There is something absolutely magical about spring. I still remember the first day this year when I woke up and actually felt the warm sun rays shining in through the window. After a long and cold winter, it was almost as if I had forgotten the sun existed! The sunshine felt so nourishing against my skin, and ever since, the kids and I have been spending as much time as we can soaking up the sunny goodness outside.
I’m not sure whether it has to do with living in a place where the seasons are much more distinct, but suddenly I am beginning to notice the signs of the new season all around me. I’ve lived in a few places throughout my life so far. In Malaysia, the weather is pretty constant all year round – hot and humid! Even in Australia, which is seasonal, it never seemed as unmistakable as it is here. It might also be due to the fact that I am now more interested in observing the signs of the seasons – and when you look for something, generally you will find it.
Finally, the sun is shining, and the air smells of new life. Beautiful white and pink blossoms adorn the fruit trees. Everyone in the neighborhood seems to be outside, preparing the soil for the vegetables they will plant. Soon there will be flowers everywhere, and there is an anticipation for the first new fruits and vegetables of the season. Spring is finally here!
Why Do Seasons Matter?
Recently I have come to love the word ‘rhythm’. I love organizing, making lists, and thinking up routines. But routines can be so rigid at times, and they don’t allow for the fun and spontaneity of life. Rhythm however is much more fluid, more of a flow to life rather than a fixed structure. Rhythm is a breathing in and out, a flow of energy that fluctuates between time for rest and time for stimulating activity. Children in particular thrive on rhythm, a general flow throughout the day. Every day we wake up, get dressed, have breakfast, play and so forth. The times are not rigidly fixed per say, but rather there is a gentle ebb and flow to our daily activities, with active times spent playing, going outside or learning, and more quiet times spent with naps, reading, and silence.
The Rhythm of Life
We can witness rhythm in almost everything in the natural world. In our breath, there is inspiration and exhalation. Our heart beats to a rhythm. And nature provides external rhythm, with the rising and setting of the sun, the waxing and waning of the moon, and the turning of the seasons. Winter is a time for retreat and hibernation, for deep reflection. Then comes the Spring, a time for renewal and birth. Just as the plants begin to sprout after their roots having been deep in the soil throughout winter, we too begin our own growth and movement after the slow and contemplative winter. It is a time of planting, of new beginnings. As Summer comes there is an abundance of energy, with long days to fill with all our pursuits. And then Autumn appears. Time begins to slow down again, it’s a period of gathering and preparation for the cold, winter to come.
Seasonal Living, Balance, and Presence
Seasonal living shows us how to live in harmony with the natural cycles of our environment, to live a life of balance. It helps us to know when our bodies are more conducive to activity and when we require more rest and grounding. When we stop to notice the seasonal signs around us, we can truly learn to be present, something so important in this age of distraction. To pay attention to the seasons is to tap into the wonder and wisdom of creation, to be in tune with the miracles around us.
Hakim Archuletta beautifully wrote:
And even though we may not stop to drink in these phenomena of seasonal change or even be able to sense it, we are affected, and we should be. It sets into action the processes in our bodies needed to deal with the warmth and quality of our new world that will be filled with more activity, with flowers and eventually fruit. Our blood knows it, our liver knows it. Our lungs send the subtle smells into the blood and they awaken all they reach and the same process is enacted within, tulips of hormones, and grass blades of enzymes on the inner landscape. This in turn even changes our speech, our appetites, even our gait. One hakim (a practitioner of traditional medicine) said: ‘Our senses write our impressions on our blood and our blood in turn on our perceptions.’
So whether we want to or not, the seasons affect us and the more we are in tune with what is happening outside of us in nature, the more we will come to understand ourselves and attain inner balance and harmony. But just how can we go about this process of becoming more in touch with the seasons?
