Thank you for visiting the home blog of Caliso Learning, a natural science-based business celebrating the beauty and ecology of our natural environments. Our goal is to connect you and your family with nature--actually, we want you to fall in LOVE with nature!

Here you will find nature-inspired articles and posts, family activities, personal stories, resources, and more--all with the goal to connect you with the benefits of nature for family fun and inspiration! Please enjoy and let us know what you like :) Follow us on Facebook for even more resources, more frequently!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sticks and Stones

The first time I experienced British land artist/sculpture/photographer Andy Goldsworthy’s work was when a traveling exhibit came to the museum I was working. I was completely blown away and inspired by his resourceful, artistic interpretation and celebration of the natural world. At the time, I hadn’t seen anything like it!

I am unaware of the beginnings of the current land art movement, whether it was directly inspired by Andy Goldsworthy, or if this wonderful expression was long ago established and is now getting a little more recognition and participants. Either way, I’ve become a huge fan of land artists. Their patience, concepts, the use of only natural material on site, and the resulting work is simply inspiring. And the fact that much of it is ephemeral makes it so magical. There are many genuinely talented land artists out there, and one of my favorites is Richard Shilling (aka “e s c h e r” on Flickr, become a fan of his works and his blog here).

Since I was child I’ve enjoyed creating around with natural patterns and materials…arranging rocks into makeshift mini-caves, arches (hardly successful), spirals, making sand pile lines, stick pyramids, pinecones embellished with fresh pine needles, pine needle baskets, leaf kabobs--even a miniature of a complete "18th century dwelling" my mom and I made one day, complete with stick chairs, broom, and rustic family dining table with benches, and acorn bowls filled with seed, bread, plates, goblets and such--all made with natural items. We did “cheat” a little—we used glue guns to keep it all together. But we surprised ourselves at how well it all came about! It was a fantastically fun afternoon of gathering and creating these treasures outdoors, under a canopy of pines, with my mom!

So it is this memory, in homage to your inner land artist, which inspired this week’s Nature Time exercise. Go outside, gather natural materials of any sort, have something in mind or even better, gather with a blank slate--your materials will inspire you! Keep in mind, most all land artists create on site, this creates a great exercise.

My mom and I had no idea what we were going to create, we just wanted to spend the time together and make something. The point is, it’s a moment I cherish i look forward to future afternoons like it; and I encourage you to simply open up and let flow, your mind will thank you for this wonderful outlet (creative bone not required)! Whether you decide to do this alone, or as a family, the connection you will share will be fun, maybe even silly, but definitely special :) I think your soul will thank you for it too.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Gardening Past and Present, Dig It!

Poster, "Improve Your Neighborhood, Plant A Garden"! Found at Northern Sun catalogue (bottom, right of this page)

“The benefits of gardening are not all in the body; they're also in the mind. Tending your garden is a real stress buster, helping relieve feelings of anxiety and providing a break from the general rush of life. Because the work involved is mainly physical, gardeners have a chance to think about their concerns, meditate, or just spend a few hours daydreaming. They can also feel a sense of accomplishment in a job well done.” The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation

Inspired by my aunt’s success with her desert vegetable garden, I have been considering starting a small one with my young son. I know we would both enjoy tending to it together and the thoughts of eating safe, fresh produce is a benefit that can’t be matched! One of my life-long friends has a little space in the backyard just for her 3-year old’s sunflower patch, which he enjoys so much--I can't wait until he discovers the yummy seeds!

I agree that in any of these settings, the sense of accomplishment, and the physical and mental advantages of tending to a garden (planting, weeding, and harvesting) contribute to a healthy mind and body. When I do some hand-weeding around the tortoise yards, remove and replant succulents, or just work to enhance the landscape in any way, I get into a kind of mental groove, and I find I feel energized from the inside, even if I’m physically worked. The energy last for the rest of the day.

Gardening in any capacity seems a great way to dig deep, cultivate growth, and nourish your body as well as your mind!

