After a long hot summer and a beautiful but dry autumn, we finally got some much needed rain. And how we enjoyed it!
Der Herbst ist da. Es gibt Nebel im Wald… Es gibt Drachen im Wald.
Los! Wir folgen den Spuren der Drachen.
Aber zuerst, finden wir einen Zauberstein.
Schau mal! So viele Hinweise.
Ein X… Was heisst das?
Was für ein grosser Drachenzahn!
Ist das Drachenhaut oder ein Drachenbett? Was denkt ihr?
Ein Maiskolben, das hat der Drache gegessen…sicher ist der Drache in der Nähe…
Vielleicht hat jemand ihn schon gesehen? Also, fragen wir mal.
Liebe Pferde, habt ihr vielleicht in letzter Zeit einen Drache gesehen?
Liebe Zwerge, ist euch neulich ein Drache begegnet?
Vielleicht weiss der aller letzte Apfel wo der Drache ist? Frag mal!
Den Zauberbaum haben wir auch gefragt, und haben auf eine Antwort gelauscht.
Und jetzt, eine kleine Pause im Grass.
Ein Feuerblatt! Er kann nicht weit weg sein.
So speit er Feuer!
Der Drache ist vielleicht schon auf dem Bauernhof. Schnell, wir müssen uns beeilen!
Endlich haben wir ihn gefunden. Schon im Garten.
Every morning we greet the forest and its inhabitants in song, “Good morning dear Earth, Good morning dear Sun…”
And the forest, in turn, greets us through all our senses.
The wind whispers hello in the trees and the birds sing to us from the tall pines.
We touch the soft moss and the prickly holly leaves and they touch us back. The clean air carries the scent of the wet autumn leaf litter and the Christmas–is-coming fragrance of the sticky pine sap. We follow the small animal tracks through the fresh winter snow and decode the worm-written hieroglyphics on an old stick. And at summers end we taste the sweetness of the last wild blackberries.
Like a dear sibling, the forest is our friend and playmate. Together we climb trees, balance on old fallen logs, splash in the creek, and dig in the mud. We make lovely things too, like houses for fairies and crowns for the forest king. “May I please pick a blossom for my forest crown, or some spices for my stone soup?” We ask permission, we praise and we offer gratitude.
With each passing season, the forest feels more and more like family and home. Here we are all kin. We belong to each other.
With every visit, we know the forest a little better and we love the forest a little more. This is how we work for the restoration of a healthy sustainable planet. We know that we humans are more likely to take care of that which we love and feel connected to.
Join us this Fall Holiday for more fun in the forest!
For all the details please see our flyer: Fall vacation workshops 2015
Fantasy is an invitation to enter more deeply into collaboration with the world.
– Andrew Slack
The forest playgroup this year is all about story. The telling of stories, the inventing of stories and the living of stories. The kids just can’t seem to get enough fantasy play. This seems just right to me as we find human society at this critical juncture, very much between stories. Clearly the old story of relentless progress, grievous inequality and dominion over nature is crumbling yet, the new story has yet to be written. And it seems just right that this next generation will be authoring our new story from a place of connection with and belonging to the natural world.
I’ve been feasting on the visionary wisdom of author and speaker Caroline W. Casey lately. Casey is an amusing and insightful scholar of language, culture and archetypal astrology. For the past fifteen years, she has hosted an intriguing radio show called “The Visionary Activist Show” in which she examines our contemporary challenges through the prism of archetypal myth. She is tracking the writing of the new story.
In a recent post, with characteristic playfulness, Casey summed up the trajectory of narrative story quite simply:
ACT 1: So, here we are.
ACT 2. Let’s go!
ACT 3: Uh, oh…
ACT 4: Chaos, death destruction, evil takes hold, etc.
ACT 5: Redemption, reconciliation, the wedding, etc.
A tragedy, she suggests is a play that ends after the 4th Act. A comedy, after the 5th.
So how did our own little mystery play enfold yesterday.
So there we were in the forest yesterday, the whole day unfolding like an epic myth. It had rained all night and was unusually warm for a January morning. Spirits were exceptionally high as the kids arrived. Tatjana and I laughed, we knew we were in for an adventure!
