The Baby Bird and the Snail: Nature Storyboarding Acts of Kindness

Collected natural treasures nest story of bird and snail

Today is International World Wildlife Day, last year I shared some ideas about how we can help conserve and protect wild plants and animals. I hope you’ll read that post when you’ve got the time.

This year, in honour of World Wildlife Day, I am sharing a story Ro wrote and storyboarded when she was 8. It is a story of a baby bird who lost her mother and made a new friend, the snail. The image she created that inspired the story is shown above (my photo, her arrangement).

During the warmer seasons, when snow and ice do not cover the ground we are always picking up little pieces of beauty as we walk about the city from one place to another. We are, as many of you know, pedestrians by default. Being walkers, slowly moving through the city, we always come home with a variety of pretties: feathers, shells, pinecones, flower petals, and so on. One day when we came home Ro decided to story board with the treasures. Ever since she was quite young she had played with a felt story board, which she loved. On this summer day, she decided to translate this activity into a new context using natural treasures. To begin, she used some white chalk to make a framed background on our porch and then went to work creating. When she was satisfied with her creation she called me over and shared her story.

The beauty she had created visually, and more significantly the beauty of the story itself, was so touching I had to take a few photos and transcribe the story. It’s been 3 years now, and finally, the right day has arrived to share.

Here is Ro’s story:

The Baby Bird and the Snail

“One day a baby bird’s mother went out as usual to find food, but did not return. An accident took her life.

The baby bird was heartbroken and cried in the nest for many days.

Others heard the cries and figured out what happened, so they began bringing gifts of food and beauty to sustain the baby bird.

The nest became surrounded in gifts, but still the baby bird did not emerge.

And so, a young snail decided to risk it’s own life and go into the nest to comfort the bird.

The bird was so touched by this (risky) act of kindness that she realized others cared for her and that she would have a friend to go through life with.

The end.”

I hope this story will touch your heart, inspire acts of kindness and connection across species and ways of life, and that you’ll be inspired to create beauty with natural, sustainable materials.

Today is World Wildlife Day, so hug a tree, kiss an animal, and love all life. Find, make and share the beauty of the natural world and simple acts of kindness. Raise yourself, raise others, raise positive change. Together we can raise a generation of global guardians.

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Raising Compassionate, Globally Conscious Children

Hippie in Disguise ro and sen Chassin Rideau Canal

Environmental Consciousness. Social Change. Mindfulness. Global Compassion. Minimalism. Holistic Living. Arts. Adventure. Education. Inspiration.

These are words that drive me, that I try to knit together in the way I live and in the way I raise my children. They are also words that perfectly describe the Global Guardian Project.

Last August I wrote about my friend Rebecca‘s new idea: The Global Guardian Project, a digital multimedia capsule for children and families that teaches about the world, global stewardship, sustainability, plants, animals, social and environmental activists, and lots more. The capsule is basically an interactive digital magazine for families to help learn more about the planet, country by country.

The intent of the Global Guardian Project is to expose ourselves and our children to the wide world of not just nature, but the intricate connections between human cultures and the ecosystems that support us, with the ultimate goal of helping us raise the next generation as global guardians, stewards of the planet.

Hippie in Disguise Rideau River Ottawa

With this in mind, the capsules are designed to educate, but also to inspire action. That is, to cultivate a greater caring for the earth and all its inhabitants and to inspire us to take small (and big) actions to improve the health of our planet for the collective good. The capsules were initially very popular with homeschooling and worldschooling families, as they cover a lot of science, geography, art and language curriculum, but they have also become popular with families seeking more enriching digital (“screen”) time and others just interested in learning more about the world. I should mention that while the capsules are digital, they can easily be printed, so if you are not keen on screen time then you can read the capsules the old fashioned way: on paper.

  • What is a learning capsule? Picture a digital magazine that is interactive, with videos to click and watch, art and activity downloads, links to TED talks and other resources, as well as beautiful photography, original art and lots of educational facts and information, interviews and more.

After receiving my first capsule I got even more excited about the project, there is really no resource like the Global Guardian Project out there. The multimedia format is unique and engaging. The content is interesting and inspiring. But most importantly, the core mission of the project: to raise a generation of global change makers by teaching children about how to care for the earth is so critical and close to my heart that I knew I wanted to be involved in helping the project grow. As the weeks and months passed I found myself suggesting ideas, writing content, working with contributors and generally being an all-around cheerleader for the project.

