I make it a point to take daily walks with my children. Though we live in the city, nature is always around us. Walking in nature with young children is both therapeutic and revelatory, mostly because nothing escapes a young child’s attention.
One morning, I noticed my sixteen-month-old son pointing at a crow. Transfixed, he stared at the neighborhood crows as they perched on the telephone wires, preening. That night in bed, I couldn’t stop thinking about the look on his face. His face was so awe-stricken, so lit from within that one would think he’d just witnessed beauty personified. Then, as the crows took off toward the high branches of an oak, how his body shook with giggly joy!
What did he see in them? Crows were, to my mind, pesky city birds with shrill voices and a predilection for trash. What’s more, I’d never even noticed the crows in our neighborhood. For four years I’d walked the same stretch of neighborhood with my children; for four years I’d never noticed the bevy of crows that swooped down from the telephone wires to amuse and delight my tiny son.
The next day, I told my son we’d look for the crows on our walk. Right away, he noticed the crows sitting in the large oak. He began cawing and pointing feverishly, his attention completely occupied, his eyes large and limpid. The crow swooped down and landed a few feet from us, catching the sun, displaying the ebony iridescent sheen of his feathers. Together, we stared at the magnificent creature, laughing at his quick-motion polka dance, marveling at the passionate timbre of his inscrutable caws.
I’ve since become, like my son, enamored by crows. Besides being highly intelligent birds with long life spans and life-long mating patterns, they are hilarious, eccentric, full of grace. My son taught me a cardinal rule of beauty, a rule I’d somehow forgotten: if you give something your prolonged, curious, compassionate attention, the thing you are gazing at is sure to reveal itself to you in all its beauty and complexity. All of us are born with the ability to give the things of this world our effortless attention, but it’s easy to forget this wisdom as we age and as life changes us. Through the eyes of our children, the everyday is once again imbued with meaning and beauty. Lifeways acknowledges the importance of responsiveness and attentiveness when it comes to being with young children– not only is this attentiveness necessary to connect to the beauty inherent in our children, it is also necessary if we are to connect to, appreciate, and truly see the beauty of our natural world.
Megan Stair is a Waldorf and LifeWays enthusiast. She writes and teaches in New Orleans, Louisiana, where her children attend the Waldorf School of New Orleans. She is currently enrolled in her first LifeWays course and plans on pursuing her LifeWays Early Childhood Certification.