Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Day at the Tidepools In Which We Save a Shark

I was recently reading the introduction to one of our textbooks, The Handbook of Nature Study.
In it, the author describes her talks with teachers and their experiences in nature.
Do they seek out time in nature with their students and themselves to learn, to refresh their spirits, to replenish their souls?
"Oh no," the teachers cry.  "We haven't the time!"
The book was written exactly 100 years ago and it is uncanny how the similar the teachers' problems sound like the problems of teachers today.
But that's a different post.
My point is that Ms. Comstock, the author of The Handbook of Nature Study, understood the value of being outside.
It tames the "naughty" child who needs to get out of his desk.
(apparently they had ADD 100 yeadrs ago, they just called it something else)
It inspires, calms, refreshes, comforts, encourages, and energizes.
Spending time in nature was, in her mind, not a luxury but a neccesity.

I wholeheartedly agree with her.
I would go hiking daily if I could.
But don't be mistaken.
Getting 4 kids ready for a day spent in nature is no easy task.
It takes effort.
And sometimes I just want to say, "screw effort!"
I don't want to pack lunches, snacks, water bottles, the blanket for sitting on, extra clothes for wet or muddy excursions, art supplies, the stroller, the baby carrier, hats, first aid kit, the nursing cover, extra diapers and on and on the list goes.
Sometimes I'd rather just stay home and let the kids watch a cartoon on Netflix.
But that seldom works out for me.
Because just staying home and watching cartoons leads to kids who are running around the house, crazy and "naughty"and that leads to me going crazy and being naughty. (ahem)
Our days are so much better when we go outside.

And I do mean more than just, "go play in the backyard right NOW!" kind of outside.
(although that has a place and I am deeply grateful for our back yard)
I mean when we head out into nature.
Yes, it takes effort.
But it is always worth it.
Every. Single. Time.
Yesterday dawned dreary and gray.
I know some of my local friends love that weather.
It's so, fallish.
No.  It's not.
It's dank and depressing and energy sapping.
It does not make one want to go to the beach for tide pools.
But we did anyway.
And just seeing this sign lifted my spirits.

I love Crystal Cove.
It is one of my most favorite places on earth.
Not just for the cottages and the whole feeling of the place, but for the beaches that look like this.

That's hard to come by in southern California.
The sky was big, with streaks of blue and sunshine peeking through.
The tide pools spread out before us, otherworldly and full of life.

My heart filled with peace.
I relaxed.
And took in the beauty.

Then we set to exploring.

There were barnacles and mussels.

Sculpin fish. Coraline Algea.  Sea Anemones.

Rocks for climbing on.

We used our field guides as we explored.
It's so much more fun when we can identify our discoveries.

At first they thought these were fossils.
They are Chitons.

Rough Limpets.

Deep caves crawling with hermit crabs and shore crabs.

Boots are good for tide pooling.

Big, purple Ochre Stars.

And orange ones too.

Rocks covered in sharp mussel shells.

And slippery algae.

We found 2 Sea Hares.  This one was swimming.

We held him for a moment so curios hands could touch his slimy skin.

After the tide pools, we sat below the cliffs and took in the rocks.

Another field guide for identifying all those lovely layers of sedimentary rock.

The sun came out and it got hot.
The water sparkled and we were visited by one of our favorite friends.
Really, we could not have asked for a more perfect afternoon at the shore.
It was exactly what we all needed.

Then, as we were leaving, the day got more exciting.
Christina and I were a ways behind our big kids, walking with our littles.
Up ahead, the bigs were yelling, "a shark!  A shark!  We found a shark!!!"
A shark it was.

Way up on the dry sand, far beyond the reach of the tide, with no indication how he got there, a small Leopard Shark lay on the sand.
We, Christina actually, rescued him.
She used her son's shorts to pick him up by the tail.

Just look at that awesome mama!
He was limp and covered with dry sand.
We weren't sure if he'd make it, but we were going to give him a chance.

As Christina walked toward the water, he moved around, causing great excitement for the kids.
They were yelling things like, "shark alert!"
Probably not the best thing to yell at the beach, but can you blame them?
It was exciting.

Christina the shark rescuer, thew him back into the sea and off he swam.
We like to think he made it.

We can now add shark to our list of wildlife sightings.
Rattlesnake.  Bears. Shark.
Our list is getting exciting.
We ended our day with a treat of french fries and celebrating a friend's birthday at the Beachcomber cafe.
Gotta get that parking validated, you know!

In the words of Mary Poppins, "it was practically perfect in every way."
It's worth the effort, friends.
Go outside today.
Love from,
If you are not fortunate enough to live near tide pools, then I have a wonderful way for you to still experience them.

We just started reading it and we love it already.
It is the perfect accompaniment to our trip to the tide pools.
But you'll love it even if you don't get to do the tide pools as you read.
It is so well written and the story so engaging that all my kids love it.
The illustrations are amazing.
All of Holling Clancy Holling's books are wonderful.
We read this one last year and cried when it was over.
I can't recommend them enough.
Get thee to a library!


Anonymous said...

I started crying while reading THIS post. How is this possible?

Actually, I know how.
I think we all naturally excel with teaching our kids certain things and since I was NEVER a child (or adult) of the outdoors, I feel like I stunt Kensington's learning, in this area. I look at these types of things and then other posts about art and craft projects and I feel like a complete failure when it comes to teaching her.
I want so badly to expose her to everything this beautiful world has to offer. I need to stretch myself and do these things.

Thank you for sharing, Greta.

hennymats said...

Oh you are so right. No tide pools or even a beach anywhere near, but some more time outside (although it does get pretty cold these days) would be good for the kids. And even more so for mommy, who tends to be the grumpy one around here when the kids start running around the dining room table...

:) Swenja

natalie said...

wow!! what an amazing post w/ gorgeous pictures! simply beautiful... thanks for this post! what a great reminder of how important it is for children to be in the outdoors.. while it can be such an effort, it is always rewarding!
i'll be putting these books on my library list as well. thanks for the recommendation.

katie said...

Awesome. I love it. And I need to get our family to Crystal Cove pronto.

Betsi* said...

"If I want to know what God is like-if I want to see a visible reflection of his nature-then one of the best and most complete teachers is nature itself, the platform of his original work."- Sally Clarkson
How wonderful to consider that while you are teaching your children about nature, they are learning and experiencing His nature and presence.

mygirl said...

greta, i love this post. (and not just because i'm in it) you captured our day so perfectly, your pictures are beautiful and the message is awesome. i'm glad to be one of your nature buddies.

p.s. you know you would've picked up that shark too if you didn't have a baby strapped to the front of you, if you had a couple more hands and if you had a spare pair of shorts in your bag.

xoxo, christina