I’ve been reading aloud the Australian classic, I Can Jump Puddles by Alan Marshall, the story of a young boy who contracted polio in the early 1900’s when an epidemic swept through Victoria.
Alan had been taken to hospital to have surgery on his lower body. He was encased in a plaster cast but there were some nasty complications and he was in misery from the constant pain he suffered.
One day his dad, desperate to cheer him, came to visit with a little new pup hidden beneath his jumper. He tucked the little dog into bed with Alan while the other patients kept a watch to warn of approaching nursing staff. It was a brief moment of contact with the world outside, but Alan soaked up the warmth of the little creature snuggled up beside him, and the sweetness of that filled him with strength and hope.
Later the day came when he could be wheeled outside:
As we passed through the door leading to the garden, the fresh, open air and the sunshine poured itself over me in one immense torrent. I rose to meet it, sitting upright in my chair, facing the blue and the sparkle and the gentle push of the air against my face, like a diver rising from the sea.For three months I had not seen a cloud or felt the sun upon me. Now they were returned to me, newly created, perfected, radiant with qualities they never possessed before.
I was struck with the power of Alan’s words. He was seeing things in a whole new way after a long separation. A common bird’s call was a gift to him. Even the grains of gravel upon which his chair rested took on a beauty and their ‘strange little hills and hollows’ were delightful to him.
Sometimes it can be hard for a mother to get outside. There’s washing to get done, dinner to be made, maths to be corrected, the bathroom’s a mess, there are other more important things that need to be done…
Nature…gives us certain dispositions of mind which we can get from no other source, and it is through these right dispositions that we get life into focus, as it were; learn to distinguish between small matters and great, to see that we ourselves are not of very great importance, that the world is wide, that things are sweet…
Ourselves, Book II by Charlotte Mason
I usually try to get out and have a good walk a few mornings a week but I haven’t been sleeping well and it hasn’t happened for about two weeks. My motivation for walking was mostly fitness, but I’ve been aware that the omission has affected the disposition of my mind more than it has affected my body.
It’s not the walking I need so much, although that is beneficial. It is the contact with the natural world that helps me to get my life into focus and helps me to distinguish between the great and the small.
Yesterday I sat in the sunshine for two hours reading and writing in my commonplace book while my children were having swimming lessons and later played with friends. I felt like Alan on that day he described above,
I hung my head and closed my eyes and the sun wrapped itself around me like arms.