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While I was sweeping at the base of my crumbling front wall, a young boy passing by stopped to ask, “How do you get those little flowers to grow in the cracks?”

“I didn’t. They just appeared,” I said. “Maybe from seeds carried by the wind or dropped by a bird, who knows? But whenever there is an empty space outdoors, even in a crack as tiny as this one, nature will fill the emptiness, and almost always with something beautiful, because almost everything nature creates is beautiful.

“We just moved next to an empty lot, so I’ll watch for what grows there. Strawberries would be great.”

And off he went.

For parents, grandparents, and gardeners, nature offers such vivid ways to give children reasons for courage and hope in this weird time: for the idea that everything in nature—from the smallest seed to the grandest mountain–is alive and part of a vast web of life on Earth. That vision guided our longest-lasting cultures. Some saw nature as the work of Spider Grandmother: the fragile, crafty, and caring creative intelligence of our planet. And after 360 million years of survival on Earth, seeing spiders as spinners of sorely-needed secrets of survival and happiness makes perfect sense to me.

So a simple crack in a wall can serve to connect children to that vast web of wisdom that surrounds us with love and beauty so freely given, but too often unrecognized or even denied. Spider Grandmother lives on, Native cultures say, as the voice of imagination that guides young people on the risky road of life. If they learn to listen and look at nature, with nature’s boundless help, they will be able to mend the cracks in the web. 

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