After noting my enthusiasm and my tendency to write a lot (sorry, for this long introduction, by the way..) Rebecca asked if I would like to be the Guest Editor for the upcoming capsule on Canada. To say I was excited would be an understatement. I said yes, though I invited my trusted writing (and life) partner, Matt, to plan and edit the issue with me. I invited some great thinkers, artists and friends to help out too: artist Erin Wetzel, nutritionist Kylah Dobson and permaculture farmer Zach Loeks. Together, with the team of Global Guardian Project regulars, we put together an amazing interactive digital magazine.

Global guardian Project Homeschool Curriculum Canada Animals Plants

And….the issue is now available for purchase from Global Guardian Project’s website either as a single issue (“a la carte”) or as part of their monthly subscription program. If you subscribe, you save considerably, and you get the advantage of building on learning each month, especially with the world map activities. As well, you can cancel at any time, even after one issue.

Here’s a little preview:

Each capsule is comprised of:

  • Over 60 pages of facts and information covering the country basics like size and geography, endangered animals and how we can help them, indigenous plants, related vocabulary and definitions for new words like (fossil, aerodynamic, habitat and so on), book reviews, and much more.
  • Videos showing children taking action in their local communities, for example by helping turtles.
  • Healthy, local recipes and demonstration videos
  • Profiles of activists, ecological leaders and inspiring people from the featured country to inspire action
  • A podcast guided meditation appropriate (and fun) for children and families
  • Art projects and downloads, such as colouring sheets
  • Map projects and other interactive activities
  • Lots more!

I hope you’ll consider buying one for yourself or someone in your life. While the capsules are geared to children (ages 3 and up), homeschoolers and teachers, lots of adults have been saying they enjoy them and have learned a lot from reading them. If you know Matt, then you know he has a knack for finding really cool facts and stories about natural phenomena. Keep in mind, the capsules make a great last minute gift for any occasion, since there is no delivery time.

  • You can buy the Canada edition ($16.99) or subscribe to the series for $13.49 per month, using my discount code HIPPIEINDISGUISE.
  • If you subscribe by January 14th, 2017 you will receive the Canada capsule, if you subscribe after you will get the Sri Lanka capsule, since a new capsule is released to subscribers on the 15th of each month.

You can read more about the Global Guardian Project here, you can visit their website here, find them on Instagram @globalguardianproject. If you sign up for their email list you’ll get a free mini capsule about Ocean Life. Why not try it out?!

Any questions, please leave a comment below.

UPDATE: The Global Guardian Project is currently crowdfunding to support the project. Please consider supporting the work, as little as $1 will help! Crowdfunding ends October 20th, 2017!

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Let’s be friends! Please come find me in other places:

Our Cycling Lifestyle: Bikes and Bonding { with Brooklyn Bicycle Company }

Danielle Chassin Matt Surch Hippie in Disguise Zara XOVELO Brooklyn Bicycle Co

All photos in this post were taken by Zara XOVELO

 

When I was pregnant for the first time and sharing the news with friends and family a common refrain emerged: “Congratulations! So, I guess this means you guys will have to get a car?” Matt and I have been riding bikes for a long time. We are bike people. We didn’t want to get a car – for a long list of reasons: health, low environmental impact, low cost, simplicity – and we hoped that we could continue our happy bicycle lifestyle with a child in tow. We lived in an urban setting and planned to do our best to remain car free. We got a bicycle trailer outfitted with an infant sling, later we upsized to a long bike for our growing girl, and later to a trail-a-bike. Then Ro got her own bike and was pedalling around with us wherever we needed to go: groceries, ballet rehearsal, birthday parties, family reunions.

When I was pregnant for the second time and sharing the surprise with friends and family a common refrain emerged: “That’s great news! Well, now you will really need to get a car!” If managing to work outside the home and do all of life’s tasks without a car and with a child seemed unduly difficult (did I mention 5 months of snowy Canadian winter?), doing this with two children appeared to be downright impossible to most, and at the very least borderline extreme. We decided to carry on with our bicycle lifestyle and see how we could get on.

Danielle Chassin with Sen Brooklyn Bicycle Company Zara XOVELO

As it turned out we managed just fine. In fact, we realized we much preferred not having a car. When Sen, our second, was around 2 and a half our good friends decided to move to Bali (lucky them!) and so they offered us their car at a very good price. While we hadn’t wished for a car, we figured this was a really generous offer and that maybe having a car would be useful. We knew ourselves well enough that we wouldn’t just start driving everywhere we used to walk or bike simply for the fact that we could drive. Indeed, I didn’t have a driving license and did not plan on getting one. So, essentially the car was there for us to do camping trips, where, in the past, we would have rented a car, and for Matt to offer rides to friends and family on special occasions. We also used it a few times in the city to pick up materials from the home store (lumber, etc) or large grocery trips in the winter months.

