From My Journal, a number of years ago:
In the Garden, Again!
Now the children and I have returned to the garden playground! Last autumn, after the Harvest Festival, the children and their parents came to school for a Saturday picnic, to “put the garden to bed”. We raked out the leaves, took the scarecrow apart, and spread her straw into the flower beds for winter mulch, pulled out the old flower stalks, and laid everything to rest for the winter. Through the very long and cold winter, from time to time, a child would ask, “But when do we get to go back to the garden?” Today was the day, and everyone was thrilled! The five year olds were discussing the exact place they had left off playing their “garden games” and the little ones were trying to remember which path we take to get to the garden.
Our garden is a little bright spot in the deep Virginia woods. It is laid out in the curve of our stream, and we must walk across a small footbridge to get there. The children love to play “in the garden” because this includes splashing in the shallow water of the stream, looking for salamanders, water skaters, cray fish and all their aquatic relations. They thrive with the endless back and forth across the little bridge, to play on the swing set, in the fairy house made of a sheer bed canopy , under the scented branches of the butterfly bush, nibbling herbs and flowers as they go.
It is such a gift to teach these young souls, here in the generous arms of Nature. The children develop intimate relations with the insect and animal world, from the army of worms they unearth (and re-earth!) to the song of the wood-thrush they hear and the footprints of the raccoon in the mud beside the creek.
The native people pray by intoning “All My Relations.” And the children talk of the great family of Nature: our best friends the Rain Fairies, their mother The Great Mother Rain Cloud, Brother Wind, Father Sun. These children have the foundation laid for a life lived experiencing humanity as part of a great seamless Whole. This is preparation for the only future we can sustain. This is our one hope, and they bring their up- springing joy to it!
Sharifa Oppenheimer was the founding teacher of the Charlottesville Waldorf School and is the author of the best-selling book Heaven on Earth: A Handbook for Parents of Young Children and its companion workbook How To Create The Star of your Family Culture. She recently wrote With Stars in Their Eyes: Brain Science and Your Child’s Journey Toward the Self. She currently teaches Brain Science and Child Development, as well as other courses, through LifeWays.
After writing extensively from her experience, wisdom, and love of young children, she has turned her hand toward writing about other aspects of profound connection. She offers Sacred Earth ~ Sacred Self gatherings that explore humanity’s biological and spiritual inter-being with our other-than-human relations. Her new book A Litany of Wild Graces: Meditations on Sacred Ecology (Red Elixir Press, April 2022) explores these themes through essays, poetry, and litany. Visit sharifaoppenehimer.org and subscribe!