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April 2024 - ayikipisim (Frog Moon)

Welcome to the first blog post documenting my journey through the 13 Grandmother Moon course! Here is what the land looks like this month.

In the spring, I always feel the pull of nature even before I get outside. This year is no different. After doing all of the morning things that have to be done, I head out to the Mill Creek Ravine.

The ravine is a magical place. It is settled right within the city, but the sounds of vehicles melt away as you walk farther into the woods. Sometimes there are many others sharing the space, dogs and people and zooming bicycles, and at other times there is no-one around. I step off of the main path and approach the bank of the little creek where I will be spending time over these coming 13 moons. Today I have the space all to myself.

The smell here is different, earthy and somehow soft. Dry leaves leftover from fall crunch underfoot. I hear birds calling overhead, and something that could be an early spring insect making sounds nearby. There is very little color at this time of year.

As I look closer, I start to see signs of life. Tucked among the dead brown grass are just a few bright green shoots of fresh grass. The blades seem delicate and strong at the same time as they push up through the earth. I also see green moss on some tree trunks, along with fungus on some trees around me. Being near the water is wonderful. Even though there is much less water than in other years, and it is not rushing by but very slowly flowing, the peace I feel just looking at the surface is calming and relaxing. The wind blows and seems to sweep the earth clean, preparing it for growth soon to come.

What I feel being communicated is power and built-up potential. Although everything around me looks dead, I know that just under the surface new life is stirring. There is so much hope here, so many new beginnings that have already started but most can't quite yet be seen. I am filled with gleeful anticipation for the days warming and even more grass to start carpeting the ground. The birds seem filled with energy, eager to begin the easier life that spring promises. I do have a heartbeat of worry about the potential drought due to the very mild winter we just experienced, and I try to stay grounded in the moment. There is no fire, there is no smoke, nature is strong.

I perceive the built-up potential and hope being communicated with all of my senses. The strongest sensation is in my core, I just feel it. I feel the energy of the spring, coiled underground, transitioning from gathering strength to bursting forth with new growth, new life. I hear it in the gleeful voices of birds overhead. I see it glimmering in the fresh blades of grass, rare as they are on this early spring day. I also look closer: I see forest litter on the ground in various stages of decomposition, bark and sticks and leaves and a piece of an old wasp's nest. Those old bits of nature, I know, are to become the nourishment for the seasons to come. Spring may be my favorite part of our 4-season cycle.

I interpret this as a new beginning. I also interpret this as hope. Even when everything around is dull and grey and looks quite dead, strong positive forces are stirring underground. It's the rhythm that I perceive. Winter is for resting, spring is about renewal. In my personal and professional life, it's a great time for renewal, and I am happy for the reminder. I have spent way too much time in books, papers, and the computer-land of academia over the past few months. I have spent too little time with my family. I am reminded today that we need a balance of hard and soft, fast and slow, heat and cold, to survive.

It is time to leave my special place. On the way out, I take time to do something that I haven't remembered to do for years. I stop. I look. I gather items that call to me, items I don't think will be missed: pine needles, tree bark, a feather, the scrap of wasp's nest. Bringing a little bit of nature into my home always makes me feel better, and my children are past the ages of gathering sticks and stones and storing them in every corner of the house. It takes more intention to do that myself; there are no bright eyes and little hands each day focused on the slow turn of the seasons, urging me to slow down. I need to learn, to remember, how to slow down on my own.

While I think winter counts are just one symbol per moon, I made 7 spring-inspired peg dolls. If I had to choose just one to represent this Frog Moon, it would be the one on the far left. This winter moon count symbol centers on a seed. Seeds are such a powerful symbols of the spring, of growth, of things that look dead but are really brimming with life. The seed I chose is a helicopter seed that looks like angel wings. I think it's from a Manitoba maple, and wish I knew for sure.

3 Tips for Going Outside with Children

If you want to get outside with children more often to watch the seasons turn, here are the top 3 recommendations I can offer for getting started:

1 - Make it Easy

It can be quite hard transitioning children outside, especially in spring. The boots, the hat, the mitts - do we need mitts? It's winter gear for the morning and practically summer wear after nap time. To decrease stress and pressure, keep a set of extras on hand: rain pants for every child, some warm hats, those thin stretchy mitts from the dollar store. Ask parents to leave a set of outdoor gear with you, but have backups available in case they forget. Finally, if you're travelling further than the back yard, follow my friend Brandie's advice and have a to-go kit ready. The stuff in the bag will depend on where you're going and with whom - just you, your own children, or children in care, too? Here is what I made sure was always ready in my to-go bag, I just needed to add snacks and fresh water and we could head out the door!

2 - Slow Down

This is sometimes the hardest thing for me, but it really is where we can learn the most. If we rush by everything, we can't really see anything. Take time on your walks. Build in 5 minutes where you can just stand around. It is amazing what children notice in the spring: crackling ice, clouds in the sky, the year's first butterflies - a ladybug! Be patient. Breathe in the air. Let their joy and enthusiasm wash over you. (If they're crying or upset try to let that wash over you too, it should be easier outside - and you can always try and distract them with those fresh glimmers of spring!).

3 - Watch and Learn

As educators, sometimes we feel pressured to make every moment count. We might feel so much knowledge inside that we want to share with children, or have so many cool activities we can try. I encourage you to resist the planning and the talking and the very active involved role adults so often have with young children. Watch them: what do they see? Look at what they're doing - what can you learn? Their ideas and interests can drive our planning and preparation when we hesitate, hold back, and let their play and discovery take the front seat. Finally, remember that you do not have to explain everything. There is wonder and magic and creativity in pure discovery. As Jean Piaget said, "Every time we teach a child something, we keep him from inventing it himself".

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