Eco-novice reviews Soule Mama’s latest book.
One more book you may want to add to your fall reading list: The Rhythm of Family by Amanda Blake Soule.
The Rhythm of Family: Discovering a Sense of Wonder throughthe Seasons is a book of essays, photographs, crafts and activities inspired by the seasons, full of insights into how to help the entire family discover and connect with the natural world. Fans of Soule’s blog SouleMama will undoubtedly enjoy the book as it draws upon the same elements as her blog: logs of daily activities and reflections by both Soule and her husband, beautiful photographs, as well as crafts and tutorials. The chapters are titled after and based upon the months of the year, beginning with January. I think it would be fun to read a chapter each month (beginning with whatever your current month is at the moment), especially if you live in the northeast United States or other area whose seasons mirrors those of Soule’s home in coastal Maine.
My favorite parts of the book are the Make & Do sections, although there are wonderful ideas for exploration and discovery embedded in the essays as well. I love Soule’s philosophy that “there is always a way for everyone to be included,” from the youngest to the oldest in your family. The Make & Do sections include a wonderful variety of activities: recipes for bread, soup, lotion, and bug spray; sewing projects; crafts involving stamps, dyes, homemade paper and notebooks; ideas for bringing the natural world into your home; instructions for growing herbs and plants; as well as ideas for outings and adventures in nature. As a product of suburbia (largely ignorant about the natural world) who is not particularly crafty (can't knit, barely sew), I think I can imagine myself attempting to do half to two-thirds of the crafts and activities described in the book.
Another favorite element of the book is Soule’s lists of books on birds, tracking, cooking and more interspersed throughout the book. I am a sucker for a good book list.
I have read all three of Soule’s books, and I think The Creative Family is still my favorite. As I read The Creative Family I took pages of notes on activities and routines I would love to incorporate into our own family life. But The Rhythm of Family has probably most motivated me to find additional ways to connect my kids with nature. Much like Soule’s blog, this book makes me envious of how much less disconnected Soule’s family is from the natural world than the average urban or suburban family. I think that her children are truly lucky to be growing up with these experiences and wish that same kind of connectedness with the natural world to whatever degree possible for my own children. So while the book is full of wonderful ideas, it is also simply a source of inspiration.
Soon after I started reading The Rhythm of Family, I decided to use a gift card on books about the local nature of my area and guides to identifying trees and birds for children, and I started talking to my kids on our walks about the parts of the tree and the shapes of the leaves. While we have always stopped to look at bees and flowers, I find myself wanting to take this discovery and learning a step further, and am trying to be a little less grossed out by my kids’ fascination with snails, dead insects, and rotten fruit fallen from trees. I find myself planning to go on a nature treasure hunt every month or season, perhaps creating a collage of our discoveries. Reading the book has helped me remember to slow down, look around, learn the names of birds and wildflowers, resist the busyness of our daily lives.
I may eventually pass along my own copy (once I’ve jotted down a few notes), but for now I’m still enjoying leafing through the pages, dreaming of ways to explore the seasons with my own children. Pick up a copy at your local library or bookstore – I think you’ll enjoy it.