We began our morning conferring with nature. We went to visit our dragon as we often do and today found ourselves talking quite literally to the raindrops. We gently examined, played with and spoke to the delicate drops that hung from the thin naked branches of the forsythia bush that arches over and creates the dragons den. Oh how I love these moments of tenderness and wonder.
Lets go! Hooting and hollering we crossed the street and headed up to the forest. We stopped at the log and ate heartily. We were going to need some fuel today. One by one we finished our snack and joined the play on the muddy hillside. Soon characters began to emerge and the action ensued. The three boys quite naturally took up as three musketeers. All for one and one for all! Apparently, they were knights, with spears and weapons and the ability to stop the enemy in his tracks with their blindly shining armour. There was a daring princess and two faeries who read from their book of magic spells. The kids know me as a trusted and enthusiastic playmate so I was easily drafted into the role of the “Scary Monster. ”
“Uh oh!” I pursued the kids up the hill, and it was so slippery and muddy, we had to break character long enough to work together to find a way to the top. We learned quickly how to successfully navigate the slick terrain. There is more traction to be had on top of the dried leaves, we discovered. Then we identified which roots were strong enough to hold on to as handles to pull ourselves up the hill. It was hard. But it was do-able. And do it, we did. All of us.
Chaos! Once at the top the chaos ensued. The princess was captured repeatedly by the scary monster who was then vanquished time and again by the knights and magically brought back to life only to be vanquished again. I learned to expired gently but dramatically with the support of a mossy tree trunk. Interestingly, it was not a clear good guy/ bad guy scenario but a shifting series of motives and alliances. Suddenly the knights were in cahoots with the monster trying to capture the princess. The fairies, who had defeated the monster and rescued the princess with their magic force field and deafening shrieks, were later found consoling the monster who had tired of his lot in life.
As teachers, both Tatjana, (expertly playing the role of the faerie queen, complete with delightfully squeaky voice) were both instinctively trying to gently guide the narrative into …
Reconciliation and rebirth. With more lives than a cat, and having suffered yet another terrible demise, the monster, sad and tired, confided in the fairies and offered his perspective. He was really, in his heart, not so terrible. He was, like everyone else, simply hungry and trying to make his way in the world.
While the faeries listened sympathetically, one of the musketeers rolled his eyes, sighed in exasperation then whispered beseechingly to me, “Jane, could you please, please, please be the scary monster!”
Apparently, Act 5 will have to wait!
This morning we are taking a different path. We follow the autumn mist in search of Puff- the magic dragon. Surely he is frolicking somewhere nearby. The red bench! The crows are flying overhead calling us to follow them to the edge of the wood to the red bench. Honah Lee awaits! We run ahead to read the yellow sign.On the Road Less Traveled
“This way to the red bench,” it says. We have never before approached our lovely red bench by this road. But we are in no hurry. There is always time to sing an aria or two along the way or stop and go fishing. And there is always time for noticing and wondering…
Maybe, because, maybe, because,
The entrance to the little cove where the red bench is is obscured by a pile of cut branches and I pass it altogether, scratching my head in bewilderment as I realize I’ve gone too far. We all work together to free the entrance and then cross the threshold. Finally we can relax and enjoy our snack. We are hungry. Grapes are gobbled up and traded for valuable fish crackers. Leftover crumbs scattered for the birds.
Refreshed and renewed, we continue on our way. Following the sound of the farmer’s chain saw, which we imagine to be the fiery roar of a dragon.
We cross yet another threshold: the place where the light and the shade meet marking the entrance to the forest. Rather than take the jungle path which we know well, we decide to walk the whole length of the farmer’s field where it butts up against the forest. Up ahead a gorgeous maple sends fall flames up into the blue sky. We peek through the orange glowing branches only to see our fire pit ringed by tree stump seats. It seems just perfect that the brightest tree in the forest is marking our special place. It has been that way all along… We just never saw it from this angle before.
Finally we spy a spider, sitting pretty, smack dab in the center of her perfect glistening web. Delight leads to curiosity which leads to poking at the web with a stick until the entire web comes crashing down and the devastated spider curls up into a tiny still ball. We can scarcely keep track of her in the grass. All eyes widen and we collectively gasp, “no!” And then the tears come.Tears of remorse. But the words, “I’m sorry, little spider.” do not come, can not come today. The best we can do today is to turn around and blow a kiss and let the wind carry it and whisper our apology to the spider. It’s okay, we are learning.