Danielle Chassin Hippie in Disguise Zara XOVELO Brooklyn Bicycle Co

The thing is riding in a car just wasn’t fun. It was often faster, sometimes more convenient, but just never felt right. When we drove places we didn’t have the same sorts of experiences, the same conversations, the same interactions with our surroundings, the same connection with nature. The same quality, that is. We were starting to feel disenchanted with the car. It was an ongoing expense from gas, to repairs, to insurance. It seemed to take more than it gave. Whereas our bikes, which we’d been riding for over a decade were a pleasure, they gave back in terms of health and fitness, enjoyment of our time and movement through space, and it bonded us as a family. I can’t say that car rides, perhaps with the exception of road trips, often bond people. Travelling by bike as a family whether for pleasure or purpose always seemed to energize us, whether physically from the exercise or mentally from the time spent in nature, even while on city streets and paths, with the wind hitting our faces, snow flakes landing on our cheeks, puddles splashing us, sun warming our backs, there was something invigorating about this daily family experience with the elements. As it turned out, our car bit the dust soon after our disenchantment began, and so we happily returned to our biking ways (which, full disclosure: involves the occasional use of a car from the car share co-op).

Danielle Chassin Hippie in Disguise Zara XOVELO Brooklyn Bicycle Co

Around this same time, I heard in a podcast (I wish I could remember which one) that researchers had found that the average time spent in conversation between children and their parents (who work outside the home) is 5 minutes a day. 5 MINUTES. I was shocked! It seemed that for a variety of reasons parents mostly just gave instructions to their children (“wake up” “finish your breakfast” “don’t forget your lunch”) and didn’t engage in conversation – there was no time left in the busy days for quality talk. I wondered whether this was true for us, it felt very far from our reality, but at the same time I wondered how close we were to this statistic — sometimes we are not the most objective observers when it comes to self-observation. So, I paid attention to our talk for the next few days. I quickly realized that our time on bikes – commuting to school and work, riding to ballet class, picking up food at the market – provided over an hour a day of quality conversation at a minimum. This seemingly small realization – even after knowing that cycling is great for our health and the health of the planet – solidified my commitment to live a bicycle lifestyle. The health of our family, our connection and bond, was being strengthened as a beautiful side effect of pedalling instead of driving. When it takes you longer to get somewhere and when you can choose a scenic or safe pathway, you are given the time and opportunity to connect more with the world you are passing through and with the people you are travelling with. Simply put, moving at a slower pace makes it easier to notice things as you move through space, it provides opportunity to talk about life, and to make memories together through the mundane.

Before we had children riding bikes was important to us, it felt like a gentle political statement, a commitment to our values: health, environment, adventure and community. We are happy that as parents we were able to stand by these values and raise our children in a way that did not require compromise. Indeed, when we did compromise life just wasn’t as fun or as healthy for any of us.

One evening this past spring Sen decided he wanted to ride a two-wheel bike. We hadn’t pushed this on him at all, in fact, we hadn’t offered him the opportunity to try. We were quite happy towing him along on our family trips around the city. The two-wheel bike we had for him hadn’t been ridden in about 5 years, the tires were deflated and the saddle was loose. Matt wasn’t home and I’m a little hopeless with tools so our kind neighbour pumped up the tires and we took the bike down to the pond at the end of our street so he could pedal on grass. I had bargained for an hour or so of falls and tears, but to my surprise after a few false starts he pedalled off and around the park. Ro and I could not believe our eyes! Since then he’s been keen to ride his bike everyday, including waking up early to ride his bike before school and to try to join Matt for his 6:30 am fitness ride.

A few days later as we all biked over to the grocery store, each on our own bike for the first time ever, Sen said: “Guys, now I’m really part of the family. I can bike all on my own!” Matt, Ro and I looked at him and at each other and felt our hearts swell. We were a family, and our bonds were tight, thanks in no small part to our bicycle lifestyle.

Danielle Chassin Matt Surch Hippie in Disguise Zara XOVELO Brooklyn Bicycle Co

Ro and Sen wear organic linen wear from Four'emki and my kimono is from Amae.Co

Ro and Sen wear organic linens from Four’eMki and my kimono is from Amae.Co

 

Since Sen is mostly independent biking now (at least for short trips) I finally had the opportunity to get myself a bike that suited just me. For the last decade I’ve pedalled utilitarian bikes that attach to a bike trailer or some other gadget. I’d been eyeing the Dutch-inspired city bikes and found the Brooklyn Bicycle Company. I settled on the Willow 3 model, a three-speed, which is adequate for most city riding. I was excited to see that they offered vegan-friendly saddles and grips, and that the aesthetic was classic. I especially loved the angled top tube so that I could ride it with a dress. On top of this, they offer a monthly payment plan so you don’t have to have all the money up front.

