In chapter 11 of Hidden Art of Homemaking, Edith Schaeffer writes about “Creative Recreation,” meaning first restorative recreation out of doors, but also the creative expression used in planning and in crafting.
recreation [out-of-doors] produces creative results, which stimulates creativity, which refreshes one’s ideas and stirs one up to produce.
Creative Restoration: Nature Walks
It takes will power and determination in today’s world to take a day off to walk or hike, to become tired yet refreshed through physical effort in the setting of the beauty and quietness of nature. […] Walking […] where the beauty of nature captures one’s interest and thoughts can do more to rest one than sleeping on a couch or bed.
It would be hypocritical for me to commend nature study to you all, when I have only pulled it off for my own a handful of times in the last 5 years. However, it is the natural connection to this chapter, I think, as Cindy has pointed out better than I. Instead, I thought I’d make two observations from my own clearly inadequate experience.
First, when I first started trying to do nature walks with my all-little crew, I also brought along a notepad or a book. Now, this was not for my own nature drawings, nor was it a field guide. The notepad was for list-making or note-taking while the children drew or rambled and the book was for reading. Because, clearly, I was going to be bored and need something to occupy my mind. It didn’t work out so well, as having my mind elsewhere made me more easily frustrated, made me distracted, and made the whole trip more exhausting than restorative. So, one time, I finally left any occupation for myself at home and resigned myself to keeping my eyes and mind on the children, mostly so that I wouldn’t lose them. A funny thing happened. Even though I wasn’t particularly interested in what the names of the trees or roses or weeds were, I found that strolling through the sunshine and fresh air, just smiling and observing my children (in whose names and natures I was interested), was calming and peaceful – and enjoyable.
Second, though I don’t have the familiarity (or, as I said, burning desire to know) with plant and tree and bird names to do Charlotte Mason nature study “right,” I can do the “just be outside” advice I have also heard. So, here is my list of nature walks, nature studies, for cheaters and slackers like myself:
- send the children outside in your own yard
- go to the Farmer’s Market and look at (and purchase and eat) many varieties vegetables and fruits
- give them a container to collect rolly-pollies or ants (in your own yard)
- go to u-pick farms for fresh fruit
- send them out in snow, send them out in rain, let them splash in puddles and in mud (in your own yard)
- send them to pick tomatoes, berries, and pluck and eat herbs (in your own yard)
- let them spend hours constructing and deconstructing forts with sticks and stones and logs and whatever else they scavenge
- go to the local county fair and check out the 4H animal barns
- send them to pull weeds (in your own yard)
- send them out to follow Dad around while he does yard work.
I like to console myself that this yard-focused outdoor time is anchoring them in a Wendall-Berry-eque sense of Place, in a completely self-justifying sense.
We had way more rain than is usual around here last week, so after swimming lessons (yes, rainy swim lessons, in June), I had them stay in their swim suits and go enjoy the lake that had formed in our front gravel area. I can’t figure out how to embed video, so you’ll have to click here to see the fun. It was “creative recreation” if ever I saw creative recreation.
Creative Restoration: Vacations
In this chapter of Hidden Art of Homemaking, Mrs. Schaeffer herself primarily focuses on trips, vacations, outings. These can be a particularly refreshing break, especially if they are focused on relaxing times spent sitting or strolling outside.
Last year we went to the Oregon Coast with friends and had a lovely time sitting out on the beach, walking around the small town, and visiting on the rental house’s back deck. This year we’re going to middle-of-nowhere Idaho to camp with my parents and siblings. We just got a “10-person” tent; it will be our first family camping trip. We’ll see how it goes. My parents will have a trailer there, anyway, even though the campgrounds doesn’t have hookups.
We won’t be taking the laptops or any device (and there isn’t even cell phone service where we’re going). It will be a good restorative break.
Creative Restoration: Weekly Sabbath
A similar concept is one I’ve been trying to implement for the last few months or so: no computer on Sundays. I do spend so much time on the computer (it’s just on my kitchen counter or my bedroom dresser, or it’s my iPod Touch in my pocket) as my base of operations: calendar, email, chat with friends rather than phone calls, lists, plans, information look up, recipes, etc. etc. I decided that I needed a day where I didn’t crack open the laptop. It’s a day for reading real books, for sitting outside, for taking a nap, for playing a board game, for visiting with friends. And it’s been good for me.
I generally crack it open just before we go to church to double-check the week’s calendar so I can evaluate the bulletin announcements or be able to invite someone over for dinner, knowing which days are open. But I want the day to be free from reading blogs, checking my email, writing, or zoning out online. I’m not always successful in resisting the allure, especially on days I stay home from church with sick kids, but on the days when I am, I do notice that I end the day feeling more peaceful, rested, and restored.
And isn’t that the point of the Lord’s Day? One day in seven to cease from striving and to simply enjoy the life we’ve been given.
As Mrs. Schaeffer says,
This kind of ‘rest,’ a sliding away of the tensions and worries, a change of perspective, an emptying of the mind of the daily schedule, releases creative energy, creative thoughts and ideas.