The valley, and the magical someone who took care of it, missed the children terribly. The creeks called their names with a thousand voices. The grackles checked in every eddy with their sharp white eyes. The willows rustled and patted themselves down, in case the children were hiding somewhere in their thickets. The pileated woodpeckers knocked on every hollow tree, just in case. The downy woodpeckers investigated every goldenrod gall, just to be sure. The red squirrel trilled their names and the cedar groves echoed. But there were no children anywhere.
The crows left the valley yelling for them to come back. They flew over the town in a great raucous crowd, alighting on windowsills and peering into the windows of all the houses.
Check out Part 1 of this story here. This story is the prequel for Forest Theatre Camp. Stay tuned for the resolution to this adventure -- during the week of July 11 - 15, the kids and facilitators will collaborate a theatrical ending to this epic story!
This is the lead-up in story form to our interactive theatre fundraiser on June 5. Click here for details!
Our story takes place in one particular forest, a creek valley, full of silvery willows and baby painted turtles and horsetail jungles and shadowy groves of cedar trees. The creek had a repertoire of a thousand songs that it sang very beautifully. Iridescent grackles hopped from stone to stone in the eddies. Raccoons dozed in the upper branches of the cottonwoods, and the deer shared their paths with coyotes and foxes. A path ran down the middle of the valley, alongside the creek, with many smaller paths branching off. It was a wonderful place.
“The unknown and prodigious are drugs to the scientific imagination, stirring insatiable hunger with a single taste. In our hearts we hope we will never discover everything. We pray there will always be a world like this one at whose edge I sat in darkness.”
- E.O. Wilson, The Diversity of Life:
It is half an hour after sunset one early April, and I am trying to be invisible.
I lift one foot in a slow and soundless arc, letting it nose gently to ground before I transfer my weight. A robin fusses momentarily beneath the eaves of the hemlocks, and then quiet resumes. I lift the other foot. The drifts of leaf litter underfoot rustle and sigh. I imagine coyotes and songbirds tucked into the forest like coins in coat pockets, listening tense and wide-eyed to my slow transit through the oak leaves.
I love winter. I love the opportunity to read the tracking stories strewn across the landscape; I love the low angle of the afternoon sun; I love the mist of falling snow on a bright morning; I love the softness, the quiet, the winter birds. I love wool sweaters. I love rosy cheeks.
At Jumping Mouse, winter introduces new dimensions of mentoring: trailing long-tailed weasels and coyotes through snowy meadows and tangled cedar thickets; building snow shelters; practicing survival fire methods in challenging conditions; and helping kids learn to keep themselves warm and comfortable in the wind, snow, and freezing temperatures.
They had sized each other up in that more-or-less anxious way that kids do. By the end of the first game, slipping and tumbling and chasing each other, each had mapped the lay of the land, the constellation of kids and leaders. There were bold ones, goofy ones, ones who danced contentedly around the periphery, and one or two who were unsure: self-conscious, almost nervously observant of the others.
It was a mild and humid winter day, the snow just a few inches deep and pleasingly soft. We wrapped up our game, the group already rosy-cheeked and impressively bedraggled. Just a few minutes after hoisting backpacks and stepping onto the forest path, a coyote trail tempted us from the trail and into the thickets.
Remember that Joni Mitchell song about paving over heaven? Imagine someone paving over a meadow back when Joni recorded 'Big Yellow Taxi' back in 1970. That meadow is now my driveway. I live in a very old building with a couple of different apartments in it, and the driveway accommodates three cars on a regular basis. Who knows how many exhaust pipes have coughed lead-laced fumes into the gravelly earth, or how many fluids have leaked from cracked gaskets. Who knows the trash that has languished there and bled icky juices into the dirt, what dog poop has been smeared, what pesticide residues persist. Turns out, though, that heaven isn't so easy to squish.
by D'Arcy Hutton
Time travel. I think about it a lot. And when I do, the distant past feels so tangible. So present. I feel the same buoyant almost-vertigo I feel when swimming, goggled, in the clear waters of Lake Superior. There, I can peer down at vivid volkswagen-sized boulders, bright igneous rock with veins like butterscotch ripple, fifty feet below me. Far beyond my lung capacity, yet so close, separated only by a stone's throw expanse of something clear, airless, and cold, straight down. More like flying than swimming. The distant past feels like that: so vivid and close at hand, but just beyond my lung capacity.
Maybe it's not a coincidence that the elements of water and geology are the chosen metaphors for my relationship to history. It was through the concepts of landscape-level tracking in the Canadian Shield landscape of my home region that I began practicing that momentary switch in perspective.
I've been feeling some self-applied pressure to post something about Thanksgiving, as gratitude is a value we try to role model consistently at Jumping Mouse. As the Facebook and blog posts full of concise and lovely expressions of gratitude pitter pattered down over the weekend, accumulating gently like tiny hailstones from an October cloudburst generated by a fast-moving low-pressure weather system, I felt reluctant to join in. And, understandably I think, reluctant to surrender any more of my Thanksgiving hours to my laptop's unblinking gaze. So I took to my sit spot, and the woods, and the meadows, and the gravel pits, and the family suppers of my hometown of Chelsea, Quebec.
By D'Arcy Hutton
A discussion of hazards is one of the first conversations we undertake with participants at the beginning of a program. A thorough knowledge of the dangers of one's place is enormously empowering and can reduce the dread factor while increasing our ability to stay safe. Lyme disease is, arguably, one of the most serious hazards we face in Eastern Canada while enjoying and connecting with wild spaces, though for many of us it is a vague and unknown specter. We know we don't like it, and that we don't want it, and maybe our neighbor's dog has it, but we're not sure what it means for us.
Unfortunately, the incidence of Lyme in Ontario is projected to increase with the progression of time, the advancement of climate change, and the alteration of ecologies. The danger of Lyme is growing, and our understanding of both Lyme and tick ecology must outpace the danger if we are to stay healthy. This will be a fairly basic introduction to Lyme, and an explanation of tick-borne disease prevention strategy.
Lyme infection is a dreadful prospect. The full possibilities and ramifications of Lyme infection is a topic for another post, as is a full exploration of tick natural history. Suffice to say that it can have lifelong health implications, and causes some who are infected considerable physical pain, years-long disruptions in their life's path, and serious mental health issues. It is also important to emphasize that forsaking the woods does not mean that you will be safe from Lyme. Ticks make it into our homes on pets, clothing, and other family members.
So, what do we want? More information! When do we want it? Now! Should we stay out of the woods? Absolutely not! Should we stop taking naps in deer beds? Maybe!...Probably!...That's weird! Knowledge is power, everyone, so bear with me as I undertake this initial foray into the world of Lyme.
Hi everyone! I'm a small, energetic mammal. I sometimes go by the name Zapus hudsonicus.