Magical Naturalist Skills: What Kids and the Kid In You Know

FoxTales No. 1 - written and illustrated by Jane Valencia
FoxTales No. 1 – written and illustrated by Jane Valencia. Shell and Leaves step out of the book Because Of The Red Fox into their own comic!

If you’re out with a child — especially with a young child — and you remove the shackle of clock time (so you’re wandering, no agenda, no pressing time commitment), the world around you reveals its true extraordinary state. Children will be drawn to all manner of things in the landscape, and will overlay their own bundle of stories and lore — whether it’s characters and lore drawn from books, movies, or anything else they like, or situations they’re puzzling to understand deep within. It’s like that for us grownups too, but we sometimes have to work hard to extract ourselves from our mental chatter to notice the wondrous around us.

In any case, a wander — especially outdoors (but it can be anywhere really), where you disengage from the press of time and commitment is an occasion for discovering that magic is everywhere, and that this magic is a mirror of our deepest natures. We are given enticing glimpses of our soul landscape, as well as the soul landscapes of the kids or other folk we are with.

The kid in you might point out that the magic you glimpse in what you notice in your surroundings is actually a clue to one of your “super-powers”. You could also say that the magic you notice reflects a glimpse of your gifts, your unique way of perceiving the world,  a facet of your soul’s purpose revealed, or the jewel of your heart. Choose your language.

Tiny World - photo by Jane Valencia
Tiny World – photo by Jane Valencia

Okay, so you have a “soul’s journey” aspect to your wanders. The other aspect is that in a true wander where you open your senses,and let go into the weave of the world, you enter an amazing conversation. You’re not just noticing things (rocks, plants, human-made things) that reflect an aspect of a nature, these things actually speak to your nature.

Suspend your disbelief if disbelief is starting to shout out to you right now. I invite you to engage in this possibility: that the world is alive with its own myriad intelligence (which can be very different from our human style). What if, when you notice something with curiosity, openness, appreciation, and wonder that it notices you?

Lupine Lens - photo by Jane Valencia
Lupine Lens – photo by Jane Valencia

Even before that moment of noticing: what if you set forth in a state of wonder, curiosity and open senses. Could it be that if you do so, the beings of the world wake up to you? “Alert! Alert! Here’s an awake, open-hearted, curious human!

What if, when something in your nature resonates particularly with the unique nature of another being, that that other being calls out specifically to you? “Hey! We have something in common! We’re in tune in a certain way.

What if this being is calling out, inviting you to notice, inviting you into a conversation with it? “You’re pretty interesting. I like what I see you in how you see me. Do you want to play?”

Dragon Tree
Dragon Tree – photo by Jane Valencia

That’s how plants work in offering their best medicine, in my opinion. And I think if you are reading this post this far, you probably recall times when a mountain has called to you, or a cloud, a lake or sea, a mischievous breeze — or particular human-crafted things: a book, a doll or toy, a harp, a home, a _______ [you fill in the blank].

The thing to keep in mind if you are new to this thought, or don’t play in this sandbox very often, is — if you bring the shell, plant, rock, doll, toy home — to continue the conversation. And listen to when its time to let the thing go. When you’re conversation is done, return the being to the earth, or pass it on to another human who will take time to  get to know it.

I’ll stop here today, but I want to emphatically state: The world is alive.

Here’s part of a poem I love by a 19th century Welsh bard, that underscores this idea for me:

In lovely harmony the wood has put on its green mantle,
and summer is on its throne, playing its string-music; the willow, whose harp hung silent when it was withered in winter, now gives forth its melody — Hush! Listen! The world is alive.
Thomas Telynog Evans (1840-1865)

This is what being a magical naturalist is: to open your heart, to walk in wonder, and to view the world with what Annie in Because Of The Red Fox calls “Magic Eyes”.

Go out on a wander! What do you experience when you step into the world with “magic eyes” and an open, wondering heart? Please share your flights of fancy or other thoughts about wanders, the aliveness of the world for you, and more in the comment box below!

Dragon Fire - photo by Jane Valencia
Dragon Fire – photo by Jane Valencia

The Secret of Standing Like a Tree: For Kids

Are you a grownup? Maybe you want to read last week’s blog post too: The Secret of Standing Like a Tree: For You


FoxTales Debut – Aftermath:

Shell Wakefield, heroine of the children’s magical fiction novel, Because Of The Red Fox, is stunned. Leaves the Red Fox offers comfort of a kind.

FoxTales 1 - Draft by Jane Valencia
FoxTales 1 – Draft by Jane Valencia

Shell: I don’t believe it.

Leaves: What don’t you believe, Shell?

Shell: FoxTales ... the blog comic. Jane even sketched out a bunch of episodes. To the right is the first one. It was supposed to be about us.

Leaves: Just because a novel was all about us doesn’t mean everything has to be about us.

Shell: Oh, I know that! The world isn’t all about me. But even you got into the first comic!

Leaves: Lucky me. You know why your cousins got into the first one, though.

Shell: Because Annie stood like a tree?

