My 20-month-old daughter and I were in our backyard one afternoon, enjoying the more moderate end-of-summer temperatures that were gracing us that day. We grow strawberry plants in our back yard, so I was searching through the foliage for any ripe berries that might be ready to pick and eat.
It is such a magnificent sensory experience to pluck a ripe strawberry and eat it straight from the plant. The sweet, warm flavor of the berry’s juices spreading over your tongue can transport you to a utopian universe — even if for only a brief moment.
I happened upon a particularly crimson patch of berries and felt like I had uncovered some long lost relic from an ancient time. My daughter was busily playing on the other side of the yard with her outdoor kitchen set-up. I called over to her: “Evelyn! I found some ripe strawberries! Come and see!”
She came trotting over in her toddler-like way, interested in whatever marvel I had discovered amongst the foliage. I showed her the pretty red berries and said: “These are strawberries!” I carefully plucked one off the vine and passed it to my daughter.
“Ooo! You can eat the strawberry, Evelyn! Try it, it’s really yummy.” I encouraged her to partake in the berry’s fine gustatory offerings.
She popped the strawberry into her little mouth and chewed. As she experienced the pure, alive flavors of the fruit’s essence, she nodded her head in determined approval and presented her most serious, furrowed-brow expression. She was concentrating so completely on the sensory pleasure of the berry’s flavor.
Having the opportunity to watch my daughter enjoy a strawberry that was grown in our own backyard, straight from its source, filled me with a magical sort of gratification. It was this perfect moment – complete in and of itself – in which my daughter was fully connected to her genuine, beautiful humanness and her connection to our earth.
The soul and the physical body merge when we allow ourselves to slow down and make manifest the interrelation of our physical experiences and our inner, more quiet processes. There is an authentic grace inherent in observing a small child engaged – even if unconsciously – in this interplay of the tangible and the soulful.
We, as parents and teachers, must create – even protect – opportunities in which our children can just be. Even though I was the one who beckoned my daughter over to the patch of ripe strawberries, once she discovered what the berries were and how she could pick them and eat them, I left her to her own devices to just be.
We were outside together a few days later, enjoying another mild late-summer day. I was sitting on the patio and Evelyn was wandering around the backyard, exploring this and that. I watched as she meandered over to the strawberry plants. My heart filled with a passionate gratitude as I observed her going about the business of searching for any ripe berries to pick and enjoy. I just sat and watched and let her be.
By observing young children and their engaged manner of interacting with their surroundings, we can learn what it is to live openly and united with our source of life energy. It is all around us, all the time. These small humans can show us how to reconnect with this essence of our beings. It is rather magnificent.
We also must reserve space in which we, ourselves, can slow down and become more mindful of our own integrated experiences throughout the evolution of our days and evenings. We all have the potential to understand ourselves and the world around us more fully. Finding this connection between the physical and “other” realms of our existence helps us live more genuinely, passionately and compassionately.