It’s a chilly summer morning in northern Germany on the island of Ruegen. Temperatures are hovering in the upper 50’s and we are wearing multiple layers of summer clothing. No one expected it to be that cold. Despite the chill in the air and the potential for rain, everyone is in great spirits and we are heading out towards the promenade of the picturesque beach town we are staying in.
Right next to the promenade are grassy dunes that are also home to gnarly fir trees. Gentle waves are rolling onto the beach and seagulls are scouring the area for food. We decide to walk on the promenade because we have a long hike planned for the morning and walking in the sand for too long can get tiring for little feet. Our 3-year old has been an awesome walker but he does have limits.
At the edge of town, the promenade seamlessly flows into a trail through one of the island’s famous beechwood forests. The trail hugs the forest edge and grants access to the beach every 100 feet or so. I’m immediately drawn to the beach as it is covered in smooth rocks of all shapes and sizes. Both children quickly follow. We all bend down to touch and admire the rocks. My husband begins to search for flat rocks and our daughter decides to help him search for the best specimens.
Off in the distance, I notice rock towers. My heart skips a beat. Simple structures that are powerful and gentle at the same time. As we get closer, I notice a man slowly roaming about. He is in the process of creating a new stack of rocks. I pause to watch him from the distance. I don’t want to disturb him by moving in closer.
He gracefully picks up a rock, moves his hands all over it, looks at it from all sides and then ever so slowly positions it on top of his tower in a way that despises the laws of gravity. After a couple of minutes of turning and tilting, his hands move away from the rock and it’s standing tall and steady. Simply amazing!
“Who wants to build a rock tower with me?” I ask my family. My 3-year old responds with an eager “ME!”
We make our way past the man and find a suitable spot. While my husband and daughter continue their search for small flat rocks, my son and I are gathering rocks for building.
I begin stacking and almost immediately realize my limitations. Time to slow down and simply enjoy without aiming for perfection. My 3-year old watches me closely and begins to stack his rocks. After he piles three rocks on top of each other, he takes a step back. I look at him and see the biggest smile on his face. No praise from anyone is needed. He knows what he has accomplished. We continue to quietly work side by side.
YES, that was one of my favorite moments of that vacation.
When we got back to our apartment we all gathered around the dining room table and admired the rocks my husband and daughter had found. It was a wonderful collection of flat rocks, white rocks, flint and a few others.
Over the next few days, we visited many other beaches and they all had one thing in common. ROCKS.
Getting lost in the sea of rocks was incredibly relaxing. We searched for rocks with holes, which the island is known for, more flat rocks, and rocks that looked like animals or other familiar objects. My daughter’s favorite rock is small rock that looks like a cup. The perfect size for her fairies.
Collecting rocks and building towers was not something we had planned. It simply emerged out of what nature had to offer. We also gathered bags full of seashells, drift wood and pine cones. In between outings, the kids would often play with our treasures.
Now that we are back at home, they are finding new homes in various areas of our house and remind us daily of the wonderful adventures we embarked on. My favorite is an assortment of seashells, rocks, pine cones and driftwood on our dining room table. Isn’t is lovely?
Keep an eye on nature
Almost anywhere in nature, whether it’s at the beach, in the mountains or your neighborhood park, you can find little (and sometimes big) bits and pieces to collect, build or play with. The bits and pieces are always quietly waiting for little hands to pick them up.
To imagine and create with them. To treasure them.
Try these ideas on your next outing into nature:
- Start a rock or shell collection. Give your child a box or jar to collect them so they don’t end up all over your car or house.
- Write messages. When you’re out hiking or at the playground, find twigs, pebbles, pine cones or similar items and spell a word or a whole sentence.
- Build a house. Fairies and gnomes are everywhere and they also appreciate a new dwelling. Gather sticks, bark or rocks and start building. Decorate with whatever nature has to offer.
- Challenge yourself. See who can build the tallest rock tower, create the longest snake or design the silliest face.
- Keep it simple. Stop and point out the curly vine that is hanging from the tree. “How did it get there? Where will it grow to?” Feel it’s rough bark. Admire the soft moss that covers the roots of the tree like a blanket.
Want more ideas? Check out these other Earth Art creations.