5.03.2011

love where you are at

My dream is to have a small parcel of land, on which to grow vegetables and children.  I have spent the majority of my life living in various cities, but, for me, my true home is my grandparent's farm, specifically the nine acre homestead and its ring of trees. When I envision paradise it inevitably looks like an isolated bit of semi-tamed prairie with assorted sheds and a dugout for ducks and frogs.  Quiet and private.

So, with having just six weeks left on our rental lease and the preapproval for a mortgage, I've been searching for acreages for sale in our area.  Getting my hopes up.  Dreaming big.  And quiet.  And private.

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I have this idea about what a childhood looks like, with wild adventures and private dramas uncolonized by adult concerns.  Of living dangerously within the safety of a miniature world.  Many of us share this idea, of Secret Gardens and places Where the Wild Things Are.  I confess, I hold imagination and creativity to be the most important characteristics of which I want my children to have.  If I had to chose at gunpoint, I would throw away ambition, intellect, manners, efficiency, and all types of adult held values in deference to the ability to dream up a good story.

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Stories are where we get to practice courage, heroism, and idealism in a world where we are expected to be excellent at them without experience.  We believe that standing up to dangerous foes or being gallant in the face of great pressure to be otherwise is an inborn trait; either we have it or we do not.  But really, being heroic takes practice for most of us.  The more we stand up for ourselves and others, the better we get at it.  Why these values are thought of as either being there or not is because our societal love of quantifying things.  We can measure muscle mass or count the words a person can read, but we can not weigh the bravery in a heart or sum up daring and fortitude.  These terms are wishy-washy, vague and heavily dependent upon that suspected state of emotion.  There are many systematic ways to teach a child how to swim but how do we teach pluck?

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Yet, how can we ignore it?  We can't teach it, but we can create fertile ground in which heroism can grow.  I consider unrestrained play training for the development of really excellent human beings.  Stories, time, space, air, sunshine, mud, trees, fields, creatures, and companions.  Small spaces under the skirts of evergreen trees and endless vistas where the grass is as tall as a troll.  A place where the speed can change from industrious to contemplative in a moment, to meet with the ever changing demands of an active mind.  This is what I know, from my own childhood, to be good and true.  This is what I want for my children.  An acreage, an oasis, a nest.  Quiet and private.

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Alas, it is not to be so for us, right now.  Besides being out of affordability range, given that we have chosen a frugal lifestyle so that we are available to our children and community (including you, dear internet reader), upkeep on an acreage is beyond what we can do in terms of time and energy.  There is simply too much else to be done, without the plowing of driveways and endless vistas to mow enough to satisfy the county.  In the effort to have it all, we don't want to lose time with who we are having it all for. 

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It is one another that we are most interested in being with, no matter where we are.  And, though it may not be my first choice, I am remembering all that I've learnt through play, that it is more a matter of perspective that makes a good time rather than the actual location.  We are looking for a home in a more urban setting.  Amazing stories happen in all sorts of locations and I would do the most justice to myself and my children to be open to the possibilities beyond the farm, to where not my childhood is but to where my children are now.  And to set the stage for drama and adventure, courage and tenacity, on these streets and in the domesticated parks.

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If you can bear with me, I would like to, as a matter of personal growth and as a individually interesting project, to focus on urban outdoor adventuring for children on this blog.  I would like to go out into my neighborhood and town and look for those spaces where stories happen.  Find and be mindful of the urban wilderness and uncontrived possibility.  To learn to love where I am.

Your comments and insights are welcome as always.  I would love to hear about your own outdoor urban adventures and how we can create private quiet among the crowds and how we can all create fertile ground for imaginative minds. 

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18 comments:

  1. Thank-you for this wonderful post!

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  2. I completely get this post, I grew up in a small farming estate and I always thought that was childhood. But since having my son I realise that city centres can have grass, parks, trees for climbing and it is HIS childhood so rather than yearn for mine I have to make his.
    Lovely idea for urban outdoor adventuring on this blog :)

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  3. stumbled here & glad I did. We've been re-settling into our urban homestead seeing that our dream of acreage (for the same reasons you've mentioned) is a little further out. It's difficult to know what you want, and know you must wait. Thanks for the reassurance that not EVERYONE has the spot they want just yet. very encouraging--we'll get there when the time is right!

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  4. Children's imaginations, and ours as well, can't be contained by walls. Your children may not grow up in a farm or wild piece of land, but their minds can still inhabit those same places. I didn't grow up in a farm. But my imagination has always been there for me, whenever I need and even when I don't. IN fact, it gets me in trouble sometimes.

    Find a park, take a small table, a tea set complete with tea and biscuits and have an Alice in Wonderland moment. Go to the zoo and walk among the animals all while really entering whatever safari you cook up for your kids.

    I think the most important thing is for you to do it too. Believe it, see it, taste it, feel it - it's there. They'll do it too.

