This week I started a three-week meditation series with the resounding theme of HOPE. Springtime is a natural season to renew our hope and optimism about present and future possibilities. It’s the message of the time of year–birth, renewal– from Imbolc in February to Ostara, Easter and Spring equinox in the months following. While we think of New Year as January 1st, in the dead of winter, Chinese, Tibetan and other New Year celebrations happen closer to spring. And spring does seem the ideal time for the birth of a “new year”, even if the calendar doesn’t say so.
To honor the hope of spring, this week’s blog strays a bit from strictly mindfulness to hope found in living books by a woman who gives me hope:
She penned two insightful autobiographical books plus there are quite a few kids’ books written about her. From these books, to her Roots & Shoots program and the Jane Goodall Institute, there are a variety of ways to be inspired by her. When I read her books, I often hear the words in her voice; she has a lovely, calm strength so if you’ve never heard her speak, find some of her lectures or public speaking events on YouTube and enjoy! She seems never to have lost that deep knowing of what it is to be a child, so curiosity and wonder is mixed with her scientific knowledge and passion for her field.
The Watcher by Jeanette Winter is my favorite book about Jane geared toward children. There’s another called Me…Jane, and Who is…. Jane Goodall? I’m sure there are more! Her books for adults include Reason for Hope (very autobiographical), Harvest for Hope (her book about food and agriculture) and Seeds of Hope: Wisdom and Wonder from the World of Plants.
In this blog I’d like to focus on Seeds of Hope, which I consider a living book that can also be a textbook for nature studies. This book is from her point of view, her travels, work and interests. While it IS an adult book, you can read chapters out loud to kids, and teens will have no problem reading this almost totally G rated book. Jane Goodall’s voice, her love and concern for nature, plants and animals come through in a way that can inspire kids to learn and become caregivers of the Earth. If so inspired, introduce your kiddos to Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots program. www.rootsandshoots.org. This education program for children has resources for the homeschooler and parent. Peruse their blog for everything from teachers traveling to the rainforest to ways to help orangutans on Halloween, and how to connect with others who are interested in the environment. R&S also has local programs.
Seeds of Hope covers a lot of subjects and touches on a variety of topics: It starts with Jane’s biographical introduction that segways into the Kingdom of Plants, Trees and Forests. This is great for science and botany studies. She then goes into history, with hunting, gathering and gardening for a history of and discussion on food, plant preservation, seeds and gardening.
Two of my favorite chapters (for the herbalist in me!) are plants that can heal and plants that can harm. After learning about plants that are helpers, she delves into those than can have the opposite effect like tobacco, grapes, hops, opium poppies, coca leaves and cannabis. As an herbalist, and from the study of botany, these plants aren’t inherently evil or harmful. What causes the problem is how humans choose to process, concentrate and use or abuse the plant. It’s an interesting foray into alcohol and other potentially altering substances, and coming from this direction the discussion can be less focused on judgement and more on how this evolved historically, what are good uses for these plants and what’s harmful about them in today’s society.
If you and your child(ren) loved the scene with Professor Potts’ mandrakes in Harry Potter, or wished that you, too, could sit in Potions class, then peruse the book Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart. There could be some cool chapters in there for them. (She has another book called Wicked Bugs, and a third called the Drunken Botanist–because humans have historically spent a lot of time making fermented beverages out of any plant they could! Drunken Botanist is not a book geared for kids unless your family is into microbrewing or crafting liquors. From that point of view, some of the information is pretty darn cool. (One day I hope to live in a climate that allows fresh hawthorn so I can make beautiful red-pink cordials. But I digress!)
After Jane writes about plants, she moves into chapters about Hope for Nature, Saving Forests, Growing Your Own Food and Agriculture, which can be great information for inspiring or furthering a love of growing things. She covers two of my favorite crops–coffee and cacao–which are great topics to connect natural science with geography and current events.
I think Charlotte Mason homeschoolers will appreciate Seeds of Hope I mean, a woman writing of her love of nature, flowing into education about current events, history, geography, gardening? And what a great book for Earth Month or Earth Day activities.
After reading more about Jane Goodall, if you and your kid(s) inspired to plant trees I’m giving a shout out to a non-profit I love: Plant for the Planet, started by a boy in elementary school in Germany. It is proof that kids CAN do big things that change the world!! Felix Finkbeiner, at the age of 9, was assigned a class report on climate change. From there he started planting trees at his school, in his state of Bavaria, then in Germany. He became a member of the UNEP children’s board, and has become a global tree planter in the ten years since that first climate change report. The organization has planted millions of trees and kids can donate, become ambassadors, help spread the word and plant trees! Check ‘em out 🙂 Their website, plant-for-the-planet.org, is geared for kids, along with a YouTube channel and a social media presence. I adore that, in addition to planting trees, this group shows just how much real, global change that one person, one child, can inspire. That’s an important message for our kiddos!
Matthieu Ricard (do I find a way to quote him in every blog?) says that compassion without action is hypocritical. I think HOPE needs action as well. I hope to inspire my kiddo to not just talk and think, but to do something about it. As the kids at Plant for the Planet say, Stop talking. Start planting!