Leaves: She was relevant.

Shell:  … because what she was doing tied into last week’s blog post. Fine! So the secret  of relevance is to stand like a tree.

Leaves: In the short term. But, indeed, fame and a fortune cookie could well be yours by standing like a tree. Certainly one of the secrets of a happy life is yours for the taking by doing so. Look how much fun this Red Alder sapling is having.

A young Red Alder power poses victory – photo by Jane Valencia

Shell: But that’s what Red Alders do by their very nature ….

Leaves: And take note of the Sword Ferns in the photo below. Don’t they look like they’re having a fantastic fiesta?

Shell: Well, yes — actually, they do! Don’t tell me they’re imitating trees too.

Leaves: No! Of course, not. Look at those fox tails — try them out yourself, Shell.

Shell: What? Oh … I get it. So all I have to do to get into my own comic is to imitate you, Leaves? That seems ridiculous ….

Leaves: Do that! Have a little mischievous fun. There, Shell. Very good. You even got my whiskers. Now look at the comic again. Is that me in it, or you?

Shell: Hm! Okay, Readers – what about you? What happens to you if you stand like a tree or imitate Leaves? (or ferns or other fantastic creatures inside, outside, or in your imaginations). Please share your adventures below!


Sword Ferns imitating Leaves the Red Fox - photo by Jane Valencia
Sword Ferns imitating Leaves the Red Fox – photo by Jane Valencia

Giveaway! 3 StoryFest Family Tickets and 2 of Jane’s Books

***The Giveaway is over. Congratulations to Stacy and Sharene!

We have a Giveaway! Without further ado, here are the details.

storytelling-poster-2015-1-1Coyote Tales – the Vashon Wilderness Program‘s Annual Storytelling Festival is so much fun. Fabulous tellers and a warm, welcoming community within which to enjoy the tales. As an instructor in VWP, I can tell you that storytelling is essential to our mentoring of youth in nature, and helping to deepen their connections with the natural world, each other, and themselves. Storytelling is truly what we call a core routine, and we aim to “catch” our students’ stories as often as we offer stories of our own.

The Coyote Tales Storytelling Festival is VWP’s only live event fundraiser. VWP aims to never turn any child away due to a family’s lack of funds, and to that end, has given over $95,000 in scholarships in its eight year history. Wow!

When: Sunday, Feb. 8, 2PM. Where: At the Open Space for Arts And Community, Vashon, WA. Tickets: Advance – $40/family, $20/individual. Door: $45/family, $25/individual

If you live on the island, do consider joining us at this family friendly event. Forest Halls is a proud sponsor! And do enter our drawing.

For those of you who don’t live on the island, you can still enter the Giveaway and be part of story magic fun. I’m giving away two copies of my children’s fantasy novel Because Of The Red Fox to you!  Stories (from myth and elsewhere) thread through this tale, as do magical nature ways. Be sure to note in your comments that you are entering the drawing for the book.

 Want a Chance to win a StoryFest family ticket or a copy of my book? Here’s how!

  • Read my blog post about how We (humans) are a Story People. Comment here about how you share story in your family or a special experience of when your family shared story (in any form!).

For more chances to win, leave a separate comment each time you do the following. Note in at least one comment whether you are a Vashon Islander or not:

  1. check out the description of Coyote Mentoring on the  Vashon Wilderness Program web site and tell me what you think is most compelling to you about Coyote Mentoring.
  2. blog about a Coyote Mentoring idea or about storytelling (please leave a reference link in the comment)
  3. Sign up for the Vashon Wilderness Program’s newsletter and receive their free booklet “10 Awesome Practices to Make Nature a Natural Part of Your Family Life.”
  4. Tell me about one of the “10 Awesome Practices” you’re going to introduce to your family
  5. “Like” the Vashon Wilderness Program on Facebook
  6. On Wed. Feb. 4, at 8:30am PST, Voice Of Vashon/KVSH 101.9 FM will interview VWP’s Executive Director, Stacey Hinden. Listen to this live streaming interview with Stacey about story, nature connection and children, and more, and share something you learned or found exciting from the interview in your comment.

And here are even more chances to win!

  • Sign up for Forest Hall’s ezine, Acorn To Oak. Are you already on my mailing list? Then please share something you enjoy about my ezine (newest edition will be out by Tues. 2/3) or blog.
  • Read my blog post Magical Doors, about reading aloud to children, which is another kind of story enchantment. Share here about a book you enjoyed as a kid or that you’ve enjoyed reading to kids
  • Follow Forest Halls on Twitter and tweet this Giveaway with hashtags #foresthalls #familymagicgiveaway . (Please list your Twitter ID in the comment so we can find you)
  • Post about this Giveaway on your Facebook page

Sign ups for the Giveaway end at 11:59PM PST on Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015. I’ll draw the winners on Thursday, Feb. 5. There will be only one prize per family. Good luck, everyone, and thanks for entering!

***Note about the Comments capsha: Just in case it’s not clear from the instructions below, you need to click on the little images until they turn right side up.