Archive for December, 2011

Top 10 Holiday Inspirations From the Natural World

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

Broomball=Family Fun! (Helmets are always a good idea!)

10.  Outdoor Ice Skating…especially fun on ponds.  Broomball is a great game for the whole family.  Part hockey, part hilarious this game is a slippery way to burn off a few of the too-many-holiday-cookies calories.

9.  Animal tracks.  Fresh snow, or even wintertime mud, is a great way to discover the critters in your neighborhood.  See if your kids can identify the differences between canine and feline tracks, and try to find a mouse track (the impression left by the tail is a great way to identify one).

8.  Outdoor icicles.  The ones hanging on your Christmas tree are nice…but the ones hanging from the tree in your front yard have historical legacy….and are much tastier.

7.  Quiet nights.  Long, star-filled night skies make for great evening walks and story telling.  Check out H.A. Rey’s The Stars for stories about wintertime constellations like Orion and Gemini.

Eating snow is a favorite winter activity, too!

6.  Going sledding and building snow people.  One of the times you are guaranteed not to have to cajole your children into multiple layers of clothes, but you might need to cajole them to come inside for dinner.

5.  Making holiday decorations from natural objects.  Besides cutting down your own tree (a great family tradition), you can make fragrant wreaths, centerpieces, and door swags from the nature that you have nearby.

Pinecone Bird Feeder

4.  Creating animal trees.  The animals will appreciate a few treats around the holidays, and nothing is better than peanut butter-birdseed-pinecone ornaments.  The birds (and maybe your dog) will love you forever.

3.  Seeing different (read: not evergreen) trees illuminated by lights.  One winter, in La Paz, MX,  I saw a palm tree wrapped in a strand of multi-colored lights and now I look for out-of-the-ordinary trees and bushes that have been festooned for the holidays.  Most recently: a pile of stacked tumble weeds illuminated by a farmhouse on the Kansas prairie.

2.  All-NATURAL workout.  Shoveling snow and scraping ice?  Thank you, Mother Nature, for the requisite motivation to get out and move this morning.

1.  A REAL Context for Christmas Carols.  While we walk in a winter wonderland, we can build Frosty the Snowman because, now the ground is white, and we are heedless of the wind and weather. O’er the fields we go, laughing all the way to where the treetops glisten, and to where all is calm and all is bright.  We are caroling out in the snow, while fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains remind us that heaven and nature sing.  We were expecting a silent night, but the sun was hot that day, then—with a look down from the sky—we shouted, “Let it snow!”   The snow came upon a midnight clear, and folks dressed up like Eskimos.  In fields as they lay making snow angels with their friends and family, those of us who love the natural world hope that all your Christmases be white.







Happy Holidays!

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Colorado Winter Wishes

Holiday Listening Skills: The Reason for The Visit

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Taking time to listen...all year long

How are your listening skills? Today is the Colorado Outdoor Education Center’s annual holiday luncheon at The Nature Place.  It is our opportunity to get everyone from the different departments at COEC together for a meal and some quality story telling, some questionable singing, and some good listening.  This is a holiday tradition that has been part of Sanborn for decades.

Story telling is an essential part of the holiday season, it allows us to take a deep breath and immerse ourselves in the history of the past year with our friends and family.  It allows us to remember those we have lost, and celebrate the triumphs of childhood and share our quest for sanity in parenthood.  It allows us the opportunity to listen at a deeper level.

In the excellent article, In Africa, The Art of Listening, author Henning Mankell reminds us why “humans have two ears and only one tongue”.  Much holiday family time revolves around “visits” to different places to see different people…yet a “visit” is also a time to chat and, more importantly, to listen.  It is around these holiday tables that I learned my history and began to define my own set of stories to help explain my distinct sense of self.

One of my family’s favorite stories was about Sandy Sanborn.  My uncle, Charlie, does an amazing Sandy impression and his favorite story is a humorous retelling of The Day The Sheriff Came.  “Chandler” (as my uncle was known) was the Garbage Man at Big Spring.  The day the sheriff arrived (for reasons never known), Sandy had my uncle hide—and then began to tell everyone that “Chandler” was a wanted man.  At the next meal, a shot was fired outside the lodge, and–in dramatic fashion–my uncle crashed through the front doors….covered in ketchup.  (This was always the point in the story my dad would mutter, “My kids are NEVER going there…”)  I don’t remember what happened next—but I’m certain it involved Sandy’s deep belly laugh…a laugh that I had heard imitated for years before I actually heard it in person.

Children LOVE your stories.  They will readily become enraptured as you tell stories about your favorite gifts, most memorable holiday moments, and the history of the traditions you practice and remember.  They want to hear your stories about everything: school, camp, love, adventure, embarrassment, and mistakes.  A good story will teach a lesson…but the listener might not realize the lesson for years to come.  Your stories will shape their paths, and they will return to them again and again to gain more and more knowledge about the world.

In a world where information is ubiquitous, time is a valuable resource, and there are innumerable technological distractions that take away from these “visits” it is important to take time to pause, reflect, remember and share.  Whether we know it or not, we all crave the knowledge those moments provide.  As Mankell says, “Many people make the mistake of confusing information with knowledge. They are not the same thing. Knowledge involves the interpretation of information. Knowledge involves listening.”

During this holiday season, we hope you take time to tell a story or two, listen to the stories being told, and watch for the new stories being created.

Happy Holidays!