Bod3 awaits, with bated breath, the arrival of her new wellies…in our house wellies are an essential piece of kit, life is not complete without them and defective wellies (ones that grow cracks and let in water) are not to be borne. We wear them for almost everything, throughout the year, for who knows when you might find the most lusciously squishy, muddy bog, or a deep deep puddle that is calling out to be explored.
I actually managed to live without wellies during my late teens and early twenties, and I think back mournfully to all those puddles I didn’t jump in, streams I couldn’t wade through during those sad, wellyless years. Wellies are essential mama-gear too you see, for who knows when you might have to rescue a stuck Bod or traverse watery depths as a guide to an intrepid explorer. But also, there is nothing so satisfying as wading up a stream or squelching through some mud that sucks and slurps beneath your feet as they stay dry (I won’t say warm – wellies are rubbish at keeping toes toasty). Wellies reconnect you with the earth (bare feet would be the ultimate aim here, but I’m a massive wuss about being cold!) and allow you to get out and about whatever the weather throws at you (literally). It was when Bod10 was tiddly that I bit the bullet and got myself wellies so I could join her on her adventures and I’ve never looked back. I love wellies. And what I love most about them, to coin a much overused and cliched phrase, is that they bring you closer to nature (wince!) – but they do!!! They are the 4×4 of footwear allowing you to offroad and get a bit more out of a humble walk.
We spend a lot of time outdoors, we’re happier out there. I notice that *most* of the niggles and grumps and stresses dissipate as soon as I bundle everyone out of the house, be that into the garden, onto the beach, or into the woods and fields. When we’re out there we like to notice things – birds, trees, flowers, animals, clouds – and when you start noticing things, you start identifying things, naming them, connecting with them and caring about them. For Mr S and me, both keen bird-watchers, bringing up our children to know about the world around them is of great importance. But while we both know a bit about birds, and I can pick out some common flora and the most obvious of trees, when you start really looking you realise (and it is very humbling) how little you actually know. I’ve learnt so much more through having children and being part of their unbridled passion for the world – being quizzed about tiny flowers and wispy clouds forces you to engage and notice and learn (or relearn) alongside them. We often go out with a field guide, or remember things to look up when we get home (we have a set of Reader’s Digest Nature Lover’s Library – now out of print but available second hand if you hunt). Recently we have used Collins Bird Songs and Calls to learn the calls of the birds we hear in our garden and on our walks. It’s opened up a new level of awareness for the girls, inviting them to engage all their senses when we are out.
Last year a beautiful book was published which is on my wishlist (I’ve had a good oggle at it in Waterstones) – The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane, illustrated by Jackie Morris, seeks to bring back, through beautiful acrostic spell-poems and stunning illustration, all those words that have slipped from our vocabulary, all those names for things that we have allowed to disappear. What’s marvelous about this book is that it is written as spells that conjure those lost words back into common parlance – it brings magic and wonder back into the simple act of knowing and naming:
“Once upon a time, words began to vanish from the language of children.
They disappeared so quietly that at first almost no one noticed – until one day, they were gone.
But there is an old kind of magic for finding what is missing, and for summoning what has vanished. If the right spells are spoken, the lost words might return…”
This short BBC film was made about the book and it makes for some sobering watching. It turns out that “British children now spend on average less time outdoors than prisoners”, and that many of them wouldn’t know a wren or a kingfisher if they saw one. Adults are apparently similarly ill-equipped, we’re losing our knowledge of and our contact with nature. Macfarlane argues that we need to know the names for species in the living world around us because we are losing it at an alarming rate, with over 50% of species in decline. If you can’t name something, you can’t connect with it, you don’t care about it, you wont fight to save it. But we desperately need people who care, for whom the natural world is meaningful. These are the people who will protect it.
So I urge you to put on your wellies and get out there to seek the lost words…
Oh and Bod3’s wellies arrived in the middle of me tapping out this post – and she was thrilled 🙂