Sometimes a new focus is all that is required to return the vibrancy to something that is beginning to pale. This is what this activity is about – making a familiar walk special by having a spontaneous nature hunt. But we weren’t just hunting for pretty leaves and flowers – we were looking for materials to make our names with…
As a family, we like going hiking in the woods. There is one provincial park in our area we particularly enjoy. It meets all the criteria on our checklist – creek and waterfall, a few meadows with berries and a variety of animals that you can spot if you’re lucky enough. Our son is always very optimistic about our chances. “Let’s go find a deer!” he says as he heads into the park.
We have been going to this park since Budster turned three months, so we have all had time to explore it well. And as we all probably know, there are times when familiar things are pleasant and comforting like an old blanky, but there are times when one is pining for something new that promises exitement. When we fount the latter to be the case, we tried exploring a few new places, but there was always something missing: they were too short, or too expensive, or too far, or all of the above.
Last weekend, we found ourselves in our favourite park again. We were simply going for a walk, but my thoughts were occupied with creating a slide of photos for my friend’s wedding. I wanted to put together a series of photos featuring our messages to the newlyweds, and I decided to start with their names.
There was an old bridge across the creek that Budster likes to play in and can occupy himself for a long time. Daisies and thistles grew on its banks, and we spotted a cluster of late berries and early yellow leaves. An inspiration struck me, so I sat down on the bridge and started making letters with them. It was working very well, and suddenly I felt happy. I love making projects with natural materials because they provide such unique textures and colours, and this was coming together so fast which was a pleasant treat – my projects tend to take too long, and half of them don’t even start.
My men were nice enough to supply me with materials, and in no time I had the names of my friends done. Just in time Budster was ready to hit the trail again. As soon as we walked up the hill, I spotted a cluster of red berries and exclaimed, “O-oh! They would have looked nice!” Then I saw a clover. There had been no clovers by the bridge. So I said, “Let’s see what other interesting things we can find, and we will make our names on the way back!” That’s how a walk turned into a letter nature hunt – or, to be more precise, a hunt for materials that can be turned into letters. Among our greatest finds were a pretty blue jay feather, acorns and a bunch of hickory nuts.
A couple of hours later, we were back on the bridge going home. There Budster played in the creek again, while my husband and I were making a nature collage of our names. It may not seem very grown-up… But there and then, it felt like the most romantic thing we have done in a while!
Budster doesn’t know any letters yet, but he took his chance to learn some. When we pointed out his name, made of leaves and flowers, he inquired curiously about every letter. That was not exactly how I imagined introducing him to letters, but isn’t it the best when learning just happens? There on the bridge, he could touch letters and even smell them!
And even though he couldn’t write, he was excited to make little pictures.
At the end of our outing, I thought that it was one of the best hikes I had. I felt alert, and I noticed more of my surroundings than usually. Every hill was not just an exercise for my legs, but a wonder, “What will I find when I get up there?” All in all, adding a little extra sense of purpose to our hike did the trick, and the old place seemed exciting again.
Maybe our letter nature hunt could be inspiring to you? It doesn’t have to be a big hike. I bet you would have a lot of inspiring finds in the backyard or on a walk down the street. If you have kids who are reluctant to go out or if you need an extra purpose for organizing a little family outing! Or maybe in the evening, you and your spouse would feel artistic enough to make a nature collage of your names. I’d like to print ours and frame it.