I’ve now had the bike for a month and I love it. It’s so comfortable to ride and it’s stylish too. The only problem is that Ro wants it for herself and with her being almost as tall as me I can see some lively family bonding over who gets to ride it in our future!

Danielle Chassin Sen Hippie in Disguise Zara XOVELO Brooklyn Bicycle Co

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My delightful friend Zara took all the photos in this post. Zara is a photographer and cycling fashion writer, she maintains the superb online magazine XOVELO. Please go take a look and find her on Instagram too @xoveloxo.

If a Brooklyn Bicycle sounds like something you’d love to know more about visit them online here and on Instagram @brooklynbikeco.

Please leave a comment or question below if you’d like to know more specifics about my Brooklyn Bike or how to incorporate biking into your life more, I’ve been doing this for almost 20 years so I’ve got lots of tips.

Let’s be friends! Please come find me in other places:

Happy Earth Day: 10 Ways to Live a Greener, More Sustainable Lifestyle

HIppie in Disguise Gloucester Maine Luv Mother Nico Nico cLothing Earth Day

Happy Earth Day! A day late…but truly, it is earth day every day in our family. After a busy week of work and travel I didn’t have time to make an Earth Day post, so I’m catching up today.

In my experience, I never see my children happier,  freer,  more connected to the moment as when they are playing together in the great outdoors. So, my Earth Day indulgence is to share some of my favourite photos of my children connecting with the wild earth and enjoying themselves playing in nature. I’m also sharing what our family does each day to live lightly upon the planet, see our list at the end of this post.

Hippie in Disguise Cristina Rohde Clothing Earth Day

Hippie in Disguise Gloucester Mass Earth Day

As a family we do a lot to try to minimize our impact on the earth, to live a green lifestyle, to live lightly and respectfully upon this planet that sustains us and gives us life. Above all else I try to find ways each day to ensure my kids feel connected to nature and the health of our planet. This means lots of time spent outdoors enjoying life and connecting with the elements, whether it’s walking or cycling to the places we go, running bare foot on the grass, or eating snow.

Here are the top 10 ways our family lives lightly upon the planet:

  1. We follow a vegan diet to minimize environmental damage associated with animal farming
  2. We eat and buy local products as much as possible to minimize emissions associated with delivery transport. If not local products then responsibly manufactured, organic and small scale guide our purchases
  3. We live car free and either walk or cycle almost everywhere we travel within the city, year round
  4. We use reusable cloth shopping bags (these ones are great because they fold up really small to fit in your pocket or bag) and we use reusable produce and bulk shopping bags (these ones for produce and these ones for bulk)
  5. We package litter-less lunches with reusable containers. Our favourites are stainless steel lunch containers (like these for main dish, these for snacks and dips and these for drinks) and our newest love is for beeswax food wraps (truly amazing product! they may seem pricey but I guarantee you they are worth the investment, you can completely stop using all plastic wrap)
  6.  We wear things out before replacing them
  7.  We recycle and compost like there’s no tomorrow
  8.  We put on a sweater (or two) rather than heating our home and drink cold water instead of air conditioning
  9.  We plant indigenous plants in the garden that don’t need overwatering or chemicals to thrive and support bee populations
  10. We spend lots of time outdoors to cultivate love, enjoyment and respect for the earth in hopes that our children will make the best choices

Over the next year we are working towards a zero waste lifestyle having been deeply inspired by the Devine Family and by Bea Johnson (her book Zero Waste Home is a must read and share!).

Earth day, every day.

What do you do? I would love to hear. Please leave a comment below, no need to sign in or make a profile.

River Picnic Ottawa Hippie in Disguise

Hippie in Disguise Nico Nico Clothing Earth Day Childhood Unplugged

 You might also like:

Garbage Free: How to Make your own Delicious Raw Cashew Milk

Interview with a Minimalist: The Devine Family *** A family of 6 living in a treehouse

World Wildlife Day: What you can do to help conserve and protect wild plants and animals

Love Your Mother: The Most Sustainable Clothing by Luv Mother

Want to find me in other places?

