I am a huge fan of Richard Louv's book Last Child in the Woods. He argues that in order to save our children from "nature-deficit disorder" we need to get them unplugged from electronics and outside to play, get dirty, explore, and fall in love with the natural world. The end of the book includes a list of 100 creative and simple suggestions for getting children engaged with nature. One of them includes having them plant a garden.
So when my 10-year-old daughter Rachel announced that she wanted to "redecorate" the weed-patch around the front of our house, I was thrilled. She has been planning for weeks to create a "rainbow garden" around the steps of our front stoop. Her 7-year-old brother Benjamin also wanted to be included in the work. Today we went to the local country store and bought flowers in all colors of the rainbow. And they discovered the wonderful aroma of cocoa shell mulch! "Smells like chocolate!" they exclaimed when they sniffed the bag. They couldn't wait to get started.
I warned them that it would be hard work - all the digging, pulling weeds and mulching. They assured me they were up to the challenge. So we brought out the spade, trowel and diggers. We spent an hour on just a 6-cubic-foot area taking turns pulling up the stubborn weeds, turning over the clumps of dirt, and smoothing the loosened soil. We discovered a world of grubs, earth worms and ants amid the labyrinth of roots and rocks. Eventually the ground was ready to receive the new plants. Rachel placed them in appropriate spacing, carefully thinking through size and color. I taught her how to dig a hole just the right size, how to turn over the potted flower, gently tap and squeeze it from the bottom, loosen the roots and set it in the ground. We nested the plants in their new home. Finally it was time for the spreading of the cocoa mulch. They were tempted to chew on a few pieces, it smelled so chocolatey!
They were thrilled with how they had transformed the weedy area into a place of beauty that stimulated all the senses. Just as we were finishing up, a light rain began to fall. As we took the tools back to the garage, I remembered how just a few weeks ago we had taken these very items to church for Creation Care Sunday. We placed them on the altar and the congregation blessed them, along with seeds, soil, and water. Now these same recipients of blessing had returned the favor!
As I walked back out of the garage, I saw a rainbow appear in the distance, my son pointing excitedly.
There was the arc of water and light refracted into the very colors we had just planted in our rainbow garden. Coincidence? If so, a blessed one.
Tags: children, gardening, nature-deficit disorder, rainbow, creation-care