A pine cone


Nurturing Facilitators

In September 2009, we launched a nature experiential activity with the Affective Nature Education Core Group at Lingyun, Guangxi. A game, Guess the Treasure, was to be designed. “What treasure should I choose?” I pondered as I was planning the game. Seed of the Cedrela? Fleeceflower? Duboisia? Pine cone! Why did I choose the pine cone? I told the children: Pine cones bring a word to my mind – home.

I don’t remember if I have ever played in a pine forest at home, nor do I remember whether I have ever picked up a pine cone. Pine trees are simply too commonplace at home. Growing from seeds sowed by planes, pines cover all slopes and mountaintops, resulting in a green that makes the mountains look so dull. But, as things had it, after I left home, whenever I saw a pine cone during a nature experiential activity, whether it was in Lingyun or in Heng County, in Nandan or in Beijing, it brought home back to me.

I brought a pine cone back to my hostel and sometimes played with it in my hands. When I looked at it closely, I found that the pattern the cone scales made was truly beautiful. When you looked at it from the top, it was like a blossoming flower. When you looked at it from the side, it showed you perfect geometrical lines… Thanks to the small pine cone, I came to the realisation that to see beauty, one needs eyes that truly see.

In December, Qingshui was leading a group of adults in the game, Find the Treasure. She introduced the game by concealing something a child gave her a few days earlier in Lingyun. She told the participants she had asked the child why he gave it to her. The child replied with bright eyes: “Because it is fun!” Qingshui asked a participant to come forth and guess what the treasure was. It was a pine cone. The child had climbed a very tall tree to pick it. He gave Qingshui the pine cone because he felt it was fun and he wanted to share it with her. “So what sort of fun do you discover in nature?” Qingshui asked.

As I watched Qingshui’s introduction, I seemed to feel my heart leap. Ever since I learnt the importance of a leader’s sharing in a nature experiential activity, I had been disturbed by the fact that I didn’t have any story to share. But hearing Qingshui tell her story, I realised my problem was not that there was no story, but that I hadn’t been mindful enough in my life. Qingshui’s story was about something small and simple, and it had happened just a few days earlier in Lingyun. But she had been mindful: that’s why she could tell a good story from something that happened in everyday life, and see meaning in the ordinary. So: what did I gain from the activities in Lingyun?

Pine cone, do remind me to be mindful.

Huyang, Seed Sower.

The “Walk Together in One Spirit – Affective Nature Education Seed Sowers Partnership Project” aimed to enable project partners, workers and people from different communities to restore and nurture the affective relationship between human beings and nature, between human beings, and between the individual and the self. It aimed to equip participants with new perspectives, new feelings and beliefs so that they would become more motivated and more persevering in their response when confronted with problems in life and at work. Through training and guidance on a longer-term basis, a core group of local affective nature educators – Seed Sowers – were trained and a learning and action network was formed.