Artist Profile: Kara Rane and her Cosmic Circles

Sen, by our bedroom window, enjoying the colours shine through two layered cosmic circles by artist Kara Rane. Such a fun, creative, open ended play thing. I always wonder what he’s thinking about. [ Sen’s necklace is from Tribal Dreaming “Earth Warrior” and his leggings are organics from Mabo ]

I remember well what my passions were when I was a child: drawing and arranging things artfully, dancing, playing in the forest, and (as crazy as it sounds) I was passionate from as early as I can remember about environmental protection. But I also remember thinking from very young that none of these passions could be an adult pursuit. (How wrong I was!!) I somehow thought that happiness came from things, from comforts, and that I couldn’t have those things (and thus happiness) without money. Since the statistical likelihood of earning money as an illustrator, artist or tree hugger seemed quite slim, I decided to be practical and enter a traditional, remunerative profession in order to find myself in a context that would afford me things, and thus enable happiness. Well, surprise ending: Things don’t make you happy. Passions do. People do. 

Today, I’m happy to share with you the story of a woman who knew and followed her passions throughout her life and has been able to provide for herself and her family what they need to sustain themselves and their happiness. Kara Rane is an artist, world traveller, and mother of one, who makes beautiful artwork inspired by her deep connection and reverence for the earth. She and her partner have a small homestead nestled in supportive community committed to sustainable living. What a beautiful environment in which to raise a child! I put much hope in children raised in such an environment for their future contributions to community and sustaining our planet. But I know that us urban dwellers living in the mainstream can also play our part in raising our children differently, it might just be a little harder to drown out the distractions, noise and clutter. But we can do it too!

Whether you are living rurally or in an urban setting I think Kara’s passion for art and sustainability will inspire you to find ways to nourish yourself and your family with creativity and the natural world. I hope so!

Dear Kara, please tell me a little bit about yourself. What is your background?

I grew up at 6,000 feet in the mountains of Southern California, in a log home.  Nature was a huge part of my childhood, and I found my favorite places to be were among the trees, streams, lakes & wilderness.  I also love the ocean so I decided to attend the University of California at Santa Barbara (studying Environmental Science and Art studio) where I could live by the sea.

I am deeply connected to the natural world, but my curiosity compelled me to explore urban life and I lived in San Francisco and New York City.  Having a passion for travel, I also lived for a time in the Caribbean on a tiny remote island, trekked the Himalayas of Nepal, returned to my native Nordic countries, explored Thailand and Vietnam and have road tripped throughout parts of the United States.  All of these experiences I was able to manage on only the money I earned. At times it was a daunting task as often I found myself with nothing other than my creativity to survive.

What part of the world do you live in?

We live in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Northern California on a 6 acre homestead. We have an organic and heirloom orchard of 44 trees, an organic hop yard and small gardens to grow our food.  We love the community, as there are many ‘back to the Earth’ folks. It is common practice for us to trade with one another for goods and this is truly a delightful way to know your neighbors.

at the Farmers Market Kara Rane Cosmic Circles

How do you spend most of your days?

Recently, most of my days and nights are spent caring for our baby.  I have learned to incorporate him into projects via baby wearing, so work continues on. We also make a priority to hike at least a couple times a week, often with other mamas and their babies and children.

Do you have a favourite quote or words that inspire you?

“What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, men would die from the great loneliness of spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are connected.” -Chief Seattle

This quote resonates so strongly with me as I feel that I am trying to recover a part of myself that has died due to the loss of so many animals, trees, and the myriad of life forms who are now extinct, or are at risk of extinction due to human caused perils. In honoring these beings I feel wholly united. It is my hope to draw, paint, create them back into the world of the living. In nourishing this wildness, I too am trying to resurrect my soul.

Eco-Art cards - Kara Rane
What are you passionate about?

Our capacity to change as individuals and a collective global society gives me hope. Without this, it would be impossible for me to be passionate about anything as I have a lot of concerns for the future of the environment on which we depend. Hopefully, the work I do as an artist can help bring about this change.

Can you tell me a bit about your work as an artist?

Using vibrant, neon, and rainbow colors to layer sacred shapes and patterns, the vision is revealed to me as the lifting of a veil.  Into a dimension of light, a familiar yet brighter and more alive Universe is known. I see a place of harmony, peace and happiness. Through nature and ancient symbolism I glimpse the Divine.

Returning Forward © Kara Rane

Are you able to support your family financially with your artwork?

My art sustains me as a whole person. Throughout my life it has also been a source of income in various ways. Often times, I have been forced to get creative in how this might look. For example: I worked as a studio artist in NYC for a corporate art making company. Although, I was not making my own art I was given a lot of freedom. Currently, I am a full-time mama and have created several eco-friendly product lines featuring my art. They are sold in retail locations, at local festivals and farmers markets and via my website.

Can you talk about your cosmic circles?

The ‘Cosmic Circle’ designs are a kaleidoscopic portal allowing light, color, energy and beauty to fill your Life. I hand create the original designs and Greenerprinter, a business based on the highest standard in environmental printing, reproduces the images. These colorful, transparent clings adhere without adhesive, so they are easy to use, remove and re-use. Better than stickers!!

