Woods & Wetlands Family Format

What in the Woods is That?

This girl knows her plants!

This morning was only the second time I’ve been out with these girls and their mom this year, and prior to that, I hadn’t seen the girls for at least a year from our old Woods and Wetlands experiences. Despite this span of time, which is significant in the life of a child, K. still remembers everything she learned! Without the slightest effort she points out poison ivy, sassafras trees, and anything else I ask her for. I could feel her confidence and contentment out there in the woods, navigating the berry brambles and wild rose bushes with ease and comfort while she chewed casually on a tiny sassafras root.

Meanwhile her younger sister went charging ahead on the narrow deer trail we followed to a particular spot by the eastern swamp. Despite my repeated cautions about thorny plants and my attempt to have her practice recognizing them, I found myself smiling inwardly as my words fell on heedless ears. After she yelped and recoiled a few times, I noticed that she began to slow down a bit and look more carefully at the plant life that hovered over and around the trail. Each personality is different and each of us must learn in our own way. She didn’t give up. She didn’t decide that the woods is a dangerous place. Instead she learned from her errors and kept going, navigating more and more confidently with each step.

The woods was just beautiful this morning with the sun beams and leaf shadows everywhere. I enjoyed chatting with the girls’ mom as we both took turns remarking on curious sights and attempting to point them out to the girls when they were nearby. I loved seeing the wonder and peace on her face and I silently cheered when one of the girls posed and asked her to take a picture, but her mom calmly informed her that she didn’t even bring her phone and that they were going to just live in the moment. “YES, PLEASE! More of THAT!” I thought to myself. (Then I somewhat guiltily pulled out my own phone to take a few photos for this blog…)

Along the way we saw the tiny tracks of a fawn approaching the water.

As in all contexts of my life, I find that I am more and more timing challenged! (Or an incurable time-optimist?) It seems to me I can fit everything in that I want to do, but in reality, I just can’t. I quickly realized I had spent far too long pointing out other sights on our walk to the woods and then spent even longer quizzing everyone on poison ivy and reminding them to look UP now and then! My intention was to take them to the fallen tree that grows new trees on the edge of the east swamp and to spend most of our time in that area. Despite having scheduled just one hour, I could not bring myself to leave on time. It was too delightful out there and watching the girls enjoy walking along that fallen tree in the swamp pleased both their mom and me.

This is one of my favorite spots to spend time just sitting quietly and Being. It is no less attractive when populated with excited children. Both are lovely!
This tree needs a good name!

While the girls messed about with the net and K. used it to make drip art among the duckweed, we listened to the swamp calls of the red-winged blackbirds and noticed a black and shimmery grackle nearby. Frogs continued to elude the smaller k. but she kept trying. Twice we saw the last flick of a snake disappearing into the leaf litter as we startled them out of basking in the sun.

She discovers a new sort of art experience! Making patterns in the duckweed with the drips from the net reminds me of using sparklers to write my name in the air.

We are scheduling some more experiences and next time I hope to introduce this family to the meadow in this preserve. The land conservancy has been working to restore it to the black oak savanna and native wildflower prairie that it once was. The prairie/meadow is dotted with purple lupine, golden coriopsis, red and yellow wild columbine, and berry brambles already heavily laden with unripe berries. This space used to be filled with straight rows of spindly red pines planted years ago for timber but never used. The pines provided very little in the way of useful habitat for animals, so the land conservancy took out most of them and planted native wildflowers and other plants. Last year the space was inundated with pokeweed and the burnt stumps showed everywhere from the prescribed burns. This year there is a greater variety of plants and even the shade-loving lady’s slippers still bloom there. I have noticed a number of wild blueberry bushes and they, too, are bursting with clusters of tiny, green berries with the smallest hint of blue just beginning.

On our way back K. became interested in my compass and asked to see how it worked. I obliged and set it on the flat ground and proceeded to try to explain while keeping a 6 foot distance. This was not a very possible thing to do. I think I’m going to need a long pointer of some kind. I wonder where I could find some sticks….

See you tomorrow, Woods!


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