Spring Haikus

Reminiscing on some Haikus from the past. These seemed a good way to honor spring and welcome summer.

Quivering seed pods
Last year’s fruit, This year’s promise
Red buds produce life.

April ‘to Open’
Birds beckon, flowers unfold
Hope, re-birth, re-new.

Dampness Awakens.
Slow green shoots appear and grow.
Spring bursts in splendor.

How goes butterfly
So gaily in morning dew.
Quiet. Elusive.

Surf booms, with great roar.
Coquinas ride waves to rest
On white, clean beaches.

Pelicans I
Spring aerial art.
Wheeling, gliding all in sync
Pelicans migrate.

Pelicans II
Spring aerial art
Banks, wheel. Dive. Glide in sync
Pelicans migrate.

Mountain tall, distant
Shelters small creatures that live
In harmony there.

Laughter tumbles free,
From souls to the earth.
Children, living gifts.

Begin where we are
Understanding nuances
Plain talk ease nerves.

Spring Into the Mud Season!

This blog from Community Playthings caught the eye of Winding Pathways.  Indeed, today’s society is too concerned with correctness, cleanliness, and convention.  A Buddhist saying goes something like this:  spend twenty minutes outside everyday.  If you think you are busy, spend an hour. At Winding Pathways we find this to be true.  No matter the weather we try to get outside to see the sun or stars or clouds; to experience the wind or cold or heat; to feel the rain or snow on us. We keep our bearings, feel the roughness and gentleness of the environment and learn.  Observe the changes of the seasons, find your Cardinal Points using the sun and structures, listen for the birds, watch the sky.  Be.  Above all, let kids be kids to slop around, spin, jump, tumble, get filthy dirty and then enjoy a warm bath and fresh clothes with a cup of hot chocolate and conversation.  Go Outside and Play!

Free Range Kids


Boy Playing by Dock

Children learn by exploring.

Walking to and from school in the 1950s and ‘60s yielded exercise, adventure, learning and fond memories.

Rich walked or bicycled about a mile to and from school down one road, along a woodsy path, across the Rockaway River, and around a wetland to school.  Along the way were frogs to catch, stones to toss in the river, and little melted snow streams to dam with rocks and watch the water flow. The trek to school may have been as educational as the classroom topics and lots more fun.

On her way to a friend’s house in Florida, Marion balanced along logs and stopped to talk with the friendly horse in a pasture. In New Hampshire she and friend, Pete Martell, opted for the hypotenuse route to school. They had just learned that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line! Instead of following the road through the village and down School Street, they crossed the Piscataquog River on a large pipe above the dam and jagged rocks connecting two factories.  Half way across the pipe, the consequences of a fall dawned on her.  This  one-time “adventure” became a lifelong lesson in thinking through actions.

At a recent conference Blue Zones Director of Innovation and Inspiration, Dan Burden, told us the odds of a child being abducted by strangers has been dropping for years and is lower today than in the 50’s. Ironically, modern parents fear abduction and drive their kids to school, robbing them of exercise, fun, and learning.

Cedar Rapids Community School administrator, Steve Graham, told us that most school districts built schools in residential neighborhoods so children could walk.  Nearby streets were never designed for the heavy traffic that now occurs each morning and afternoon when parents drop off or pick up kids, even when they live just a block or two away.

We were free range kids. Mom and Dad expected us to get to and from destinations and to exercise good judgment. We made mistakes, got skinned knees and mosquito bites, but we learned. In those delicious  walks after school and on weekend rambles we  invented games played in vacant lots with other kids, chased butterflies, stomped in the snow, climbed trees and experienced the world first hand.  We learned.

We’re thankful our parents raised us as free range kids. Mom and Dad set some limits, but we were free to explore our world.  We raised our two children the same way and were delighted when they returned from the woods tired and dirty but full of tales of their afternoon adventure shared around the dinner table.

We’re concerned that few of today’s kids have the freedom to explore that we had. Too many of today’s yards are boring, sprayed monocultures that don’t inspire kids to go outside and play.  Keep visiting our Winding Pathways Website and we’ll share tips on how to make your yard a magical place for kids…..and their parents…….to play.

The Gift of Winter Reading

Bring nature inside this winter with a selection of books from two “nature friendly” stores. Winding Pathways encourages readers to shop locally to support small community businesses. Happy reading!


Julie Welcomes Guests to New Bo Books

Step into the warmth of winter reading with a great selection at New Bo Books.

Books at New Bo Books

New Bo Books is a local bookstore affiliated with Prairie Lights Books in Iowa City. Check out their wide array of current adult topics and children’s classics for this Holiday Season.

For Children

A Leaf Can Be by Laura Purdie Salas. ISBN 9780761362036. A leaf is a leaf – or is it more? This poetic book helps little ones explore the role leaves play throughout the year.

If You Hold a Seed by Elly MacKay. ISBN 9789762447213. Inspire those you love; either a seed or a dream, planted and nurtured can grow. Beautiful illustrations!

Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature by Nicola Davies. ISBN 9780763655495. An illustrated treasury of poems that reflect what children learn in their first encounters with nature.