More ℃osmic ℃ircles © Kara Rane

When you aren’t drawing, what do you love to do?

Working with my hands, in all things!  I am very dedicated to living a sustainable lifestyle, to supporting and growing organic food and to understanding how to best care for the land and creatures we depend on.  This requires a lot of work outside on the land and that is where I love to be, with the trees, birds, sun and sky.

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Thank you, Kara, for sharing a glimpse into your world and creative vision and purpose. How beautiful visually and soulfully! Readers you can find Kara on Instagram @kara_rane and you can read more about her art and visit her shop at www.KaraRane.com.

This interview is part of my Creative Mothers series, you can find the rest here.

You might also like my post:

How to Make All Natural Temporary Tattoos from Real Flowers

Garbage Free: How to Make Your Own Delicious Cashew Milk

How to Make a Mother Nature Leaf Dress from Real Leaves

Drawing a Day: A Summer Drawing Project

How to Make All Natural Bath Bombs with Dried Flowers

Want to find me in other places?

World Wildlife Day: What You Can Do to Help Conserve and Protect Wild Plants and Animals

Pink Lake Gatineau Park Canada Nico Nico Clothing Hippie in Disguise

“The future of wildlife is in our hands”

Today is the United Nation’s World Wildlife Day. World Wildlife Day is a day to celebrate wild plants and animals, but also, like every day, it is a day to work to conserve and protect them.

Here are a few simple things you can do to cultivate a love and respect for wildlife in yourself and the people, especially children, in your life. It seems natural and logical that love and respect will translate into conservation and protection efforts.

1)      Spend time in nature, in the wild, and learn about the abundant life, cycles and systems around you. By spending time in nature you are likely to enjoy yourself, create memories and ultimately develop a sense of respect and understanding of your embeddedness in (and precarity of) the system of life on Earth. We are nature. It is not around us; it is us. Our actions have a direct impact on plants and animals, as they have direct impact on us. While I don’t think we should be self-motivated to protect wildlife, if that’s a reason that motivates you, seize on it and let it push you to conserve and protect, and to lighten your impact on other forms of life. We all share this one planet, but it is critical to understand that it is not just about sharing. From a selfish perspective, animals and plants play important roles in sustaining life on this planet, without them, their is no us.

Hippie in Disguise Hunter Boots Ottawa Canada Canal Marsh

2)      Learn about and interact with plants and animals. Book learning and documentaries can be great, but there’s nothing like real life experience. Augment book learning with experience. Observe and interact with the plants and animals around you. You don’t need to go to a botanical garden or a zoo. Grass is plant life and when you look closely there is much to observe. Think of animals in the broad sense, you don’t need to track deer to observe the wild, insects are everywhere and we can learn much from them. All animals are important and each has something to teach us about our humanity. Ultimately : be creative and open minded in finding the wild around you. The wild could be a field of wildflowers on an abandoned city lot — tread lightly by the edge, observe and learn. The wild could be lifting up rocks at the public park to say hello to beetles and worms. The more children (and we adults) have real life experiences with living plants and animals the more we can empathize with them, the more we feel a part of their world, and us a part of theirs. Our interconnectedness becomes embodied.

Nature Story Board Collected Feathers Snails Acorns Flora Hippie in Disguise

3)      Support the efforts of wild life conservation and protection agencies such as World Wild Life Fund and the Jane Goodall Institute. You can share their messages and follow them on social media. If you have spare dollars and pennies you can support them in a financial way. For the last three years Ro’s birthday present from us and her friends has been funding the protection animals through the Jane Goodall Institute and WWF (we do this through the EchoAge platform). This, by the way, is a great minimalist gift — an immaterial gift that doesn’t clutter your home but has a profound effect on others.

2017 Update:

Since posting this last year, I joined my friend Rebecca Lane in launching the Global Guardian Project. The Global Guardian Project is a monthly digital publication for homeschoolers, educators and families who wish to learn more about the earth’s animals, plants and ecosystems, and how we can take simple actions to be positive changemakers in our communities, and as adults how we can raise a generation of global guardians. We are mindful to present information in a child-friendly and sensitive way, that does not incite fear and worry, but rather leaves children feeling empowered to play a part in stewardship.

Each month we release a new digital “learning capsule” featuring a country and its plants, animals, local activists, and culture. We also include art projects, maps and downloads, recipes, inspiring videos of kids doing awesome things to help animals and ecosystems, interviews with eco families and worldschoolers, and a podcast with an original (and fun!) meditation for children and families. For educators and homeschoolers (and super keen parents) we also include curriculum prompts based on STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics, as well as vocabulary lessons.

