The following post was written by TaraMarie Perri, the Founder/Director of The Perri Institute for Mind and Body. Her professional work is dedicated to yoga education and research, holistic health therapeutics, and the integration of mind/body practices with the arts and sciences. TaraMarie holds an MFA and serves on Faculty at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. She maintains private practices in New York City and Brooklyn.
In mid-May, I visited my dear friends at their home on the banks of Lake Champlain in Westport, NY. My times with them are always special--getting back to nature, recalling how to unwind, and celebrating the art of living. On a daily basis, I enjoy their spectacular surroundings as we kayak, hike, boat, or venture to their local farm to visit the animals.
It is not difficult to enjoy the views and sounds of nature in the region. But when I get to experience them through the eyes and ears of my good friend, Felix, the landscape becomes even more alive. Felix is five, and he is one of the most kind, creative, and curious children I have ever known (no surprise, as his parents are exceptional people!). Even at a young age, he embodies the enviable blend of urban hip and country chill.
Each day of my visit, Felix’s mom and I took short hikes and enjoyed investigating the new spring growth of bright green leaves, wildflowers, and orange baby geckos. On the last day of my visit, we followed a short trail--Felix accompanied us because he was not in school that day. As we walked along in a line, we talked about our watch for edible fiddleheads. We told him about the purple trillium we had seen each day and the hope of locating a white variety. From time to time, Felix squatted down to pull leaves to carry, and to touch the different fern textures.
Then the real magic began.
“Look, mama, this is a pink lady slipper!” Felix exclaimed. We marveled at his knowledge of this delicate wildflower’s name, and he proceeded to tell us how it would look as a bud before the open petals we saw. Later, “Oh, I found a Jack in the Pulpit!” Both of us had not seen this special little growth hidden under a cluster of other leaves. We gathered around to discuss its unique design. Once again, we were amazed that he had such an interactive presence to see things we walked right over. I started to watch Felix walk, and realized that Felix was not thinking about finishing the walk or following the trail—he was looking around on the path as we went and truly seeing the details. He was the best kind of mindful trail-walking companion. When our adult eyes fixed downward to take in the view to either side, Felix would look around, change levels, get down on his hands and knees, and dig in to the richness of nature.
His enthusiasm for finding other varieties, his pauses to touch a leaf or unfurl a fiddlehead (“You can unfurl them and create a new kind of curl, TaraMarie!”), and his happiness when we encountered another large-leafed trillium awakened me to the hidden joys of our hike.
By the time we exited the trail, Felix had collected a pine branch in one hand and a leaf cluster in the other. He turned around and waved his arms out to the side as if in a wide embrace of his forest friends. “Bye thistles! Bye trillium! See you later! Or tomorrow even,” were his parting words.
Five-year old Felix was our fearless leader and wilderness teacher on the trail.
It appears he may also be a wizard of the woods.
- TaraMarie Perri
Photo credit: Catherine Ross Haskins