Word Muse: Newness Now & Again

by Tina Reeble, Education Specialist, 
Dimensions Educational Research Foundation and Nature Explore

I chose the word Newness this week thinking it would be easy to experience in real-time as Mother Nature begins to announce the arrival of Spring here in Nebraska. And so it has been. My family has noticed new bird songs in the air, the sweet smell of newness after our first spring thunderstorm, the new flock of birds (my son Zachary is convinced they were Sandhill Cranes heading to the Platte River), and the new green shoots of crocus and lilies that are  peaking out of the earth. The most profound newness I have experienced though, is a new idea.

I have realized that the newness of this past week has actually been “re-newness”. My family and I have been able to notice and appreciate the changes in our backyard only because there has been an absence of those things and now we are aware of their return. Our discoveries this week have been meaningful to us because we have had past experiences with these events and now look forward with anticipation to the rituals of the changing season. That’s why Zachary believed that flock of birds had to be Sandhill Cranes. We have been celebrating their arrival with annual visits to the country roads along the Platte River near Grand Island, Nebraska since Zachary was two years old. Friends and family pile into the van with cameras, binoculars, cold weather gear and plenty of snacks in search of the sounds and sights of the migrating flocks. Now that he is nine, their arrival speaks to Zachary deeply. Doesn’t the same thing happen for you? I know it does for me. I have a little hitch in my breath; I can feel an extra twinge of energy running through me as I notice the new signs of spring and eagerly await what I know will be coming next.

There are times though, when we do encounter the enchantment of true newness. Those of us who are privileged to experience the world through the eyes of a toddler or preschooler are able to look through a “magic window” if we pay close attention. It is such an amazing time in a child’s life, when so many experiences are a child’s firsts. I have lived a great deal of my professional life with children who have had the treasures of nature at their fingertips. I am very thankful for the joy and wonder that I am able to experience with them as they make their first-time, truly new discoveries as they connect with nature. Imagine finding a worm in the dirt for the very first time, having a butterfly land on your shoulder for the very first time, eating a warm tomato that you picked right off the vine for the very first time. Those are moments to cherish.

In her book The Sense of Wonder, Rachel Carson writes, “A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood. If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the  wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from sources of strength. If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder without any such gift from the fairies, he needs the companionship of a least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.” The text for this book received copyright in 1956. What would Ms. Carson say to those of us supporting young children in 2012? I think she would tell us to take children’s hands and look closer and see deeper alongside our children and to experience the newness of connecting with nature every day.

Go ahead, find a hand to hold today and discover something new!

Our next word is Risk-taking. 

Be bold, choose to be extraordinary, and I will see you next week.