    I don't want to ramble on any more than I have. I just wanted to give you some support in that you can do it. You can instill that sense of wonder and imagination in your children even without the wild prairie. Good luck!

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  5. "My dream is to have a small parcel of land, on which to grow vegetables and children."

    While I am not typically a commenter, this line seriously hit home. I have had a few moments in recent months when the world slows and I think to myself that THIS is exactly what I imagined life should be.... children, with their heads thrown back in laughter, leaving the house without a watch or cell phone. Peace.

    Thanks.

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  6. I'm always amazed at how the things you write seem to come from my own head. :) We just bought a house in suburbia, but there are miles and miles of nature trails throughout the neighborhoods and a large county park a mile away. We frequently go exploring on these trails, and while they aren't true wild, there are plenty of birds, animals and fauna to explore. I just finished reading Crow Planet and it was very inspiring in becoming an urban naturalist. :)

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  7. I always pictured a home away from the noise and hubbub of a city. Somewhere out in the country with a large yard.

    Now I live in a small town, about one block away from the grocery store and two blocks from a nice park. It has been lovely, if a bit louder than I envisioned. It's so different than my childhood, but I still dream of that lot in the country. A little more room for imagination and running wild would be nice.

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  8. Check out sweet juniper.com, if you haven't already. he has urban outdoor adventuring in Detroit with his kids down to a science, and writes about it beautifully.

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  9. You really hit the spot for me with this post! I usually stop in to peek at the crafty stuff but finding this post was a wonderful surprise and very inspiring! Thank you!

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  10. WOW! There is no doubt that we all need to learn to love where we are. I have always been a country girl. I'm not living as country as I want to right now but that is just the way it is and I have to accept that. Thank you for the inspiration!

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  11. I live in Edmonton, and one urban outdoor adventure we had was that I created a scavenger hunt for Mill Creek Ravine in our river valley. Items included "a good place to have a picnic", "a good place to play pooh sticks" (a bridge), "a goose that may or may not lay golden eggs" (there is a house with a yard adjacent to the creek that has a goose outside in a pen) and "three different kinds of leaves. I drew up the scavenger hunt in a grid, illustrated the objects (the kids were pre-reading) and the kids coloured their sheets before we went out. I think I also left a blank spot where they could add what they wanted. Lots of fun! I am not sure where you are relocating to, but you can sometimes find good books to discover your urban nature areas at a local bookseller. We love "Nature Walks & Sunday Drives Around Edmonton".

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  12. I grew up in urban southern California. We lived in a house with a small yard that was always messy and weed infested in the back and kept just neat enough to satisfy the city in the front. We had a sandbox on the back patio that we enjoyed but my greatest adventures were built in my imagination. We (me, my sisters and some of the neighbor children) invented a whole community in which the yards were homes and businesses, the sidewalks were streets and the streets were freeways. We had a mayor and a bank, pretend paper money and an elaborate set of rules. We set up house on blankets in the yard and had a wonderful time in our make believe world. At least until the street lights turned on. Occasionally, the grass would grow long because of our annual rains and the wind would blow and I would drag my dolls and my blankets out and we were Laura and her sisters on the prairie. Just 1/2 a block from the railroad tracks and 1 mile from an oil refinery. Perhaps if I'd been allowed to spend hours in front of the TV like some of my peers I would have lost some of that childhood magic but certainly growing up in inner city Long Beach didn't hurt it. A child's imagination only needs freedom, some excellent books for stimulation and perhaps a small patch of green

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  13. Thank you so much for sharing your insight on this. My husband and I have dreamed for years of owning a small piece of land to raise free run children and animals and be self sufficient. Our children are now 9 and 11 and it hasn't happened yet. Not that we wait for magic, we work toward it but we haven't gotten there yet.
    Your perspective is one I want to adopt for my own life. It isn't where, as much as it is the how and the who.
    You are my hero.

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  14. I have been following your blog for a long time. I think you will have no problem bringing this "paradise" to your children in whatever setting you guys are in. I am far from having my own children, but I hope I am half the mom you are. I think you're doing a great job! I will follow as long as you reach out to us!

    --Cindy

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  15. The beauty of children, and I think that you know this intuitively, is that they play, and through play, they get to know their world. The setting in which you raise your children doesn't matter as much as the environment you create. And you do such a wonderful job nurturing the creative, the spontaneous, the curious. The city can offer as many wonders as the country, as long as your children feel safe in the exploration. Thanks for being one of those parents that foster that.

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  16. I am a country girl, living in suburbia. It is like life isn't quite right. There is something missing, something big. I have spent the last few years working on being content, and for the most part, I am. Until I spend a day at my parent's farm on a beautiful summer day, and am reminded what I am missing. It is hard, and I don't think it will ever go away. Thank you for your post though, as it encourages me that my children can have adventures and a fun childhood, even when living in a neigborhood where all the houses look the same. ;)

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