I like to think of a Nature Table as a little bit of magic in an otherwise ordinary day. Whilst ordinary days are wonderful things, a little bit magic does wonders for the renewal of our spirits and reminds us that there really IS something bigger going on.
The motifs of the familiar story of “Jack and the Beanstalk” correlate with the potential of a Nature table and give us a wonderful living picture of the essence of it.
Jack demonstrates trust in the words of the trader. He hopesagainst odds that there really is magic in the beans. Inaccepting the magic beans, he acknowledges his belief in the somewhat predictable, yet wonder-filled nature of the earth and her seasonal shifts and turns. Observing his mother’s lack of vision and oversight, he questions himself, his motives and his deeply held need for magic. Later, as Jack watches the beanstalk reach into the heavenly realms, he is encouraged and excited that untold treasures may lay just beyond, hidden out of sight. Jack’s adventures and the element of risk-taking in his quest to claim his just delights inspire our own “treasure hunting” and make us believe that anything is truly possible.
Our nature tables silently hold the same promise. Trusting that nature will provide, we set up a table or shelf in the corner of the room. Hope and acceptance help us to suspend our judgements and allows the form of the nature table to grow, change and transform. We too, can have questions about the nature table, and wonder about its value. We know that the nature table can have an impact on the lives of those who drink the images in but it is unmeasurable and unpredictable. It can inspire the play and crafting of small children or it can have no visible effect at all. But, we continue to watch in glee as the story of the table ebbs and flows. Lastly, we are encouraged, and acknowledge the inspiration that nature can bring to our own creative lives.
To truly ‘own’ your nature table and have it mean something more than a token gesture requires us to delve deeply into our thinking processes. “Why” becomes a critical question. It is not enough to have one, because everyone in the Waldorf world ‘has one’. It is essential to contemplate the presence of a nature table for yourself and to be careful to evaluate your motives, rather than buy into a myth. Without a question, there is a real risk of a stereotype or caricature running rampant, potentially destroying something good. We can work hard to break down assumptions by being open and forgiving in our search for answers.
(In a similar vein, many a kindergarten teacher wears a pink apron because they buy into a “tradition”, or believe it is something they must do. A thinking person would first ask the ‘why’ question and find out the back story of their mentor’s pink apron before they ever contemplated wearing their own. A well placed question can unravel a gaggle of myths. Well balanced and insightful mentors definitely welcome it.)
Your job is to find your own answers. Is your nature table purely a place of beauty where you can create a ‘still life’ of your present moment in time? Is it a tool for inspiring your children’s imaginative play? Is it a storehouse for your story props? Is it a link between the outside and inside world? Does it serve as an altar to the blessings of Nature? Is it a showcase of your creative outgoings? What else might it serve?
Whatever it is for you is what it is. There is no right or wrong, but acknowledging the true purpose of your nature table will guide its presence in your life. This is surely the goal of Waldorf education; to think something through and find your own relationship to it based on your experiences in life and living. A nature table can be a wonderful tool for an imaginative meditation on your own process of thinking and being, or, it can be just a “lovely thing”. I wish you happy creating with your own nature tables!