Monday, September 14, 2009

Creative Family Nature Outing

Beachcombing has been one of our favorite family activities over the years. I fondly recall the Sunday afternoon 10 years ago, after a powerful winter storm hit the Oregon coast, inviting our oldest son to come with me on a beachcombing trek over Silver point down to Arcata beach near Cannon Beach, Oregon. We clambered over the slippery tumble of rocks at Silver point and began the mile long walk down to Arcata, finding flotsam and jetsam washed ashore by the storm, including plastic bottles with Japanese writing, foreign shoes, and other odds and ends from across the Pacific. I told our teen son that today would be our treasure day, and that it was looking good for finding the great treasure of beachcombers, a Japanese floating glass ball. Indeed, we both found a glass ball, well-worn from years spent in the Pacific. Not only were the hearts of father and son united that day with this find, but our lives were connected with a people living 5000 miles away across the great blue.

As a family activity, consider a nature outing that takes you to the edge of water. Even if you do not live near the ocean, many wonderful treasures wash up along rivers and lakes, brought in by the ever-changing seasons and rhythms of water, land and air. Collect objects from nature along the edge of the sea, at the high tide line. We have pieces of driftwood, smooth black ocean-polished stones and shells adorning nearly every window sill in our family home. Gather smooth beach stones in a low dish, put a candle in the middle for a great centerpiece for the family table. Connect pieces of driftwood with fishing line, and balance them into a moving mobile for a child's bedroom window. Put pieces of beachglass, smooth pieces of broken glass, into a mosaic connected with household glue onto a piece of glass. Glue cordline around the piece of glass as a border and hanger, to hang in the window, allowing the sun to come through your family art. Collect flat pieces of driftwood, dry them at home and use it as "canvas" for a family painting project, letting your children paint scenes from your family time at the beach. We've also enjoyed building sandcastles and sand sculptures, making driftwood log structures, and laying out rock patterns and sand mazes at the seaside as part of our days at the beach.

Beachcombing offers a wide horizon of possibilities for family art and fun. One word of caution: help children to respect all things living and to leave them in their native habitat rather than bring anything alive home from the beach. Seastars, hermit crabs and other living creatures will not only stink up your home, but belong where other beachcombers can enjoy their beauty and native habitat in later months and years.

Families that spend quality time together on such nature outings expand their hearts and deepen their sense of wonder, joy and delight at the goodness and creativity of God's creation. May you find such a deepening sense of wonder in your family life together!

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