I’ve been a Joni Mitchell fan since way before most people around the Seed were born, staff and parents included. One of my favorites is her song, “River.” It has always spoken to me about the parts of life that carry us off to adventure, both actual and imagined. Daily activity in the sand circle here at the Seed has sparked thoughts of rivers lately.
Growing up, several rivers played a role in my life. Our little town in rural Nebraska has a river running through it. The Little Blue was a source of exploration with our dad when we were kids. In the summer we’d water ski on it with our neighbors. The muddy brown river was too narrow for our boat to turn around, so the skier had to drop off temporarily for the boat to change directions. We crossed that same river when helping our grandfather herd his cows and watched it flood with curiosity in the rainy season. Last spring the flood current knocked out a bridge that still awaits replacement.
The Mississippi River, which originates at Lake Itasca in Minnesota and flows all the way to the Gulf of Mexico, has always been a part of my summer experience in northern Minnesota. We’d cross it several times before arriving at our final destination. Once we crossed the Mississippi, we knew we were almost there. The Piney River, also in Minnesota, was a favorite for canoe trips, both at summer camp and later for day trips with my dad. The easy flow of the current on warm sunny days is still happily impressed in my memory.
Most recently, it’s the Seed rivers that have captured my attention. During this lovely spring season, rivers are a daily occurrence. Each time I see kids working together to build and monitor their river banks, it reminds me of when we made “the Stream” during the summers in our back yard. We created a whole town around our river and involved all the neighbor kids on a regular basis. I believe those days of making a world with natural materials and our imaginations set the stage for everything Awakening Seed has become.
I have thought of this lately, as I’ve asked myself why I still feel so passionately that playing with mud and sand is important. Yes, it’s a hassle for the teachers to have wet sandy shoes return to their classrooms after recess. And we certainly don’t want anyone’s car getting trashed by muddy clothes or body parts. Those challenges aside, I believe one of the most valuable experiences children take with them from the Seed is their relationship with the natural world. Childhood is a time when young humans fall in love with the world, when they develop a lasting connection to our planet through exercising their imaginations. Children who have a deep connection with the earth tend to continue caring about it well into adulthood. At this time when Planet Earth needs our love and attention more than ever, I have confidence that our band of sandy-shoed river makers will use their well developed imaginations to play a significant role in the healing process.