If you are interested in learning more about this resource and the project, please leave a comment or send me an email. You can also visit the Global Guardian Project website. If you decide to sign up  for a subscription, please use my discount code HIPPIEINDISGUISE to get 10% off, which makes the cost only $13.49 per month. You can cancel at any time, no questions asked. You can also purchase single issues if a subscription doesn’t interest you.

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I’d love to hear what you do to help protect and conserve wild life and how to cultivate this same interest in others. Please share in the comments below.

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You might also like my post:

Ecominimalism: Sustainability and Minimalism, Interview with Robin

Inhaling the Season, Inhaling the Moment: A Story of Cycling Through a Snow Storm

The Mathematics of Love: A Heartfelt Story of Growing a Family

2015 Moment of the Year

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Last year, when my blog was still brand new, I shared some of my favourite photos from 2014 from people I follow on Instagram. I love photography for what it can capture that our eye misses, the way in which it aids and embellishes our memories, and for its beauty. But photography, for me, is never about honing technical skill or developing expertise with an apparatus. This approach to photography makes the skill and the photo objects in themselves, often demanding more value than the content of the photo or the memory it captures. I’m always much more drawn to photography that tells a story, that captures a moment rather than constructing one. In this sense I don’t concern myself with improving my photography skills, I want my photos to be organic and to capture something real. This means that I don’t capture much of our life indoors, because the lighting is too low in our home and I would need to improve my skills to capture moments in the way I experience them. In contrast, when photographing my children outdoors I feel as though the photo captures the moment as I experienced it. All this to say, as way of an introduction, that my favourite photo from 2015 is my favourite because it organically captured a number of ideas that are important to me; they are themes in my photography and the ideas I strive to convey in the photography and writing I share here and on Instagram. These themes are: sibling love, nature connection, and minimalist fun.

In the last week of 2015, I began looking through my roll of photos from the past year, rediscovering moments shared with the children and Matt, remembering fun times at home, in our city and while travelling. I collaged some favourites of each child, which I like to do as a way of tracking their change over the year and honing in on their dominant personality characteristics. Ro inspires me with her innate connection to the natural world; we all have that connection, but she feels it deeply and honestly. She inspires me with her creativity, her kindness, her compassion for all life of earth and for her organic way of being. She knows who she is and she lives it every minute of the day.

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Sen grew up a lot in the last year, he’s still my baby, but he’s very much a child most days. I’m still grateful everyday for our surprise pregnancy that brought him into our life. His birth brought everything that was important to us into very sharp focus; that’s what struggles do, and I’m so thankful for him and that struggle. Over the last year, Sen has shown his sweet character each day. He’s full of wonder, innocence, adventure, belly laughs and pure brilliance.

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Capturing siblings moments of interaction, shared space, love and laughs is something I strive for. I want Ro and Sen to have a record of their adventures together and how they got along. I have a hard time with the notion that sibling rivalry is a normal aspect of sibling relationships, and so I strive to ensure that I capture them happily co-existing. I also try my hardest to ensure they are in a space that keeps both of them happy, which is almost always an unstructured natural space. Has anyone else noticed how arguments and conflict evaporate when you take your children into the great outdoors? Somewhere without play structures and curated fun, somewhere where their curiosity and imagination are ignited, and perhaps, even, an inherent biological disposition to get along in the wild kicks in?

And so, my favourite moment of 2015, is captured in an image, it was a fleeting perfect moment. In that photo sibling love shines strong, Ro and Sen are connecting with each other and the moment, enjoying each other’s company, experiencing more joy than any toy or thing will ever bring them, doing so with their bodies hugged up against the ground, the earth, connected physically to the planet that sustains them. When I see my children enjoying life to the fullest out in nature without toys or gear or gadgets, but simply relating to each other or reflecting inwardly, I feel as though I’ve accomplished something great. Allowing them to experience first hand that all they need in life are good relationships, the rest is decoration. True happiness never comes from things, it comes from within and from our relationships. When they experience this happiness in the natural world, more often, more easily, they feel drawn to it, collect fond memories of time in natural spaces, and feel that nature is part of them. It is only natural then that they should seek to protect and nourish that which sustains them and their happiness.

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In a sense, there were many moments of the year in 2015, when exactly these things were happening. But by luck I captured an image of it. One that set me on a path of reflection, asking myself what is it that I understand in an embodied, unconscious way, but can’t articulate? How do I describe what I know to be the value, the story, of this image? Capturing what the eye often misses, my camera caught one of the many moments of the year and helped me articulate embodied knowledge.

