Nature Fun for Summertime
There are days when nature finds us where we are. Two foxes strolled through the yard yesterday as if inspecting their own property. I’m surprised they hadn’t been frightened out of the neighborhood by the yapping of our little terrier who had spotted a doe browsing through the azaleas just an hour or so earlier, and was still “woofing” her displeasure at the trespasser. The foxes weren’t very big, but they sported bushy tails that were almost as big around as they were. I wish we’d had time to grab the camera!
Later, we sat on the patio at the edge of the woods and watched as a hawk tended its nest of noisy babies. There was a lot of activity up there, and I kept a sharp eye on our smallest cat, lest she look a bit too much like lunch from the hawk’s lofty vantage point. All went well, and we were able to bear the mosquitos long enough to enjoy watching fireflies flicker across the lawn, and see the occasional bat swoop by.
Sometimes, though, you may have to go out of your way to find touches of nature. Even if you don’t have wildlife neighbors as we do, almost any neighborhood offers many growing things to enjoy. I grew up in the heart of Los Angeles, and to outsiders, much of my world probably seemed paved over. It wasn’t though, and even in the heart of that big city, nature — plants, trees, birds, and wild creatures lived. Our tiny yard was a rich ecosystem of ferns, St. Augustine grass (nice for nibbling, if my mother didn’t catch me), an avocado tree, camellias, and many other plants.
My father’s organic garden was across the street in a little triangle of land left over when a freeway was built. This little slice of nature featured lemon, lime, orange, kumquat, and peach trees, a compost pile, and plenty of fresh vegetables. Less than a mile away was a park — not exactly a natural space, but open and ringed with fragrant eucalyptus trees. It had swings, slides, and plenty of space for running and playing.
What kind of fun can you have in nature with just a few plants, trees, or rocks?
- The eucalyptus trees drops silvery “buttons” that can be threaded on a string for a necklace or bracelet, and its long, narrow leaves can be written on with a sharp stick.
- Wide blades of grass can be held between thumbs and blown to make a loud squawking noise.
- Clover blossoms or buttercups (aka weeds) in the grass are fun to string together in long chains (make a small slit right under the blossom and slide the stem of the next flower through and repeat).
- Pinecones can be taken apart and the “petals” use to make owls or flowers or to shingle a birdhouse roof.
- Raw veggies can be eaten fresh in the garden (no washing allowed).
- Gourds can be dried and painted for use as birdhouses, planters, or musical instruments.
- Wild berries can be used to make homemade dye to finish coloring the t-shirt you carried them home in.
- If you see wildlife, and you’re quick enough, take a photo and create a simple nature journal (make it simple, or it’s not likely to get done!).
- Flat stones can be skipped over water, or wrapped in wire and made into a necklace.
- Sidewalks are a great place for chalk drawings, hopscotch (you do remember how to play, don’t you?), skating, bouncing balls, jacks, and more. I miss sidewalks!
- Shells can cover boxes, lamps, and more, though they are often prettier in water.
- You can get a lot of reading done in the boughs of a friendly avocado (or other) tree.
- Trees, bushes, and garage and shed rooftops make great hiding places for a twilight game of hide and seek (adults can play too — just don’t fall off the roof on anyone’s head).
There’s much more you can do, but that’s a start. I’d love to hear your ideas — please feel free to leave them in the comments section.
The key is to go outside and stay for awhile and be willing to get dirty. It’s a joy to appreciate and experience creation, but if you’ve not been used to doing so, it may take a bit of practice. Trust me — it’s worth it!
The National Wildlife Federation offers some ideas on how to share nature with your faith family in Faith, Flora, and Friendship.