If you listened in on my Emergency online update you will remember me recounting the story of when Grandfather, Rick and I were sitting on the front lawn of Ricks house. We often joked about the lawn and how Rick’s father was obsessed with it. Ricks father was a fanatic golf player and we swore that he stole some fairway from a nearby golf course and transferred it to his house. We also joked that he came out at night with a flashlight and manicure clippers and got rid of anything that wasn’t Kentucky blue grass. He would have thrown a fit if he came home and found us sitting on the lawn. The rule was that no one could walk on the lawn. How insane!
Anyway, we were lamenting to Grandfather how terrible we were at finding the smaller level of sign tracks, especially small mammal hair. The holy grail of sign tracking was to find the chin hair of a mouse, vole or shrew and in the entire year we had known Grandfather I found but two of those kinds of hairs. Rick had me beat by finding 3 of the cherished little chin hairs. We couldn’t understand how easily Grandfather could locate dozens of hairs in a glance and we begged him to let us in on his secret. He answered us saying; “you just don’t know how to see, for you look but don’t see.” I then asked him; “well how do I learn to see?” Grandfather answered quickly saying; “look at the lawn” and with that he walked away and headed back to camp.
We knew very well that when Grandfather asked us to do something we did it without question but this order was going to test our dedication to the max. We thought to ourselves, “how boring” and then rolled over on our bellies and began to search the lawn. It wasn’t long before we became obsessed and thrilled by what we saw. Here was a tiny world right beneath the surface of the grass. We found wolf spiders stalking smaller insects, we found vole hair, insect parts, seed casings, bundle scars, leaf fragments, miscellaneous teeth and larger hair. The more we looked the deeper we were drawn in. Hours passed and we only realized the time when it became too dark to see. We grabbed flashlights and went back to our tiny world, actually burning out both flash lights until we were forced to stop. At first light the next morning we were back at it, laying on the dew drenched lawn and reveling in all that we were discovering. We were thrilled beyond words.
Over the nest week we poured ourselves into every conceivable environment we could find. We moved from the lawn to the debris litter in the forests to the overgrown fields and even gravel driveways. We couldn’t believe how much we had been missing. Where we once would walk by the various varieties and patches of ground and debris we know knew that there was a world awaiting us where all we would have to do is to lay on our bellies and see that tiny world unfold before us. To this very day and very often you will catch me laying on my belly and searching the ground as thrilled as I had been the first time I ever discovered the magic that is found beneath our feet. It never fails to amaze me.
Now this is where you as a parent, caregiver and teacher comes into play. Introduce you kids to this vast wonderfully magical world that not only lays hidden beneath the lawns but also in the fields, the forests, the gardens and even in a flower pot. Get down on your belly with them and show them what you find. Explain and teach them about your findings and encourage them to look deeper where the chin hair of a mouse or vole is a cherished treasure. At night give them a flashlight or have them use a magnifying glass to search the tiny world. Point out to them the colors of the smallest of sand grains or even the larger gravel fragments. I know that within short order and with enough coaching from the caregiver that the kids will become hooked. Finally, move the search into your house or apartment and have them look at the floors, rugs and carpets using a magnifying glass and tweezers to collect their samples. This will lead to hours if not days and a life time of fun and discovery for both you and the kids.
All Good Medicine, Enjoy, Tom