“It’s cool because you can look into the water or switch your eyes and look at the trees reflecting in the water,” notes O. as we sat side by side on a fallen branch in The Enchanted Forest this afternoon. I looked in the direction of her gaze and saw instantly what she meant and remembered all the times I have noticed this for myself and tried to get someone else to appreciate it. The water surrounding us glimmered gently a reddish brown of the thousands of fallen leaves that release their tannins into it while on the surface floated the ghosts of the trees above and around us.
While we sat discussing the curious qualities of water, four boys whooped and yelled not far away from us, clambering up onto the giant root-ball of an old tree and alternately sloshing about in the spring-cold water, ignoring the chill seeping into their rubber boots and even slinging snowballs in each other’s direction. C. commented that the snowballs floated at first and then sunk as they absorbed the water. I couldn’t help thinking of all the science concepts that kids inevitably learn out there without anyone telling them to.
E. and I.B. tend to stay a bit apart from the other boys, either seeking me out for discussion or exploring and discovering on their own, safely away from the splashing and dunking that the youngest boys can’t seem to help engaging in, despite the colder temperatures. After announcing that he had discovered a way over to us without getting wet, I.B. appeared behind us a bit wetter than he’d intended but undaunted.
When we tired of sitting, O. and I.B. and I went off into imagination land, with O. taking the throne in a clear pose of snobbish dominance. Playing along, I warned I.B. not to get too close to her and to approach the queen with respect. He promptly marched up to her and said, “You smell!” We announced that he would be punished for his impudence (something like, “Off with his head!”) and he swiftly amended his statement, saying, “Ahem, what I meant to say was, ‘You smell very nice!” I cracked up.
We went on exploring from there, hopping tiny moss islands and balance-walking along decomposing logs sunk almost below the water’s surface. Keeping up a constant patter of pretend-play talk with regal sounding words and accents, we crossed The Enchanted Forest and “claimed” new lands for ourselves. O. and I.B. kept me amused the entire time.
I didn’t take many pictures today. It just felt like a relaxed sort of sun-soaking day, watching last night’s spring snow melt and wondering where the frogs and turtles were hiding out after having woken up already. We hope the real spring returns for next week’s session.
p.s. Did you know that trees have senses too? New research has shown that trees send out chemical and electrical signals. They can communicate with each other within their own species and they often use fungi as their communication devices! They can warn each other of destructive insects or hungry giraffes and either dissuade them by using bad-tasting chemicals in their leaves or by inviting predatory insects to come and eat the tree-harming insects! Not only that, but these species of trees need each other to be healthy! Despite having to share light, water, and space, trees actually do better when they have other trees of their kind than when they are alone. It is just incredible! Check out the book, The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben for more info. A kids’ version that includes some of the same information is, The Magic & Mystery of Trees by Jen Green. I shared a bit of this one with a few of the kids today.
It was with sheer delight that I watched our little troupe of seven run gleefully down the hill and into the woods this afternoon. After a brief introduction of a new friend to Woods and Wetlands, off we went into the swamp to welcome in a new spring.
I.B. immediately declared that he needed to find a Winter Wand. As one was not at hand, he went searching before joining us in the swamp and only arrived once he found one. It turned out to be a mostly-intact cattail. Later, O. remembered that she wanted to visit, “The Cattail Cafe,” which I had forgotten about. When kids make a place in nature their own and give it names, then they come to love that place and I so hope that love grows to encompass this entire, live-giving planet of ours.
The frogs were waiting for us, out of sight but not out of earshot! All around we could hear their tiny but mighty voices singing their spring calls. One of the kids asked me if I’d heard the “peepers” yet because their family had been opening windows to listen to them. (As have we.) We certainly heard them in every direction today. It is amazing to recall that all that long, cold wintertime these little amphibians were nearly frozen deep beneath the icy swamp and now they have come to life again, calling for mates and hatching new life cycles by the hundreds!
I couldn’t help grinning and laughing to myself as we approached the Fairy Tree, (the first place everyone headed without even discussing it first!) because I heard H. exclaim, “Oh man! I already got some muck in my boot!” What actually made me laugh was the choral response from 3 different kids nearby, “It’s fine! You’re fine!” and from I.B. “It’s just a little muck!” It’s just fun to hear them using my words from their own self-mucking experiences in seasons past to reassure each other.
All of us eventually ended up at the Fairy Tree though we’d split into 3 smaller groups who each went their own way at the beginning. From there we made our way to The Bridge/Boardwalk, or rather, we attempted to do so but took a wrong turn somewhere and instead discovered a nicely downed tree that acted as a bridge across a particularly wet area. On the way there, we noticed a few creamy, fuzzy fiddle-heads just beginning to unfurl and O. recalled aloud when we were in Firsts in the Forest she remembered watching them slowly open and turn into ferns. I love that these memories stay with her even now.
Everyone was still pretty dry at that point and we went to check out the Secret Fort Tree and to show it to M. who had never seen any of these places. He immediately climbed right up, obviously an experienced climber!
After a bit, we all agreed to use the rest of our time to visit The Enchanted Forest which is where, if anyone is going to get wet, they will get wet there! Most of us stayed dry but it seems that our newbies always have to try out the water one way or another. H. got wet with M., more in the spirit of camaraderie than anything else, I think.
I climbed atop a mossy little root-island and tipped my head back to take a deep breath of blue sky and the smell of sun-warmed swamp. My ears filled with not only the sounds of the nearby frogs but the high pitched and joyous laughter of 7 happy kids. As we gathered ourselves to head back and waited for those with water-filled boots to dump them out, we suddenly heard a new sound, like a 3-part chuckle or the twanging of a thick rubber band very close by. We hushed and looked toward the sound in the water and spotted a frog swimming and calling out, and in the next second an answering chuckle responded just 2 feet away from the first. It sounded so like laughter that I told the kids that they had been so funny that they cracked up the frogs today. One boy seriously asked me, “What is so funny?” I said I didn’t know but clearly something is! We all stood a moment longer to watch the frogs and then went on our way, leaving the frogs to their laughter.