“Come explore our magical world where your child will have the opportunity to learn directly from the land that sustains us. Here we will explore history, ecology, and native lore, as we deepen our nature awareness skills and uncover treasure all around. Our curriculum is specifically designed for families interested in alternative educational models as applied to outdoor exploration. Current programs are based on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner, Tom Brown, Jon Young, and many Indigenous traditions from around the world. Through our exploration of rhythm and pattern of our inner and outer environment, we will work toward the creation of a peaceful, socially sustainable, and environmentally regenerative future for all.”
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Interview with Nathaniel by Willi -
Where do you experience the most “deep reverence” in your daily life?
Every morning I meditate, quiet and still, in a hidden parcel of woods, on the edge of town. Here I am approached by many curious animals. I feel the reflection of their movements reverberating through my own blood and in a few precious moments I am able to really feel, on the experiential level, the universal interconnection of life. This is something I feel most deeply when I am able to share it with children.
Is magic spiritual? Is mystery magic?
There is nothing that is unrelated to mystery, magic, or spirit. Of course the each of them are deeply subjective terms. To me the sun rising in the morning is a cosmic expression of divine spirituality, as is the fact that we can draw ancient sunlight out of the earth and use it to power our machines of destruction. Every action we perform is a manipulation of the energy and elements of creation. Every impulse that arises within us is a call to perform an act of magic. Sometimes that impulse is used to satisfy a selfish desire, sometimes it draws us closer to a path of service toward others. A kind thought, a small sacrifice for the benefit of someone in need, anything that tends toward balance and harmony, within ourselves and amongst all living beings, these appear to be expressions of our higher self, which many of us perceive as spirit. Forces of chaos and destruction are equally magical and mysterious to me. Darkness and light are both beautiful and necessary forces in our experience as human beings. Whatever terms we use to describe these forces in our lives, we are working with them at all times. The more important question for me is: “How can we do so to best serve the highest good?”
You write: “Early childhood is naturally a time of great wonder and enchantment.” How do you support and deliver wonder and enchantment at Nature’s Mystery Awareness School? What forces can work against this?
There are many ways to support wonder and enchantment in the life of a child. It is our primary task as instructors of Nature’s Mystery Awareness School to model goodness, love, and reverence for all life. If we ourselves are enchanted by the world around us, we excite curiosity in the heart of the children under our care. We choose to focus beyond the purely material elements of life and place a great deal of importance on the development of the imagination. Einstein once said that “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” He is, of course, not the first to have figured that out. Children are reminding us of this fact on an ongoing basis. Most of us are just too busy, most of the time, to give the matter adequate attention. Otherwise we would be much more careful about the type of environment we allow to fuel our children’s imagination.
Busyness, or distraction, is perhaps the greatest threat to our work as environmental educators, as well as to the health and vitality of the human being. If we were able to create the time and space to deeply consider the impact of each of our daily actions, we would certainly not be committing the absolutely insane level of ecological destruction that we are currently engaged in and finding the other essential source of support for our children’s development, exposure to the beauty of a naturally complex ecosystem, would not be so great a challenge. Nature’s Mystery is very fortunate to have many supportive friends and neighbors in our community who support our work and allow us access to their land. We have the ability to explore small parcels of wetlands and watersheds, meadows and woodland, in town as well as farms, old-growth forests, botanical sanctuaries, and permaculture communities in the surrounding area.
Can you tell us more about how mystery works: In Nature? In daydreams? In play?
A few days before I launched my pilot program: “Blue Heron” (named after a nature program I had the great privilege to experience in my younger days); I had one child enrolled. I needed five students just to cover the cost of the insurance and the company wanted their check that day in order to have the policy in place in time. On my way to check my email on the morning I was thinking perhaps the time wasn’t right when a Great Blue Heron swooped down out of the sky just over my head. A few moments later, I received a phone call from a parent wanting to register two more children. I ended up with ten kids by day one. Some people call such synchronicities coincidence, but they happen in my life far too often to dismiss. We’ll be playing a game of Cougar Stalks Deer with the kids, where I take on the role of the deer and they try to sneak up on me a kid will see an animal sign they think might be a cougar, we’ll stop to look and a deer will come bounding out of the forest. Someone will be telling a story about a raptor and we will look up to see a bald eagle flying over head. The more you stop to give it your attention, the more you will see these kind of things are happening all the time.
How do your instructors and programs ‘foster a infinitely deeper attunement of our natural senses to the world around us?’
Through a wide variety of daily practice. We use a number of games and activities that stimulate and activate different senses in different ways. There are for anyone interested in developing their own awareness skills I highly recommend the Kamana Naturalist training, put out by Jon Young. I also owe a great deal to the work of Tom Brown, Rudolf Steiner and many of my own mentors and teachers. If you happen to be in the Eugene area, you can contact me for personal nature mentorship opportunities for any age. Check out naturesmystery.org for more information.
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Bio – Nathaniel Nordin-Tuininga
A long-time Environmental Educator, Instructor with Whole Earth Nature School, and Waldorf Teacher-in-Training, Nathaniel spent much of his childhood wandering 1200 acres of meadows and forests, learning from his elders and developing a deep reverence for the more-than-human world. His life has been an ongoing exploration of alternative educational models including those in “developing” nations, which rely heavily on the interaction between children and the natural world. Nathaniel holds an undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Oregon and an Ecovillage and Permacultural Certification from Lost Valley Educational Center. He brings patience, joy, and an intimate appreciation for the ecological interdependence of life.