Monday, July 1, 2013

Hidden Art: Chapter 11

Or ... "Advice from the Back-to-Nature Crowd"
Edith Schaeffer might not be termed a "greenie," but she spends much time in this chapter encouraging us to just get outside. And that's better advice now than in 1971! If she thought we were isolated from Nature forty-two years ago, what are we now?? If humans tend to want "something between themselves and the earth" back then, we're certainly worse  in 2013.

And this is precisely the subtle difference between my childhood and children's lives today. We were outside if we weren't in school. The universal thinking was that children should be outside playing. If we were bored, "go outside."  The assumption was that children simply cannot be bored if they're outside. Why is that? Because the Great Outdoors is an infinitely interesting, varied, challenging, fun place to be!

Schaeffer says that being outside produces creativity; it fosters creative thinking. I know that my writing (poetry and stories) are often spurred by sights in Nature. When I was younger, I was often outside, especially in my teens and early twenties. I loved to walk in the woods, the mountains, to bike long ways, to sit in the sand at night and hear the thundering ocean. I was often chased inside by intense Southern heat or mosquitoes, but the advent of autumn would lure me back out.
We live in a stunningly gorgeous place with huge water vistas and great boating opportunities. Our little village of 850 people is a bike-rider's paradise. The water breezes keep us a bit cooler than other Southern locales. I'm thankful to be outside more again.

But ... since Schaeffer's books was written, computers, the internet, and cell phones have taken over our lives. Our children are growing up in a radically different world than we did. They have games on their phones that imitate outdoor activity. They can play tennis, golf, surf, and other outdoor activities ... on a Wii. How can boring old Nature compete with that?

I think Nature does. It's the relaxation Schaeffer refers to. What is "recreation"? Is it not behaviors that stimulate us to re - create, to create again, to give new life to ideas, art, words, music, elegance? In essence, we want to experience something beautiful and then re-make it, re-form it. The beauty found in Nature is true. There is no beauty found in a Wii game that imitates it. Playing a computer game is not recreation because it spawns no new beauty; it does not inspire.

Schaeffer's description of her "Treasure Hunt Meals" was delightful, wasn't it? I did a few things like that when the kids were little. Writing limericks, hiding Easter baskets, doing scavenger hunts. Children love to scrutinize puzzles and find hidden objects and ideas. Again, computers mimic this, but the mind needs the body to be involved as well, in order for the whole person to mature.

After Julia bought her little tablet computer, we set limits on her screen time. I noticed that even when she "turned in" her tablet to me, she'd then drift to the T.V., or sit by her dad and try to watch his iPad with him. Her brain became used to screen stimulation, it was difficult for her to find fulfillment elsewhere. This summer I've had to keep a tight grip on her screen time, forcing her to find other things -- reading, drawing, or going outside. It's difficult when the outdoors is very hot and very humid. I don't want to go out there; why should she?

There are seasons in life for all things. I realized years ago that summer in the South was rather like winter in the North:  the weather forces you to stay inside and simply wait and endure. If you're going to play in water (pool/river/lake/ocean), then you can go outside. (Rather like snow sports in Northern winters) The best time of year to be outside in the Deep South, to do serious yard work and take long hikes and sit on the porch? That's winter. Maybe three weeks in January are actually "cold" but otherwise, a Southern winter is ideal sweater/jacket weather.

So I don't feel guilty staying inside in the summer. I'll be outside come autumn! I'm planning even more outdoor activities with Julia for homeschooling -- drives, beach combing, nature walks, kite flying, and boating. October, here I come!
Julia, sailing last fall
The town-wide bicycle ride on Thanksgiving Day morning
A very happy me, sailing on January 1st -- bundled up but enjoying it!
The other posts on this chapter from Hidden Art can be found at Ordo Amoris, Cindy's blog.


  1. Day after day of hot weather does discourage outdoor play! You are wise to limit Julia's screen time.

  2. You do live in a great place to be outdoors!

  3. I love the photo of the glorious red leaves over the water! Thanks for your recent comment on my blog - blessings xx

  4. I think I let the weather have too much control over my outdoor-time. As I reflect, some of my better (long) walks have been ion chilly or rainy, or even hot days.

    I'm so happy to be outside for this entire week. In fact, I'm sitting on the back porch of my cottage now ;-)

  5. I am with you, M.K., on being inside more in the summer. Mornings are good to have devotions on the deck and evenings are nice on the deck too but I don't plan any hikes in the summer and but I do not mind hiking through the coldest part of the winter.

  6. Great post, M.K.! Sailing - what a wonderful way to re-create!
    Yes, the weather definitely plays a part, and our habits as well. Setting definite boundaries with our electronics is a wise and necessary thing - for our children AND ourselves!


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