What Children Can Teach Us
One of the beauties of having children is that they really help to bring us down to earth, and remind us of what is truly important. Children are so much more in touch than we are, as we have become increasingly disconnected over the years. For many years, most of my time was spent indoors. And if I wasn’t inside, I was most probably in a car on my way to another indoor place. Occasionally we would take the children to the park, or go for a picnic, or a nature walk. But these were definitely exceptions, and the norm was to be indoors. And as much as I would recognize the amazing amount of benefit and overall goodness I would feel on those rare occasions when we would be out in nature, it was so hard to find the time to go outside. It wasn’t really part of my lifestyle.
Make a Conscious Effort to Go Outside!
But as my children grow older, they are always begging to go outside! Often I find it bothersome. I have household chores to do, meals to prepare, messes to clean. But they just crave being outside. And when they have some time playing outdoors, their moods change. They fight less. They smile more. And it’s always beautiful to watch children play outside. So I’ve been making a conscious effort to spend more time outside with them. And once we are outside, we can’t help but experience all the seasonal changes that are taking place around us. Every day brings something new. New blossoms, new flowers, new birds.
30 Minutes for 30 Days
I recently came across a 30-day challenge organized by the David Suzuki Foundation to spend 30 minutes in nature every day for 30 days, starting on May 1, 2013, which I think is a wonderful way to get closer to nature and experience the seasons. And this May 1st was the perfect beginning to the challenge, as we happened to be invited to a family barbecue where we spent almost the entire day outside. The children of course had a spectacular time. In the evening a big gust of wind came and blew all the blossoms off a quince tree. “It’s snowing blossoms!”, they all squealed in delight. And the spotting of a hedgehog caused much excitement as all the children rushed to chase the little creature running down the path. Just being outside, amongst the trees and the grass, with beautiful flowers to lay our eyes upon, cool fresh air to breathe in and warm sunlight to soak up, was a true blessing for us all.
How About Just 15 Minutes?
Sometimes it can be difficult to come up with things to do once you’re outside, and 15 Minutes Outside: 365 Ways to Get Out of the House and Connect with Your Kids, by Rebecca P. Cohen, is an excellent book that contains simple and creative outdoor activities, one for each day of the year, for every season. It features games, gardening activities, science and craft projects and many ways to appreciate wildlife and the natural world, a truly effortless way to teach children an appreciation for nature’s life cycles and seasons.
Notice the Signs
Once you’re outside, just pay attention to what is happening around you. Simply by being intentional about noticing the signs in nature will help a great deal in your appreciation of the seasons. And again, with children, it’s even more rewarding as they view the world through eyes of such curiosity and excitement. Now that it’s Spring, there is so much to see: Flowers. Bees. Butterflies. Insects. Birds. New plants.And the more you start paying attention, the more you will begin to observe subtle changes that take place. A new flower that wasn’t there the day before. The sudden absence of certain blossoms. New chirping from the baby birds in their nest. Just by noticing the signs of the seasons, we become more connected to the rest of creation around us, and gain a better appreciation of the world, but also of ourselves.
Engage in Seasonal Activities
Finally, another way to get in touch with the seasons is to simply take part in activities of the season. Now that it is spring, it’s the perfect time to start working in the garden and preparing the soil for planting flowers and vegetables. It’s time to swap over our wardrobes, putting winter clothing into storage and bringing out the cooler clothes. It’s a good time for spring cleaning as well, of both the home and the body, which I will talk about in an upcoming post.
Teaching our children about the seasons is also a great way to bring about connection to the seasons. The Rhythm of the Family: Discovering a Sense of Wonder through the Seasons, by Amanda Blake Soule, is a beautiful resource filled with different ways to create deep family connections and meaningful memories through living in tune with the cycles of nature. From stomping around in mud boots in the spring to gathering around the wood stove in winter, it explores how the seasons can provide us with a rhythm that deepens an awareness of nature and one’s self.
How do You Embrace the Seasons?
So, I would love to hear from all of you. Do you pay attention to the seasonal changes that take place? What types of activities do you do, do you have a special way of welcoming each new season? By contributing ideas we can surely help each other to become more connected and aware of the seasons. My goal for this month is to spend at least 30 minutes outside with the children, every day. Hopefully we will find some new creatures to observe, hear some new bird calls, and maybe even collect some spring flowers to press. I’m looking forward to all these and more, how about you?