I grew up in nature’s lap, thanks to my father, an army officer. He was transferred to the most wonderful places in India. Many of them in pristine forest areas in hills, untouched and away from cities.
It was a magical life for a small girl whose best friends were fairies. Since I lost my mother when I was a toddler, I was mostly on my own. My step-mother wasn’t too bothered about my whereabouts, and it suited me just fine. The military homes were remnants of the British rule, large homes situated in a few acres of forest land. Huge limestone pillars of the veranda supported aging, dusky, pink climber rose bushes, wafting a heady fragrance. Summer afternoons were spent lying on the floor enveloped in that rose fragrance serenaded by the rhythmic humming of bumble bees. Butterflies would flit over my face and at times I could feel their gentle wings on my face.
The unused stables, cook houses and a bakery were my favorite places for exploration and day dreaming. I imagined I was the Indian Hiawatha and danced around with bird feathers in my hair. The sudden showers of rain convinced me that they were the result of my rain dance. Snakes and scorpions, together with other creepy crawlies, were all welcome, and they never harmed me. Maybe they had adopted me much before I realized their presence in my life! The golden wheat field with dancing red poppies is a vista that remains in my heart forever. The evening sun would set with the thick heavy fragrance of jasmine flowers along the rolling lawns. I would collect baskets of these flowers and string them into garlands and bracelets.
Could a child have asked for anything more? But of course, there was more! Evenings walks in the Himalayan forests would throw up many surprises. I drank water straight from the gurgling mountain streams and ate wild berries. All my caretakers were Nepali shamans who taught me about medicinal plants, especially ones to avoid. Getting hurt on adventures was not a big deal! They would crush and apply the juice of a few iodine leaves — and voila, the hurt was healed.
Night brought glow worms to play with. Vacations were for swinging on rope swings tied to old trees, and at times I climbed them for a succulent mango or lichi.
Mother Nature favored this motherless child with her love and protection. As I grew, I trekked the Himalayan jungles with my Himalayan shaman caretakers. Winter covered the Himalayas with a cloak of snow; dinner was usually flat bread and steaming lentil curry. Chilly evenings were spent listening to rustic tales of man and beast. Birth and death were accepted as natural, and as life moved forward my father trusted my caretakers completely. They guarded their young charge with their lives.
Today I am 59 years old. I look back in deepest gratitude to the days spent in nature’s lap. A motherless child could have grown up feeling abandoned, rejected, lonely or depressed. Yet, she grew up stable, happy and filled with deep wisdom. She trusted the world, the wild, the animals and the birds.
A child needs the freedom of being in nature. To feel the wind and rain on her face. To watch the grain ripen and smell the sweetness of the flowers.
This experience develops a deep oneness of the entire Universe within the child. Nature’s building blocks of life are awe, wonder, magic, birth, decay, abundance, color, variety, freedom and coexistence. A child who spends time in nature develops within her or himself peace, stability, hope, anticipation, patience, trust, love and a soaring spirit. The child feels grounded to reality of Mother Earth, transcended into non-ordinary realities of time and space. The child crosses over from real to make-believe and vice versa with ease and grace.
This creates the foundation of an amazing adult life. An individual’s soul can find its own inner resources to overcome loneliness, pain and trauma. Laughter and joy comes easily to one who has grown up in nature. A child-like simplicity and innocence is retained within one who has played in nature’s lap.