Originally posted February 3, 2016 written by Emily van Lidth de Jeude
Last Earth Day I committed to carry on walking through the wilderness regularly, and report back here as the year went by. Well, it’s February, spring is here again! It’s not the spring of daffodils and tulips, yet; not of bees and bare feet and warm grassy hillsides. It’s not even the spring of March storms and robins appearing on lawns. No. This is the more subtle, early spring. This is the spring of tiny skunk cabbage shoots appearing from the mud below the water’s surface in the flooded forest. It’s the spring of cold grey branches just beginning to plump up and push lumps forth that will soon become buds. It’s the uncomfortable feeling of discovering you’ve worn too many clothes, as walking through the woods into sunlight has warmed you beyond what you planned for, and then the chill as the sun suddenly drops behind the trees and it’s still mid afternoon.
This is the time of year some of us like to curl up with our seed catalogues, but outside on the forest floors the seeds do not wait for us. Even quite a long way from maple trees, maple seeds are popping cotyledons up like green candies among the brown rotten leaves and crumbled bark. Grass and annual flower seeds, recently frozen in the meadow’s crunchy surface, are swelling with the squishy soil as the creek breaches its banks and floods the meadow trails. Soon the dull green of the winter grasses will be enriched by a growing charteuse from underneath. Everywhere, green is pushing brilliance through the din. This is the season when shoots seem to spring from the ground, and we understand the meaning of the word Spring. Everything is taking a great big leap into action.
Have you heard of the Leap Manifesto? In the briefest terms, it is “a call for an economy based on caring for the earth and one another.” This is a leap year – a time to extend our calendar to align ourselves with the earth’s schedule. It can also be an opportunity to extend our minds and actions – to leap forward into a new way of living. I’ve been writing this Earth Day Every Day series for almost a year. This is the final piece before I begin a new series in April. Next time you hear from me we’ll be into the big, intense, no-holds-barred, hang-out-every-flashy-flower-you’ve-got kind of spring. So here’s our opportunity to leap into it.
For ten months now I’ve been taking walks by myself and sharing my thoughts with you. Now I’d like to leap. LEAP, I say! Seriously – it’s getting a little late in the game for my lovely, personal, but not-so-far-reaching little wanders, and thinking about Nature. Yes, it matters what I do. Yes, it makes a difference and the more we all do it, the more connected we all become, and the more we understand the place we live, the community (built and natural) that we are a part of, and the changes we can make by being aware. But I feel like we need to do more. Not something else. More. As in keep walking out on our land and exploring, but also bring others with us. Also make big changes in our lives.
Eight years ago we took a huge leap and pulled our son out of school, completely. We hesitated for ages mostly because I was afraid of telling the teachers, but when I finally did, they congratulated me. Then we took another huge leap and told our very concerned parents and friends that we intended to unschool them – to give them a rich and fulfilling life but to have no agenda whatsoever for their academic futures. No curriculum, no classes. Just life. We were told it was impossible; maybe illegal, even (it’s not). We were told it would harm our children and that it was irresponsible. It was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made, and definitely the most controversial. I was terrified. But it turned out to be a fabulous choice for my children and for our family. We leapt wholeheartedly in, spending lots of time running around in the literal and proverbial wilderness and seeing where we would end up. We unschooled entirely until our first child reached grade seven and wanted more regular social interaction. Then we continued to hold onto our open and free-range parenting principles as he navigated the new-to-him adventure of school. That was a leap, too. Sometimes you just have to go running as fast as you can, and leap without holding on. I think it’s time to do that again. I am not sure where the next leap will take us, but it’s going to have to make a difference in our world.
Will you leap with us? What difference can you make in your personal, family, or public life? How can you inspire others to jump with you and help us leap as an entire community – an entire culture – to a new and proud future?
See you on Earth Day. The maples will be blossoming with abandon, then.
– Emily van Lidth de Jeude