Friday was a beautiful morning so we hopped in the golf cart and headed out for breakfast. Along the way, we noticed that the water at the lake was perfectly still; bright and blue glowing glass. We pulled into the marina to watch the sky reflecting on the water. Just then, six goslings came waddling to the edge of the lake with mama and papa close by their sides.
The morning was so still, so calm, that we came back and enjoyed breakfast picnic-style by the water. By then the goslings had gone so we set up camp at a nearby lakeside park. After breakfast, it was time for a little yoga with a sequence we call Earth-Body link. The sun moved overhead and the morning gave way to afternoon. It was time to hit the books. We cruised back home but it was too late. We'd been bit by the outside bug.
"Mama, I want to go back to Little Beach."
I couldn't have agreed more. So we packed up our school supplies and went back to the little lakeside park. This was the beginning of a new Om School tradition that we're keeping alive: Outdoor Fridays.
On Sunday, we continued our Earth Week with family a trip to the walking trails and botanical gardens at Skyline Wilderness Park. After a little picnic lunch, we enjoyed learning about the trees and wildflowers native to our area. Skyline is an amazing park with picnic grounds, a disc golf course, an archery range, a social center, tent, RV and horse camping, a barn and arena for equestrian use and, of course, the amazing native plant garden filled with beautiful old trees, redwoods, cottonwoods, oaks, and flowering jewels like wild lilac and dogwood. Our favorite is a two-hundred year old Valley Oak... in her presence, time slows down and all worries fade.
Monday, we took school outside again for some sacred garden time and began our studies with Chapter 39, Protecting the Earth, from my favorite book, Thich Nhat Hanh's, Touching the Earth. Here, the Zen Master asks us to let the mountains and the rivers be our witness as we promise to protect the earth and "transform garbage into flowers" and produce the energy of understanding and love. We also read chapter 21, Earth, from Starhawk's, Circle Round and learned abot Gaia, the ancient Greek goddess whose name means, "Earth" and discussed the interdependence of all life. Next, it was time for more traditional academics including writing complete sentences using proper punctuation and spelling. Then, A. asked if we could hike around the land near our house pick up garbage. It seems that all of our dirt loving and goddess worshiping is paying off!
Tuesday the rain came and we stayed inside for our studies. We put our new words on the board (up, us, under, until, upon, use, umbrella, unicorn, and unite), learned about the prefix "uni," and read chapter 39, Oneness with the Earth, from Thich Nhat Hanh's Touching the Earth in which Thay says, "I see everywhere the four elements of earth, water, fire, and air, and how they interrelate with everything and inter-are in me. I shall touch the earth and remain close to the earth to see that I am one with Mother Earth; I am one with the sunlight, the rivers, the lakes, the ocean, and the clouds in the sky." We also read "Growing: a Story" by Diane Baker and followed the life of a tomato seed from planting to blooming to becoming a living part of a little girl's body.
On Wednesday, we enjoyed a little extra mindfulness practice in our morning circle and sat, eyes closed, listening for outside sounds. We heard the wind, the leaves in the trees, and a number of different birds. Then, with our minds focused and still, we hit the books and the piano. A. learned to play a new song (a difficult one with alternating hands and both melodic and harmonic intervals). She read, The Maple Tree -- a story from the Oak Meadow Kindergarten syllabus (intended for the parent to read the child!), finished two new math worksheets with sums through 18 and rounding numbers to the nearest hundred, and made a pretty little Earth Collage.
Later we read chapter 41 from Touching the Earth, The Earth as a Solid Place of Refuge and learned the story of Buddha facing the Mara under the Bodhi tree. As Buddha sat in meditation reaching enlightenment, Mara appears as a demon and tells Buddha that he is declaring enlightenment for himself and earth as his realm. He points to his legions saying, "What I say is true. These are my witnesses. Who will believe that you speak the truth? Who will be your witness?" Undisturbed in his meditation, Buddha reached down and touched the earth. I love this story and think it is a beautiful illustration of taking refuge in the earth -- and of earth as a place of solidity and acceptance.
Thursday was Earth Day proper and, after making offerings of wildflowers and seashells from our beach day to the earth goddess Gaia, we rallied the local troops for a clean-up day at the creek. Seeing these little smiling faces engaged in service made my heart sing. When we get our kids involved young, they learn that honoring the earth is as essential as brushing their teeth. (Ignore either and they'll go away.) After the work was done, the kids splashed around a bit and we released rosemary, with wishes for the earth, downstream.
Rosemary is the herb of remembrance, birth, and rebirth. The name rosemary, which comes from the Latin, meaning "dew of the sea," hails back to its ancient origins. For centuries, it has been a symbol of friendship and hundreds of years ago it was dipped in gold, tied with a ribbon, and given as a keepsake at weddings. (from: http://www.sallybernstein.com/food/columns/gilbert/parsley_sage.htm) I hope the kids will remember this loving gesture. We are the newcomers to this community and I feel honored that such wonderful mamas have welcomed us into their fold and shared this special day with us.
On Friday, we came full circle -- back to our little lakeside spot for a spelling test and a math test. A. spelled all of her words correctly and has learned a number of little tricks and clues for remembering math facts. We read, The Magical Seed by Lawrence Williams from the Oak Meadow Kindergarten syllabus. This is a sweet short story that illustrates the cyclical journey of a seed, from earth to apple tree, and back to earth again... the same journey each of us makes in our lifetime.
The great Zen Master Dogen wrote, "The whole moon and the entire sky are reflected in one dewdrop on the grass." They're also reflected in the still morning waters of lakes and streams and in the wide, bright eyes of our children. When we see that the four elements of the cosmos are the same elements in our body, we learn to honor both.
By taking time to notice the little things, to see the hidden connections, to see the whole earth and the entire cosmos in ourselves, we create space in our heart for devotion... for real reverence for this beautiful blue and green earth that is our mother and our home... that is the one thing we all have in common. By connecting with the earth, we see where we come from and to where we are going. By touching the earth, we can release our fears and worries, take refuge in her solidity, and discover a lightness of our spirit that affords real freedom.
Deep peace to all.