I walked up to the new MUM Sustainable Living Center on the first day of my Local Nature class. Wooden garden boxes with luscious lettuce growing in it greeted me. The colors and vibrancy of the vegetables jumped out at me. A friend walked passed and explained that students could pick any of the vegetables and that it was a free community garden. The leaves tasted delicious.
The classroom setting was very interactive and we gathered around tables grouped together in a square. David Fisher, our teacher, would bring in plants and lay them in the center of our table and we would inspect them and learn about them.
On the evening of our first class we met at the Fairfield Loop Trail at 9pm and embarked on a two-hour full moon bike ride. Our group, of approximately thirteen, set off into the cool light of the moon. No lights were allowed and at times we cycled under the thick canopy of the trees, barely able to see in front of us and with only the fireflies to lead the way. Sometimes we stopped and listened to the frog symphonies. It was fun to be able to distinguish between all the different frog sounds that we had learned about in class during the day. There was the sound of the cricket frog, which sounded like two metal balls clacking together and of course the distinct deep melody of the bullfrog. As we biked down into little valleys we could feel the rivers of cold air flowing over us. At the end of the trail we all went our separate ways and cycled off into the dark with the sound of the church bell signaling that it was eleven o’clock.
For this class we studied the Kamana Naturalist Program. We learned how to tune into nature, open our senses and to cultivate a greater awareness of our surroundings. We learned to not only use these skills when we are out in nature, but to realize that nature is around us all the time and to open ourselves up to all the little signs of her.
David introduced us to many of the interesting species living around Fairfield, one of these being the beaver. He gave us an assignment to go look for the beaver colony on campus. As a group we decided to follow the creek that ran through the school grounds. Instead of just inspecting the parts of the creek that were visible from the road, we decided to get right into the creek and to follow it all the way along. It was very overgrown and I remember asking a significant amount of times, “Is this poison ivy?” I am from South Africa and unfamiliar with poison ivy. It was fun to explore this muddy world usually out of my daily sight. We discovered some interesting tracks, saw a tortoise and the carcass of a deer. We also saw a woodchuck and many types of insects. Unfortunately we didn’t discover the beaver colony, but one of our classmates who started at the other end of creek found evidence of them.
We had to find a secret sit spot where we could spend half an hour a day observing nature on our own. It was wonderful to scout around my area for a peaceful spot to spend everyday.
One morning my class met at the reservoir and went for an early morning swim. Afterwards we gathered under the trees, still in our bathing suits, and started our morning work. It was blissful to be in this class. It was not my first option, but I took it since I needed a class that was only two weeks long. I am so happy that I landed in it by pure chance. It once again reminds me to be open to all of life’s possibilities, since you just don’t know what life has planned for you.
Stay open and receptive.
Love, peace & play.