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Writing the Weather – How Nature Writing Nourishes Parents and Children
When writing a diary for your child, one of the simplest and most impressive ways to start a diary entry is to describe the weather or something about nature that you have seen recently. Why? Writing about the weather and nature brings a spiritual response in us, inviting awareness and appreciation of this time, today. And, when we awaken our own spirituality, we will pass this on to the reader of the diary as well.
The Placement of the Spirit
Taking a few minutes to journal about our physical environment is like taking a deep breath, noticing our feelings, our mood – the emotional state of the Self on a given day. Reading May Sarton’s published journal, House by the Sea, inspired me to start every entry in the diary with a description of the day’s weather. When Sarton wakes up, opens her diary, and notices the natural world around her, she also awakens the reader:
Saturday, November 16, 1974
“A calm morning. I saw the sun first bathing my desk in a rich orange light, I sat up, and caught the red disc just as it stood for a second just on the edge of the horizon. It was so quiet about I visited there a minute ago when one wave broke and surprised me with its roar.”
~ May Sarton, The House by the Sea
Writing about nature puts us in a meditative mood, offering a meditative opportunity to center ourselves before we begin a busy day with kids, work, work, too much to do, or too many places to be. Writing about beauty in the landscape lifts our spirits, generating energy and enthusiasm rather than humility and stress. And, as Sarton reminds us, writing about the landscape at the end of the day can help us realize and take care of our blessings:
Tuesday evening, October 7, 1974
Great day here. . . and now the most perfect Fra Angelico blue sea, without wind, the sunset just touching the head of the field. Still perfect, except for a distant jelly cry.
I have to try to remember exactly what happened, because it was a very good day. . .
~ May Sarton, The House by the Sea
Setting the stage
Beginning an entry with a description of nature appeals to the dramatist in me who likes to set the stage for the action that is about to take place. Regardless of the area in which we live, we can see subtle or dramatic aspects of our physical world that make the diary writing more satisfying for us as writers, and more complicated for our readers. , who will be reading our diary stories, perhaps many years into the future. , we rely on our description of the visible world for a sense of place, time, feeling and meaning.
Turning back to last year’s pages, I take a snippet from each child’s diary, stitching together a short story about our family’s move last year:
To Frances, (age 5) November 21, 2002
Smoke. Cold. Gray. Cheek. I’ve got laryngitis, Dad’s gone ’til tomorrow, Landon missed a bus causing a Domino effect – I had to drive everyone – you were mad because you’re embarrassed to be late and I’m sick w/ Land’s cold, so I’m not as aware and intelligent as I’d like to be and the house is on the market!
To Perri (age 10) February 5, 2003
Cool, but very easy! Dark. You relax on the couch watching TV and drinking tea. You have a terrible sore throat. . . .
Well, we sold the house yesterday.
To Landon, (age 14) March 26, 2003
My first entry since I moved on Friday night. Door to my balcony thrown open, birds singing, warm, light breeze blowing in, flooded w/ sunlight. It is spring. And we are home!
The first thing you and Joey did on Saturday. morning after moving in climb over my balcony rail and sit on top! . . .
Symbolism, Metaphor and Meaning
Whether we expect this or not, some of the nature we see in our children’s diaries can be interesting symbols that add an unexpected emotional depth to the stories we save. Much like our favorite poems and stories that we read over and over again throughout our lives, journal entries contain symbols that may become clearer or stronger as we grow and changing.
The other night, I opened my youngest daughter’s diary from last September when she started first grade – a transition that had not been easy for her. I was struck by the power of the symbols I caught spontaneously in the first few entries. I start the second entry with a description of her stress about learning to read, then go into a fictional story I’m making up on the spot about the real baby sculpting. turtles that we find on our tours, newly born, starting their lonely, treacherous journeys. to the life-sustaining Charles River they must reach to survive:
To Franci (age 6), September 29, 2003
You are at school, feeling “pushed” by Mrs. O— who is all very nice to the parent’s face, but turns out to be the center of the classroom on in front of the children. The children she pushes so hard to learn to read.
But, don’t worry about that now. I have notes to write – a story to tell, which is evolving, for you and me:
Tini (with “i”)
June burst into bloom. The river swelled. The big mother turtle went up the muddy bank, away from the rushing water, across the grassy field, to the edge of the forest. She was looking for a hidden patch of land.
“That’s it!” she grimaced with labor. She would make her baby’s nest. Almost at dark, she started digging. Then, one by one, she placed the soft, leathery eggs in the dirt, setting them with a foot. She counted each one as it fell. “One. . . two. . . twenty. . . thirty-five. . . fifty-eight. . . At dawn, she carefully covered the nest. Then, a ‘ taking one last look, she turned and left…
The giant mother turtle had no idea which – or how many – of her eggs would survive. Many would begin their journey to the river. A few would do it. She hoped to meet one of them one day, swimming swiftly past her in the current.
When Tini the turtle goes through the last egg hatch, the late summer sun was shining brightly. . .
Creativity, Clarity and Comfort
And so begins the story of the mother who has to separate, who has to be sure that one of her special eggs will find its way to the river of life, and that she will find a way back to her! I didn’t consciously know why I was compelled to write a story about turtles in my daughter’s diary at that time. Perhaps it was the fairy tale quality of the story my daughter told me about her teacher that inspired my fiction.
When I think about it, I realize that the story guides me to the wisdom of My Great Mother, helping me navigate the emotional complexity of my daughter’s journey into the world of the classroom. The creative impulse opens a magical door in my heart and I wonder – How could thinking of my first grader as Tini the Turtle help me support her as she learns to read? Tini, who reads like a turtle in a room full of rabbits? Ah, yes, the tortoise and the hare! Slow and steady wins the race!
Writing this journal story helped me find the clarity and express the comfort we need as we go our separate ways in the world in the context of a deep and abiding connection with each other
Copyright 2004 by Kelly DuMar, M.Ed.
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