on her way to 10,000. She’s not militant about it – some days they don’t even step outside. But to make up for that she’ll plan a three week hiking trip across the Sierras, notching up 504 hours in the tally.
Whilst I’m not ever likely to do it, I LOVE that she is saying being outdoors is crucial to childhood, so crucial that she will prioritise it and document it and make nature an ambition.
Anyone in a long term relationship will have a story about a period in their lives when they and their partner passed like ships in the night. We were a bit like this in London for a while. How quickly the tension rose. When we didn’t spend time together, we forgot how much we enjoyed each other. All the communication became practical – and fraught.
It doesn’t have to be 10,000 hours, of course, but the simple fact that we have to spend time in nature to value it, is fundamental.
We have some grizzly wild goats in the forest behind our yurt at the moment. They are so close and they are so wild that their yeasty smell wafts into the yurt in the mornings. The next door neighbour’s kids found them first during an early morning forest adventure, they rushed straight over, powered by their hoots, and all the kids donned hats and gloves and found shields and made swords out of antlers and they went off to find them again. One of them yelled ” When we find it, we shall have a feast of thanks! A royal banquet where we will eat in its honour! Meaning, we will eat it!!”
It was so Monty Python as to be unreal.
Research seems to point to the fact that the more gratitude showing in relationships, the better the health and longevity of that relationship. I have begun shooting off little breath prayers at the sight of the night sky or a huge tree or a waddling duck or the sound of the river. As a family we try and remember to light a candle before we eat and think of all the things we are grateful for. Every night we are thankful for the sun and the rain the amazing ability of the soil to nourish the plants we eat.
These little rituals of thanks could be one of the easiest ways to re-form our connection to the earth.
So we made a thing, for Juno’s birthday (a toyless birthday) which you can see us making in my new video:
And we’ve only had it for 24 hours but it is such an amazing invitation to play. We all keep finding ourselves caught up in flow as we feel the earth under our feet and in our hands.
And don’t you think adults need play as much as kids? To just intentionally enjoy themselves outdoors?
I’ve always hoped that our kids will get into surfing, as amazing things happen when you surf. You just find yourself absolutely revelling in the ocean. Delight so quickly turns to awe. And awe is the trigger for respectful actions.
I feel like the more playful we can be in nature the more our collective actions might change. Creating opportunities for ourselves and our children to laugh and delight in the outdoors makes it so, so, so much more likely that they will care for it and grow to live in a way that nourishes the earth rather than exploits it.
There’s a big rhetoric at the moment that laments the role of nature in childhood. Outcries about how they can identify a dalek but not a blackbird, and how we can get them to KNOW THIS STUFF. But, like all the stuff that we see as problematic in childhood- it’s really about us. Because if we can restore our relationship with nature, our children will find it a breeze.
PS My second ebook, 30 Days of Rewilding, aims to help parents become the thing they want their children to be – earth lovers.I’d love you to read it and I’d love to hear how you help your family find a connection with the earth. x x x
PPS Did you hear about my Patreon? Just launched it last week and am soooooo excited by all your support! There is already heaps on there for patrons only, discussions and videos and a parenting mini-series.