Adult Nonfiction

Mountain Eyes by Scott Peters. Self-published. Wonderful photography and insightful reflections on man and nature from Scott Peters’ travels in Alaska, Patagonia and the Pacific Crest Trail. Number x120.

American Canopy by Eric Rutkow. ISBN 9781439193587. A broad historical study of the deep connection between America and its trees, from the colonial era to present day.

Indian Creek Nature Center Sign

After a brisk walk on the trail stop in to pick up some great winter reading.

Books at Indian Creek Nature Center

 Indian Creek Nature Center features a variety of books for children and adults. Certain general adult topic books are on sale for 20% off until gone. They also carry great nature/science kits for kids (Animal Tracks, Science on a Nature Walk, Going Green). New this year are all natural with bark still on building block sets and origami projects and books.

Just out: The Tallgrass Prairie Reader. Edited by John T. Price – University of Iowa Press ISBN-13 9781609382469. A wonderful collection of literature from and about the Tallgrass bioregion with voices and perspectives from the days of buffalo and immense prairies into the present. Individual writers honor the Tallgrass Prairie from their unique experiences and perspective.

Children’s Books

Hunting Red by Jean Snodgress Wiedenheft. ISBN 9780615907925. Inspired by the plants, animals and landforms of Indian Creek Nature Center, Hunting Red takes you on an adventure looking for the color red as it appears in nature.

The Prairie that Nature Built by Marybeth Lorbiecki. ISBN 9781584694922.  Romp through the prairie above, below and all around while also discovering unique creatures and fragile places. This beautiful richly illustrated book also comes with a scan code to get the free pop-up app. Watch the animals pop up from each page!

Adult Nonfiction

The Locavore Way by Amy Colter. ISBN9781603424530.  Discover and enjoy the pleasures of Locally Grown Food. Learn how to source, experience and savor the freshest foods from your area.  Features sustainability, and organic and humanely raised food.

Home Herbal Remedies by Melanie Wenzel. ISBN9780778804895.  Recipes, treatments, sources and identification guide with photos. Exceptionally complete guide written by a homeopath expert.

New Bo Books (Continued)

For Children

It's in the bag!

Great reading at New Bo Books!

On the Wing by Dave Elliott. ISBN 9780763653248. Take to the sky to explore all things avian – from the tiny, restless hummingbird to the Great Horned Owl. Verse and lovely illustrations.

The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest by Lynn Cherry. ISBN 9780152026141. A story to bring the larger story of endangered rain forests to life by taking the problem one creature at a time. Vibrantly colored watercolor drawings and a letter from the author to her readers to inspire care for the world.

These Bees Count by Alison Formento. ISBN 9780807578681. Can bees talk? Listen to their buzz as they count their way through fields and flowers.

This Tree Counts by Alison Formento. ISBN 9780807578902. Trees talk, if you listen very closely. Count your way through the worms, birds and others that need trees. In the end, trees most need friends like you!

 Adult Nonfiction

Walden by Henry David Thoreau. ISBN 9781590306383. This lovely edition of the classic is complete with exquisite wood engravings that bring the text to life.

The Outermost House: A Year of Living on the Great Beach of Cape Cod by Henry Beston. ISBN 9780805073683. This modern twist on Thoreau’s Walden is a nature classic filled with the wonders of life itself. This book captures humanity’s relationship with nature.

A Sand County Almanac: And Sketches Here and There by Aldo Leopold. ISBN 9780195059281. Outdoor prose writing at its best by one of the foremost conservationists of our time. A book filled with beauty, vigor, and bite. Reveals Leopold’s deep love for a healthy land.

Adult Fiction

The River Why by David James Duncan. ISBN 9781578050840. Through the eyes of Gus, the young main character, we are led on a series of explorations into the wilds where the reader is treated to direct experience of the coastal rivers and forests. What begins as a physical journey becomes a spiritual one.


Drift Ice by Jennifer Atkinson. ISBN 9780979745003. Atkinson evokes the natural world in loving detail. These poems move on inner currents and reveal astonishing worlds within our world.

Darkness Sticks to Everything: Collected and New Poems by Tom Hennen. ISBN 9781556594045. Hennen’s poetry is filled with attentive engagement with the natural world. He writes of seasonal weather, outdoor work, flora, fauna and a nuanced relationship to the upper Midwest.

Indian Creek Nature Center (Continued)

 For Children

Nature comes alive in books

Nature comes alive in books

Winter Walk by Virginia Brimhall Snow. ISBN 9781423637479. All sorts of wonderful discoveries await while on a walk through the winter woods with Grammy.  A warm, rhyming tale of animals, birds, trees and surroundings.  Includes activities and winter trivia.

Wooly Bear Caterpillar by Laurence Pringle. ISBN 9781620910009. This bright, beautiful book reveals the secrets of the Wooly Bear Caterpillar. Why are they wooly? Find out!  Excellent hardcover book for gift giving.

