I have a real love/hate relationship with nature.
I mean, I love home grown produce and rainy days and baby bunnies as much as the next girl, but nature has a tendency to be so...dirty. And hot. And full of bugs and other things with stingers and things that would just as soon eat me as eat my garden. Nature and I, we just struggle to get along.
You see, I have see through Irish skin that sunburns after five minutes of riding in the car. Apparently it is also attractive to bugs, because I am always turning up with weird mystery bites on my skin that nobody else in my house gets the joy of receiving. I get hot embarrassingly quickly, and when I get hot I turn fifty shades of lobster red and sweat like a McDonald's cup full of soda in the summer. It is SO ladylike. I also have some sort of allergy to mold and dirt, because I cannot walk through the potting soil aisle, or down into my dungeonous basement, without my throat closing up and practically suffocating me. Nature knows that I am not fond of her, and therefore will not allow me to keep any plants, that I try to grow indoors or out, alive.
So, of course, my daughter is madly in love with rocks, trees, dirt, dirty water puddles and sticks and stuff. Of. Course.
Thankfully she has a father who is all over that crap. So I let him do all the naturey stuff with her. And his naturey goodness has helped my garden and flowerbeds to produce better than they ever have since I have owned this house.
Don't worry, I am getting to the point here soon.
We wanted to do something different for her birthday this year, but after a handmade Christmas, Valentine's day and Easter I was a little tapped out for ideas of things to make her.
Lucky for me, I came across the totally awesome and creative Anji Marth of paperanji on etsy. She also has an art shop and a print shop there, with some truly unique and amazing pieces of artwork. She was talking about terrariums in a forum on etsy and it struck me that a terrarium would be the PERFECT gift for a kid who loves rocks, dirt and plants. Terrariums can be small, are fully contained, can hold diverse contents and can be given the room to grow, evolve and change. They can be extremely simple and low maintenance, with just occasional watering, but can become more complex as you add new specimens, to your container. What a fabulous, ongoing, science and biology lesson for a kid! The learning can start off very basic and simple at my daughter's age, but grow into much more complex thought, discussion and research as she gets older. It doesn't get much better than that.
So I ordered some little specimens from Anji and we found a fishbowl for two bucks at a local consignment shop(It was on sale for half off!). When the box arrived, we made a big production out of opening it with her, and I kid you not, I have never seen a person so excited to open a box of rocks and itty bitty plants. She whooped and hollered, jumped and squealed, so excited that somebody had sent her "A wok! A wok!"
We added a few of her rocks that she had been saving, and a little dirt, and this is what we ended up with...
I don't know about you, but I think it is beautiful, and fascinating. It is like this tiny, alien planet, here in my little house. I sit and stare at it and imagine little beings hiding under the rocks and greenery, waiting for my prying eyes to pass on by before they come out to play. The Kid and I like to discuss these beings and what they might look like and how they might live.
And when I am by myself, I find it very relaxing and peaceful to just stare into the little terrarium and let my eyes wander over and consume the many unique shapes, colors and textures that my mind just gets lost in.
The Husband liked putting it together so much that he went and bought a second fish bowl to make another. We think we'll be putting tiny succulents into that one.
My favorite thing about our little terrarium, is that it was put together as something to entertain and teach The Kid, but it has really turned into something that entertains and is teaching all of us. And, I think that learning together as a family is just as important as us teaching her what we already know. It may actually be even more important, so that she will grow up realizing that nobody, no adult, knows everything about anything, but rather, we are all in constant states of learning as the world changes and grows. Because even as adults, the things we thought we knew are often challenged or they evolve until we know something different.
It is best to keep an open mind, I truly believe. If I had kept my mind closed, I wouldn't have this amazing little mosaic of nature(that doesn't sunburn me, bite me or suffocate me) which is so greatly enriching the lives of my family.
Some people just see a terrarium, or a fishbowl of dirt and plant matter, but to me, it represents a diving board to new realms of possibility and ways of thinking.
I can see the effects already. Yesterday I spent an hour digging in the dirt, transplanting seeds I started a month ago, and I didn't even worry about the sweat or grime. Last weekend I rode on the back of The Husband's Harley for the first time in the four years we have been together. For the first time in my life! It was a big step for someone as anxiety ridden and neurotic as me who has feared motorcycles pretty much her entire life.
Isn't it funny and wonderful, how something which seems so small can turn out to be so big?