Back to the Future: Clay Pot Irrigation

I saw this fantastic recommendation from fellow CREYE (Coachella Valley Environmental Youth Experience) group member, Vernonique R. regarding clay pot irrigation—a resourceful and highly efficient way to maintain your garden. Coming from a region where water is a precious resource, this ancient concept is inspired, entirely practical, and a completely responsible way to establish or enhance your own garden lush with organic goodness!

This might be the way to go with my young son, a little experimental container gardening (baby steps)! I know he would love checking and adding water to the pot and picking and eating the fruits of his labor. [Click here] for David Bainbridge’s article (shared by Veronique) to learn more about the ease and incredible efficiency of clay pot irrigation, including its interesting historical significance.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

This Is Your Brain On Nature

There are plenty of reports and articles that document the restorative power of nature on our mind, body, and soul. For example, in his article The Cognitive Benefits of Nature, Jonah Lehrer comments on a paper in Psychological Science where, compared to city living, “interacting with nature dramatically improves cognitive function.” He goes on to say that, “A walk in the woods is like a vacation for the prefrontal cortex…strolling in a city, however, forces the brain to constantly remain vigilant,” the end result having a less restorative effect.

When you allow the mind to have that “mental pause,” you can calm the flurry of thoughts that accompany most of us on a typical day. In turn, your mind is clear enough to manage daily situations much more efficiently.

Imagine you are sitting on a rock overlooking a clear pond. You’re taken in by how you can see clearly to the bottom and even to the other side. You’re watching fish and tadpoles, and, plop! In go your keys. No worries though, you can see right where they landed and you can probably get to them with only getting one foot wet.

In the meantime, your keys spooked a toad and he jumps into the water and stirs up a little silt as you try not to lose sight of where your keys landed. But you jumped too, startled by the frog, and down goes your other foot—and a massive cloud of pond silt swallows up your keys. You’re trying to stay focused on where they should be, but it’s hard to gauge exactly…and grasping around for them just keeps stirring up more silt. Inevitably you are forced to stop stirring up the silt, have a seat, and wait for the pond to settle once again so you can see clearly enough find your keys. This is our brain on pond time. Take a moment, see clearly, solve problem.

It’s not impossible to find your keys through the silt, but when you’re bombarded with distractions-stimulus-information (like frogs, losing your footing, and grasping), it stirs up your mind’s process for clear thinking, and decreases our ability for more careful problem solving.

So treat yourself to a little nature during your next lunch break--if you don’t already. If you already do…try extending your nature time per day by 30 minutes and notice how your mind, body, and soul respond.

Watch your keys and let us know!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Who's environment is it anyway?

I just received my "Daily Coyote" fix and wanted to share the feel good moment with you. Author Shreve Stockton wrote this wonderful book about her truly unique relationship with an orphaned coyote pup, named Charlie.

No matter what beliefs you may hold before getting to know her and Charlie through her story, I think you'll find it a thoughtful, intelligent read. I was a conflicted by Charlie's destiny, but I absolutely fell in love with him (not hard for me as I am a true fan of coyotes). And I believe in Shreve Stockton's sincere concern and love for Charlie's ultimate path where she also questioned her role.

This coyote just may have been fated to be an ambassador of awareness about humans and our environments. We have a direct impact on the land we share with other species, and it is entirely our responsibility (our destiny so to speak!) to care for them in any way we can.

I encourage you to visit the Daily Coyote blog http://www.dailycoyote.net/, where you can learn more and receive daily or weekly photos of "Charlie."

Monday, May 18, 2009

Animal Web Cams!

On the days you can't get outdoors, why not bring nature to your desktop? Web cams that monitor natural habitats provide a valuable research tool for wildlife biologists and other scientists. They are also a great way for the rest of us to glimpse animal behavior, undisturbed, in their natural habitat--sometimes witnessing behavior never before seen! Click on the links below to see some interesting online cams...

Recycled plastic bags....of beauty!

I really wanted to share with you the amazing, original work of Virginia Fleck. She creates spectacular wall mandalas from recycled plastic bags. You cannot imagine how incredible and beautiful they are--she is one of my favorites--a truly inspiring artist!

Please check out her work, you won't be disppointed: http://www.virginiafleck.com/