Adventure Board Book Series by Stan Tekiela. Preschool board books written by a naturalist and wildlife photographer. Charm is in the bright and clear pictures that bring the animals to life through fun facts.

Snouts & Sniffers ISBN 9781591934264.

Floppers & Loppers ISBN 9781591934240.

Peepers & Peekers ISBN 978159193423.

Paws & Claws ISBN 9781591934257.

Bird Color by Alison Hill Spencer. ISBN 9781591934288. Realistic and colorful this book introduces kids to birds they might see in their yard or the park as it teaches colors.

Smithsonian’s Nature Activities Bird Watcher by David Burnie. ISBN 075661029X. Hands on guide with easy activities, filled with facts and photos of birds. Also includes a fold out identification chart. Lots of fun!

Series by Claudia McGehee, University of Iowa Press. Each book presents learning opportunities illustrated by lovely scratchboard illustrations.

A Woodland Counting Book. ISBN 0877459894. Walk through the woods counting plants and animals from one to 50. Children will learn about the interactions of the woodland family and the seasons with notes for further discussion.

A Tallgrass Prairie Alphabet. ISBN 13 9780877458975. A prairie stroll follows the alphabet with flowers, animals and habitats. Beautifully and colorfully illustrated.

Where Do Birds Live?  ISBN-13: 9781587299193. (not annotated)

Airplanes in the Garden – Monarch Butterflies Take Flight by Joan Z. Calder. ISBN 9780983296218. Monarchs are colorfully depicted throughout their life cycle as seen by a little girl who adopts two monarch caterpillars and shares their amazing transformation.

Animal ABC. Firefly books  ISBN 13 9781770854567. (not annotated)

Series by Bobbie Kalman. Habitats, animals, weather, seasons, food sources and homes.  Photos highlight each topic.

Backyard Habitats ISBN 10 0778729850.

A Grassland Habitat  ISBN: 10: 0778729877.

Time for Kids – Butterflies! By the Editors of Time for Kids ISBN 13 9780060782139.
(not annotated)

Chickadee’s Message by Douglas Wood. ISBN 1591932289. Master storyteller shares an inspiring and timeless Native American folktale about goodness and beauty.

Who Was Here?  Discovering Wild Animal Tracks by Mia Posada.  ISBN 9781447718714.Wild animal tracks! First young readers find tracks and clues then turn the page to discover the animals they belong to!

Numbers in a Row. An Iowa Number Book by Patricia A. Pierce.  ISBN 158536164X. All things Iowa counting from one to 100 reflects the wide variety of activities, history, locations, events and beauty all found in Iowa. Great way for kids to learn about the Hawkeye State!

Indian Creek Nature Center also carries great nature and science kits for kids (i.e. Animal Tracks, Science on a Nature Walk, Going Green) and new this year are all natural with bark on building block sets and origami projects and books.

Adult Nonfiction

Raw Energy by Stephanie Tourles. ISBN9781603424677. Nature’s Fast Food! Recipes to restore energy with simple, delicious, portable and raw snacks. Easy to make at home and take along such as bars, smoothies, juices and mixes. Pick it up to learn more!



October is a wondrous month of great change in the backyard. Thousands of leaves that devoted warm months harvesting solar energy now become free and fun soil builders.

Fall’s shortened days cause backyard elm, maple, oak and other trees to hang it up for the season. Green chlorophyll disappears revealing reds, yellows and browns that were there all summer but were masked by verdant green. Soon puffs of breeze bring dry leaves swirling to the ground.

We can perceive October’s leaf fall two ways. It’s either a season of drudgery or harvest of a free, organic and bountiful resource.

Raking, bagging and stacking zillions of leaves on the curb for the city to cart away is drudgery that gives away a precious resource.

Better to view leaves as wondrous tree gifts. Those multitudes of mini solar collectors are rich in carbon destined to become topsoil. All humans need do is enjoy and appreciate them and perhaps corral leaves so they won’t blow into the neighbor’s yard.

Kids love leaves. Have them help rake them into a dry pile in the center of the yard. Then pretend you’re a ground hog and burrow under the nearly weightless mound. Just make sure the kids don’t play in leaves stacked in the street for pickup! A car could plow through them and cause a tragedy.

All leaves decompose. Look closely and notice that the leaves of maples, elms, ashes and locusts tend to be flat and make a mat on the ground that soon absorbs moisture. They rot fairly fast. In contrast oak and hickory leaves curl to allow air to circulate under them when on the ground. They stay dry and resist rotting but eventually turn into humus.

Leaves make excellent compost material but need nitrogen to speed decomposition. Alternate layers of leaves with manure in the bin this fall and pitchfork out wonderful compost when gardening season starts next spring.

An easier way to put the annual leaf harvest to good use is to mulch them. Simply pile layers of leaves around young trees, shrubs and even in the garden, then wet them down so they don’t blow. Most likely they won’t be rotted away next spring but will hold moisture in the soil and reduce weed growth most of next summer. A year from now they will have been miraculously transformed into humus.

Leaves are wondrous, fun and a handy, free resource. Enjoy them this fall and thank your trees for sharing their organic solar collectors.