A row of little white houses stood in the mountains behind the CTTB, surrounded by tall redwood trees, much like the cottage that the grandmother of Little Red Riding Hood lived in. Seen from a distance the little white houses looked like little mushrooms in the forest. The distance from our place to the school took about ten minutes for a five year old child to cover. Along the way there were trees, meadows and green bamboo. The children's eyes shone with excitement and curiosity every time we walked the ten minutes to school. Their early morning walk became the most fulfilling and enjoyable part of my day.
There were wild deer to see. Having grown up in the city, these children had never seen real deer. Encountering them, the children would open their arms wide and rushed forward to hug them, but alas, the deer would run away very quickly and hide. The children's desire to hug the deer was never fulfilled.
One of the children asked, “Mummy, are they the brothers and sisters of Bambi?” Her twin sister immediately said, “No, they are the ones who helped pull Santa Claus’ sleigh, and the reindeer was called Rudolph.” Listening to them arguing until they were red in the face I hurriedly pacified them. I told them, “Both of you are right! Bambi can also help Santa Claus pull the sleigh. Rudolph’s brother can be called Bambi, right?”
The two children thought seriously for a moment, then nodded their heads, and immediately came up with another idea about the deer. “They have just finished helping Santa Claus deliver presents and are very tired and that is why they are here to rest.”
There were peacocks, pheasants, squirrels, jackrabbits, hawks and all kinds of colorful birds. Each day, there were different kinds of surprises and excitement for the twins. The mood of the children changed according to their rich imaginations. They would stand beside the peacocks and tell them, “You are so beautiful,” insisting that the birds understood what they were saying. How wonderful if the peacocks would nod their heads in agreement!
For a few days in a row the children enthusiastically discussed why pheasants are prettier than household chickens. They wanted to know which one could fly higher.
They also wondered why the little squirrels used their tails as a blanket to cover themselves. They asked, “Why doesn’t the mother squirrel buy them a blanket?”
They wanted to know if the jackrabbits in CTTB cried when they could not find carrots and what the hawks feed their young. The children wondered if the woodpecker would hurt its head if it kept pecking on the tree.
At times, when the weather was cold, the meadows at dawn became covered by a layer of white frost. I accompanied the children and we squatted on the ground scrutinizing the hexagonal snowflakes- a product of heaven and earth.
Growing up in the low-lying countryside of Florida, the children had never seen fog. When they first saw it, their eyes lit up and they called out excitedly wanting to know what it was.
“Children, this is fog.”
They said, “What is fog?” I used to communicate mainly in simple English with them every day, yet, for a moment I was unable to think of a reply because of my limited English.
“Umm, Fog is, umm……”
It was yet another clear bright day. The sun rose and shone on the green fields. Dewdrops appeared on the thin blades grass growing densely. The dewdrops reflecting rainbows in the bright sunlight attracted the attention of the children.
“Mummy, what are they?”
“They are dewdrops.” Oh dear, not again - how on earth do I know what ‘dewdrops’ are called in English?
Holding on to the twin's small hands, one on each side of me, we wandered in the clear mornings, the children's noisy chatter lingering in the clear morning air. They seem to be a pair of impish fairies, full of excitement and wonderment - impish fairies who view the very nature of life with awe and wonder. Through their innocent and pure eyes I rediscovered the beauty of the world.
The children's past, of sitting in front of the television and playing computer games, paled into insignificance compared to their present way of living. They are now embracing a fullness of life that is boundless and abundant. They have a broad outlook and a life full of energy. These experiences will have a deep and profound impact on their futures.
Children growing up in an environment surrounded by nature will unknowingly acquire an energy and force that comes from living with nature. They will treasure and appreciate all living creatures in the universe. Isn't this what all parents would hope and wish for their children?
to be continued