Magic By The Pond

This week I have the astounding pleasure to serve as co-instructor to twelve kids, age 4-6, in deep nature connection. This is by way of the Vashon Wilderness Program Summer Camp.

Today we explored mammals and animal tracks and sign. We are adventuring in a beautiful woodland filled with extremely talkative ravens. (Have you ever heard a Raven say, “Gloop!”? This is a vocalization very much in the vocabulary of these forest Ravens!).

We had lunch by a large pond, where we watched swallows dive and skim the water (for water striders?), and we played “Grizzly In The Grassland” in a field. We finished our time at the pond with each child blindfolded and silent, listening to the birds and other sounds surrounding us, and making squiggles and other marks in their journals, depending on what they heard.

Stacey Hinden, who I am instructing with, and I were deeply moved and astonished at the attentiveness of these kids. All of them (even brand-new and very young campers) were silent for 7 minutes, and some of the more experienced kids went the full ten minutes they had challenged themselves with. We had originally set them to a five minute challenge, but they had clamored for ten (breaking the record of the campers of last summer who had pursued a similar sit for six minutes).

And, as the minutes passed, and the silence continued, birds came closer and closer to the kids, singing away and comfortable in the company of these gentle, curious young humans.

Have you shared some special quiet moments with kids in nature?

And how about yourself. Care to challenge yourself to a blindfold nature sit? Just find a place outside where you feel comfortable, blindfold yourself, and sit and listen. For 5 minutes. Or ten. If you’d like, have a journal on your lap and make special marks for everything you hear. When you’re done with your sit, take a look at what you drew, and recall your experience.

Then tell someone about your adventure.

I invite you to share your stories — about special quiet moments in nature with kids, and/or your blindfold sit spot adventure — in the comment box here!

Late Winter Wonders

FoxTales features guest posts by characters from the magical fiction novel, Because Of The Red Fox. This post is written by Annie Wakefield-Browne, cousin to Shell Wakefield (protagonist of the book).

Hi! I’m Annie, and I’m super-excited to be writing to you today. Let me tell you about some of our day, and maybe you’ll tell us about yours.

First off, it’s been crazy rainy and windy at times for the past few days, and hail the size of peas spat down this afternoon. Okay, so it hasn’t been as windy as it was about six years ago. (Folks on the island always talk about that storm if you bring up a topic about wind and rain. You can read what Jane had to say about it in her Wise Child Learning blog post, Thunderbird Takes Wing)

But the hail spat like bee-bees from a bee bee gun onto the backs of the ducks in the poultry yard. Oh, they were so confused for a bit, but eventually waddled under shelter.

Near sunset, though, I wandered  out into the field to my favorite Hawthorn tree–she’s kind of like a great-aunt to me, or an elder friend. Anyway, I stopped by to say hello, and I noticed that all kinds of lichen lay on the grasses, blown off by the wind, I guess.  Tomorrow I think I might collect some of the lichen for Jane (you know, the writer of our book, Because Of The Red Fox). I think she’d like to make some medicine from lichen, from Usnea, because of its amazing anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties.

Hawthorn In Winter - photo by Jane Valencia (c) 2013
Hawthorn In Winter – photo by Jane Valencia (c) 2013

Oh, I bet Aunt Elinn, Shell’s mom, would like some too, because she’s an herbalist–well, I’d call her a green witch. That’s really a better term for what she does.

As I wandered about, noting the Usnea, I started noticing the trails along the edge of the field, close to the blackberry and the woods. Wow! There’s a regular highway along the edges of fields, and lots of turn-offs where the animals lunge into the shrubs. Little tunnels are everywhere in the hedges, if you stop to look.

Who makes these paths?

I found a pile of droppings — deer droppings, I think — near one tunnel that seemed to slice through between some pokey holly. If that tunnel is big enough for a deer, it’s big enough for me! I pushed past the holly and …

… and found myself in an amazing secret place! No one would ever, ever find me if I decided to make this my own private shelter, my own private teahouse even. Well, the deer might find me if they decide to pass through, but I could just crouch by one of the cypress hidden away here, and just think my own thoughts.

… mmm!

I pushed back out of my secret hideaway (it’s really just a pocket of a place been our field and a neighbor’s yard, and then wandered a little further.

By now the grass was glowing green with hidden sunset (the sky was filled with low gray clouds). And down the trail the old apple trees were dancing.

Well, not like they were up and moving. But that’s what they looked like and that’s how they seemed.

And that was my sunset!

So tell me. What do you notice at the edges of your yard or a nearby field , or the edges of any outdoor place? Are there trails, tiny or large? Who or what do you think uses them? Where do they go? Do you notice any tunnels?

Do you have a secret hideaway, right where you are?

Thanks for reading! Good night!