A few weeks ago, I wrote about reading Amanda Blake Soule’s The Creative Family: How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family Connections. I really liked this book and through reading it and her blog, was compelled to also request another of her books, The Rhythm of Family: Discovering a Sense of Wonder (written with her husband, Stephen) from our library as well. I finished it a few weeks ago – and it, too has stuck with me.
From the inside cover:
Following the course of a year, this book explores the ways we can create deep family connections and meaningful memories through living in tune with the cycles of nature. From stomping around in mud boots in spring to gathering around the woodstove in winter, our activities naturally change from season to season–from the rhythms of the seasons comes the rhythms in our homes, our hearts, our families, and our every day. Paying attention to these changes slows us down; inspires new types of creative play and exploration; instills a sense of family togetherness; and deepens an awareness of nature and self that can make our lives, days, family, and earth grow stronger.
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t yearn for a slower pace – the pace at which the world seemed to work when we were kids. I guess that’s because we were all longing to be older. Now we’re longing to not be so old. And I don’t know about you, but for *A* and I, it’s often easy to allow the “stuff” of life to overtake the simplicity that we so often crave. This book was a good reminder of why it’s good to slow down – and gave some great examples from the authors’ family to encourage readers how to do so.
The book is organized into twelve chapters, one for each month, and with some fantastic photography throughout. At the beginning of each chapter, there is a short essay by Amanda Blake Soule and another by Stephen Soule. Then there are ideas for things to make and things to do in each chapter – each corresponding with what’s going on in nature at that particular time of year (from where they are on their farm in Western Maine, which is a slightly different environment from where we are in the foothills of Western North Carolina, but easily adjustable for our differences).
The essays at the beginning of the chapter were personal and reflective of the Soule family’s connections to each other and to the natural world around them. As a dad-to-be, I connected with Stephen’s essays, as he remembered times he’d spent with his father and wrote about his mindfulness of how he was spending time with his kids. I connected with his words and the whole of the book on such a level that it required some mulling over before I wanted to tackle writing about it. His thoughts in the month of January, for example:
“Young and strong, my Dad used a wooden scoop push shovel and would run down the hill piling the snow with force across the road. Lying on my back in the fresh banks, staring beyond the streetlight to the stars above, I would replay the events of the day in my mind. With the sounds of my neighborhood drifting to the background I would dream of the future. How would my parents look when they were old? Would I still have my best friends? How old would I be in the year 2000? The sound of my father’s voice would eventually beckon my thoughts back to the present. I would make my way to the house, comforted to know that no matter where my life may lead, I could look up into this same night sky and be home again.”
For me, it wasn’t so much snow-shoveling, but maybe bringing in the wood for the fire that I remember being outside at night with my dad – looking up in the cold night sky at the thousands of stars. Many moments like those are frozen in my memory. Reading this book brought them back.
Several themes resonated throughout this book -simple, but elusive ideas, all – like mindfulness (of each other, and of nature), reflection, wonder, discovery. And also time, slowing down, noticing, finding natural rhythms, awareness. These are all things *A* and I crave. Finding these elements – and making them a part of our parenting and family goals are paramount for us on this slow march to becoming a family of more than two. Here are a few excerpts – you should check this book out for yourself.
“It is in the late months of the year that I feel our pace picking up. The rush to prepare for the season ahead of us is on, combined with a flurry of holiday activity and festivities, not to mention all the crafting and making I would like to do for the gift-giving season in front of us. Our days become full–full of richness and wonderful moments, but full nonetheless. It’s in these months that I find it most essential to stay clear and focused on the life that I want to live. I find myself thinking daily, sometimes hourly, about the ways that I need to direct my actions to incorporate the important pieces of creativity, nature, and family that we value into our busy lives.”
This is an example of one of the “Do” sections of the January chapter, for when it’s freezing outside: “Creating sun catchers from frozen ice and the bits of nature found around us is a kids’ craft classic. My little ones and I love to make these, gathering everything we can find amidst the snowy ground (or from our seasonal nature shelves). Hanging these ice wreathes and watching them catch the sun and sparkle, and ultimately watching and hearing the drip-drip-drop of them as they melt before our eyes in the glowing sun, is the best kind of slow, marvelously simple entertainment.”
This is from one of the “Make” sections of the April chapter, when spring is official and exploring outside is an everyday thing: “Every little adventurer needs his or her own Field Bag. Something to lug all the wilderness exploration supplies in, and something to carry home all the treasures.” I had one of these – though a bit more Daniel Day-Lewis from Last of the Mohicans-inspired.
Another of the “do” suggestions – this one from the month of June: “Family picnics are so special to us, and I know they have been for generations and generations before. There’s something magical about transporting an everyday family meal into the outdoors – whether it be at the beach, in the woods, in a desert, or at the park. That’s the beauty of it – that fun outdoor picnic sports can be found anywhere and everywhere, even your backyard.” *A* and I have always been all about picnics – I even proposed (in December) on a picnic. (I admit it was a little frosty for a picnic that day, but the plans had been made well in advance and what can I say, the weather guy lied!)
From these excerpts you can probably see what I mean – especially with the “do” sections of the book I represented here – these are not complicated suggestions. They’re more like reminders – simple is better. It’s not always easier. But it’s better. Simplicity encourages connections that might otherwise go unmade. Connections to each other, to the natural world. These are things that are important to us and how we will function as a family.
I’m really glad I read this book in addition to reading The Creative Family. The Rhythm of Family has especially helped me realize what’s important to think about, encourage, and foster in our little family-to-be. I’m still mulling them both over – and to me, that’s the mark of a good book – they stick with me, and I return to them again and again. This is definitely one of those.