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Joy in Nature with Sture & Folke

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As a minimalist my goal is to keep to a minimum the number of items in my home and especially the number of new things I acquire. My general rule (as I wrote here) is to ensure that I actually need the things I am bringing into my home. Meaning: they will be put to good and frequent use and are not displacing a similar item that I already own and is in good condition. Having said this, I do still have more than a few redundant items in my home. That’s right, I’m not perfect.

Need is a tricky concept though. Aside from food and shelter, need is fairly subjective. I could argue myself into needing something probably just as logically as I could argue myself out of needing this same thing. And then there’s beauty and there’s art, do I need these? I think I do, but where do I draw the line? For now, I ask myself: Do I need this object? Will this object be used frequently? Is this object durable and ethically produced? Will this object add value to my experience of life?

Early this past spring Ro and Sen each got a beautiful hand-sewn blanket from Sture & Folke. Sen had long since outgrown his baby blanket, which nowadays looks like a napkin beside his toddler body; and Ro’s baby blanket had become too delicate (from years of love) to use for outdoor play. So, with many picnics and outdoor naps to come this summer, we acquired a blanket for both Ro and Sen.

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Folded blanket showing velvet and linen sides and coloured ribbon details

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Opposite side of the blanket showing satin “Elephant Zoo” fabric by Liberty

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“Elephant Zoo” blanket :: Handmade doll by Dancey Pants Disco

I can definitely say that these blankets came into our life at the right time. They are constantly used. In the early spring, when it was still cold in our home, they used the blankets as play mats on our hardwood floors. Once the warmer weather arrived the children took the blankets outdoors for picnics, reading, drawing, and, of course, sleeping. I’ve been especially pleased to see Ro and Sen take special care of the blankets. They seem to recognize the special quality of a handmade blanket as an auratic object made from beautiful, soft fabrics. Earlier on in my parenting years I never wanted to buy anything particularly fancy for the children, I assumed they would ruin the items. But I’ve come to realize that it is often the opposite, special items are given extra care and attention and they end up being used the most, but lasting the longest.

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Of his own accord, arranging containers by size before starting his picnic

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Sen’s organic top by Nico Nico available from Little Heirloom e-boutique

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After snacks, a little rest in the fresh air

Those of you who read the blog often know that I love interviewing people. I spoke with Karin, the designer of Sture & Folke blankets, and loved hearing about her childhood exploring the Swedish wilderness. It was especially heartening to hear that her childhood connection to nature has provided life-long inspiration. What we expose our children to leaves an indelible imprint that will direct them in life, for better or for worse. Fostering a childhood of joy in nature is the imprint I’m aiming for with Ro and Sen.

Tell me a little bit about yourself. What is your background? Where did you grow up?

I’m Karin, born and raised in a small village called Arvika located in the northern part of Sweden where the untouched woods never end and where silence is something you take for granted.

When me and my siblings had our porridge in the morning we often witnessed moose families passing by or a hare eating under our bird table outside our kitchen window. Nature was always around the corner. The summers were mostly spent in the southern part of Sweden, barefoot in my grandparents summerhouse by the sea. This was also a very peaceful place with nature as the closest neighbour. When the sun was shining I explored the seaside, I probably turned every stone on the beach looking for crabs, sea stars and great finds from the sea. All these childhood memories in combination with my two sons have become inspiration for the Sture & Folke brand.

Why did you choose the name Sture & Folke for your brand?

The brand name came naturally because the arrival of my sons, Sture and Folke, who were the trigger to start making the first blankets. I did search for blankets when I first got pregnant but couldn’t find what I was looking for.

Where are your designs sewn? And what is your relationship with the sewers?

The designs are sewn in Switzerland. We have a very good relationship, it’s a lot of good laughs when we work out new models and products, thanks to my poor French…

You recently added gorgeous bloomers and shorts to your line. What’s next?

Right now I’m working on a gorgeous sleeping bag and bigger sized blankets in true Sture & Folke fashion with innovative combinations of textures and patterns inspired by nature. It’s very exciting.

Do you have plans for other new items?

I have big plans but will move slowly to ensure the brand gets the right distribution and visibility. The brand will be kept exclusive and each model will only be produced in small quantities. Vision is to build a strong brand that stand for good quality in all aspects and reach out to all ages.

When you aren’t all caught up on work, what do you love to do?

I love to take long walks with my family along the lake and through the woods, pick flowers, watch birds and share everything I know about nature to our curious little boys.

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You can find Sture & Folke on Instagram @stureandfolke or online at www.stureandfolke.com

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Foreground shows “Wildflower Meadow” blanket :: Sen’s outfit by Velveteen

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Ro’s organic tee by Mini Mioche and skirt by Christina Rohde

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