One of the wonderful things about where we live is ladybirds! There is a sycamore tree at the bottom of the road which they seem to love, and a bench next to it at the bus stop covered in lichen which has become a favourite winter hotel for hibernating. This month they are beginning to collect again on their bench, and so walks are becoming punctuated by ladybird spotting and spot counting! Each time we stop and look – and touch! – we see new colours, new numbers of spots, different cosy hiding places in the lichen and joins of the bench. Something so very ordinary to glance at as you walk by is actually a mini ladybird world to be examined and explored.
This year we have been able to observe them as they have come out of hibernation, and very excitingly we have found that the plum tree in our garden has been chosen as the perfect place for the larvae to make their cocoons – so we had the chance to see a couple emerge all wobbly and sit in the sunshine falling on of work surface in the kitchen as we prepared plums for jams and the freezer – one little yellow one with no spots at first, but which seemed to get definition in the sunlight. Amazing! And now it’s autumn again and they are finding winter homes on the lovely bench – how do the new ones know? Is it like birds just knowing where and when to migrate I wonder?
I love being drawn into my children’s wonder, and letting them lead me on these expeditions to explore new worlds hidden in plain sight, tucked into corners camouflaged by ordinariness. It is one of the many gifts that come with Aspergers – attention to detail, and intense focus on something that interests. For both my girls nature is one of those things, and time together sharing this interest is wonderful – OK it can be hard work too, finding out which insects live in the soil where I’ve only just planted something can be a little disheartening, sometimes you do find carrots growing in the oddest places when they have taken an interest in helping, and it is definitely easier one to one than it is with both! – nevertheless wonderful and very precious.
Whether it’s ladybirds, frogs, watching a spider wrapping up a fly to save for later, giggling at the way Guinea pigs eat grass like we slurp noodles, keeping up with butterflies, measuring worms, being amazed at the shiny-ness of beetles or the brilliant camouflage of shield bugs, chicken whispering, discovering mice in the compost bin, singing to encourage baby plants, tasting freshly picked blackberries, or digging for treasure (potatoes to pottery), tucking seeds into their little beds, wondering how colour ‘works’, and what is sky?, learning to recognise the uniqueness of each of our robins, and distinctly different bird songs, being delighted by feathers, fluffy seeds and slimy seaweed or finding the silky softness of rose petals irresistible – they teach me to commit to the moment and show me the wonder of God’s quirky, gorgeous, intricately playful creation. In a real sense I know they are teaching me, and in those moments leading me to, a deeper understanding of God’s delight in his creation – and in us.
They are not restrained by social etiquette or the expectations of society about what an age appropriate response would be, in the way many of us are; age does not stop the necessity of splashing in puddles or keeping ladybirds as pets in a little house for a day or so.
They seem to simply be in touch with a God instilled instinct to enjoy His creation, and to revel in its often unexpected visual beauty – and the beauty of its intricacy, and its intimate connections that hold it all together. They show me how nature is something to be nurtured and something that nurtures me. In becoming lost in the wonder and delight of it with them I sense that I experience, and perhaps have a glimpse of sharing, something of God’s heart; God’s own creative, playful, tender and protective delight in all He has made.
So how can I carry on learning from my children?
- put down the gardening tools more readily perhaps to go and share their wonder…
- carry on finding new ways to create opportunities for shared experiences in nature…
- encourage them to put into words (or drawings) what they see and wonder at so it can be shared!
- have been wondering about whether there is scope for sharing drawings like these, and our words of praise for Creator God in geocache so they can be found and perhaps inspire others??
What have you found to be ways of continuing to learn from your children?
In what ways do they reveal more of God’s heart to you at the moment?