For Instant Spring, Just Add Water

It’s spring everywhere! After a drought, the few bursts of rain have brought everything to life. For instant spring, just add water.

The creek is flowing. The ponds are full. Mallards are paired up. Garter snakes are mating. California newts are laying their egg sacs. Pacific Toads are slugging their way to the pond. Pacific Pond Turtles are hatching. Wildflowers and fruit trees are blooming. White-striped Sphynx moths are pollinating. Pacific Chorus Frogs, out of nowhere, are nightly singing their serenade in 100-part harmony.












Officially, Thursday was the first day of spring. Oh, boy, was it.

For me, there are few better ways to spend the day than on an all-day nature journaling hike with naturalist illustrator, John Muir Laws. Another testament to the old adage that some of the best things in life are free.


The day was nothing short of transcendental. Here are the ingredients: sunshine, the ideal tshirt temperature, a glorious park setting, wildflowers, learning, undistracted time with my child, and the right teacher.

Jack Laws is one of those rare teachers who is both the best in his craft and the best at teaching others how to do it. Wrapped up into one day were new perspectives on art, science, botany, philosophy, poetry. Then it was sprinkled with humor and loosely woven together with compassion. Along with taking some of the mystery out of drawing with some specific methods, he makes you realize that, like most things, the ability to draw is not a gift you’re born with, but a matter of putting in lots of practice. And then he takes you by the hand and leads you down the path.

As we went through the day, I couldn’t help thinking about what Giovanni would be doing if he were in school. He’d probably be spacing out at his desk, daydreaming about catching newts or making some contraption out of sticks, until the teacher called on him to read out loud, which would bring him crashing back to earth and feeling really crappy about himself.


Giovanni has dyslexia. Until now, I have resisted using that term because I don’t like to define someone by what they are not or what they can’t do. What Giovanni has is a special brain that sees things in ways most others don’t see. This translates in seeing fine detail, like being able to describe how the mandibles of a praying mantis chew after observing it intently. Being able to find a camouflaged treasure, like discovering an 18th century cannon shot artifact in our back yard that looked like a dog’s lost and dirty ball nobody else would touch. And seeing 2D things in 3D, like how he describes words rising out of the page.

It’s this last thing that has made him slow to learn to read. We’re working on it. But it’s been a slow road fraught with the self-confidence potholes of two sisters who are early, voracious readers.

So learning from Jack, who is downright proudly dyslexic, gives Giovanni a tangible counterpoint for how to view himself. Here’s a guy who’s not only gifted and accomplished because of how he uniquely views the world, but who has focused on his dyslexia, not as a disability, but a special ability.

We should all have mentors who show us new ways to view the world, and hence, new ways to view ourselves. A rebirth of sorts.

That is the essence of spring.