In honor of Earth Day this coming Thursday, I want to offer an excerpt from my book, “Big Life Lessons from Nature’s Little Secrets.” I wrote the book for young children, but parents and other adult readers have told me that they’ve gotten a lot of food for thought from it as well. Nature has so much to tell us!

My goal with Big Life Lessons is to expand awareness of the world around us, and explore how the natural world can inform our actions and behavior. That’s something we can all relate to, regardless of age.

Since the magnolias have just started to open their buds up here in northern Chester County, I picked the following:

Preparation

In wintertime, things look pretty dead outside. The trees have lost all their leaves and stand bare against the sky. Nothing is growing.

Then spring comes with its gentle rains and warm breezes. The plant world wakes up. There are flowers everywhere—bright crocuses, daffodils, and snowdrops. The trees burst into bloom. The grass turns bright green. Suddenly, like magic, everything is full of color! How do plants do that?

The secret of each year's beautiful, sudden spring is that a lot of it is prepared the year before. All during the warm months, plants bloom and produce seeds. These are the seeds that will sprout the next spring. Trees and shrubs make flower buds and leaf buds in the summer. These buds will stay tightly closed all winter, and burst into bloom when the air is warm again.

When you're outside on a winter or early spring day, stop and take a look at a twig on a tree or shrub. The buds you see were made last summer. They are just waiting for the warm spring weather to open up and let their flowers and leaves emerge.

There are many things that people find helpful to do ahead of time, too. For instance, most people who celebrate Christmas plan their gifts in advance. They know that if they wait too long, they may not be able to find what they want. They might not be able to have the gifts wrapped and waiting under the tree or sent in the mail. If they wait until Christmas Day, they'll find that all the stores are closed. They will have missed the chance to give gifts that year.

There are many other ways to be ready—to have homework, chores, and practicing done—so that when an opportunity comes, you are ready to take it. So that when there's a test or something fun to do with your friends or family, you're prepared.

What do you think . . .?

What are some of the things you do to be prepared?

Do you ever wait until the last minute?

How does it feel to rush and worry?

Did you ever have to tell a friend you couldn't do something fun because you didn't get your work done ahead of time?

What can you do in the future so that doesn't happen?

I hope you enjoyed this little peek into my book. Maybe it even inspires you in some way. Maybe, before everything “leafs out,” you’ll take a look at the buds on the trees and shrubs in your yard or in your neighborhood or park. When you’re outside with your children or grandchildren, maybe you can talk about the “What-do-you-think?” questions together. You could start a twig collection and see how similar yet different tree buds are. In any case, I wish you a happy spring, and many delightful, insightful outdoor explorations.

Pam Baxter is an avid organic vegetable gardener who lives in Kimberton. Direct e-mail to pamelacbaxter@gmail.com, or send mail to P.O. Box 80, Kimberton, PA 19442. Pam’s book for children and families, Big Life Lessons from Nature’s Little Secrets, is available on Amazon, along with her companion field journal, Explore Outdoors, at Amazon.com/author/pamelabaxter.

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