And then there were the cows we met along the way, this new never-before explored way. Five people, five cows, each one naturally drawn to his or her counterpart.
I am liking a lovely young brown cow with a perfect star upon his brow. How now brown cow? Others are smitten with the three black ones, bold and curious – licking our salty hands with their enormous black tongues.
And there is the shy brown and white youngster as delicious and creamy as my morning cappuccino. The five cows follow us along the fence to the corner where the field meets the path. They seem to call their friends who come scampering and skidding over the top of the knoll. If a dragon can frolic in the autumn mist, why not a cow? Suddenly there were 11 or 12 or 16 or 15 or maybe…
Maybe because today we took a brand new path, and it did, indeed, make all the difference. And the pirates and the princesses and the wild horses galloped back to the farm with joyful abandon, never to be caught, never to be broken.
Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass; it’s about learning to dance in the rain.
— Vivian Greene
It rains quite a bit here in Switzerland and this has been the rainiest spring in recent memory. It was so bad the other day we stayed inside our farm house classroom all day. A rarity indeed. Yes, nine preschoolers and two adults. We all survived. In fact, we more than survived. We made the most of it, talking and singing about the rain, playing like wild lions and tigers, making rain sticks, and decorating stones with flower petals and glitter. Busy, lively, chaotic and tons of fun. But, we would rather be outside… even in the rain.
After hearing about overflowing streams and flooding, even, I, devotee of the rain, was forced to admit that maybe we’d had enough. I feel almost guilty admitting this as if I would be somehow be disloyal to my dear friend the rain. Never! We owe our rich verdant Swiss landscape to the steady and variable wringing out of the clouds above. I grew up in the comparatively dry climate of northern California. Green was not a color we associated with grass much after Easter. And umbrellas evoked images of Mary Poppins rather than something to be used as a means of staying dry.
My childhood drawings always included little flowers growing out of the green grass. This was something I had never actually seen in real life and assumed existed only in my imagination or on the pages of my favourite books. To this day, I marvel at the first primroses of spring popping out of the rich green grass here in Switzerland. Storybook flowers I call them.
There is a lot of storybook stuff here in Switzerland, even the rain. It is especially magical in summer when temperatures are downright comfortable and a downpour or two is welcome refreshment. I love the days with the kids in the forest when its warm enough not to bother with our waterproof rain trousers, when soaking-wet isn’t cause for concern, and a pair of mud encased pants can be worn as a badge of honor or possibly even stand up by themselves. Storybook.
On these rainy summer days, seeking shelter becomes a thrilling adventure. The forest canopy provides such remarkable cover I’ve rarely had to resort to tying a tarp between trees to create refuge. It’s so exciting crouching together under the big beeches presumably waiting for a lull in the rain and secretly hoping it never comes. The forest canopy provides such good cover that it seems the entire forest is our secret fort.
One day, during a sudden downpour, I ducked off the path into the forest and joined a stand of pines on the edge of the path. I managed to stay fairly dry as I listened to the dramatic hail bouncing off the forest roof. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more present. Yet, at the same time, I seemed utterly and powerfully invisible. I remained a long while during which several groups of people passed by. Although well clad in foul-weather gear, most passersby were nevertheless, trying, futilely, to run between the drops. I was only about a meter away yet no one noticed me… not even the dogs! It was a marvelous moment and in my four-year old imagination, I was convinced I must have simply turned into a pine tree.
Some rainy adventures, however, have the potential to be more Grimm fairytale than magic storybook. We had one such experience recently when a lovely misty drizzle suddenly turned into a cold, hard downpour right in the middle of our picnic. On such occasions, delight and adventure can turn to discomfort and distress in a manner of minutes.
I was enjoying the heck out of the idea that we were picnicking in what became the pouring rain. I was trying to jolly up those kids who were less than enthusiastic as their sandwich began to get get soggy. Lilly Rose, as beautiful and delicate as her name suggests, was beginning to look distressed as the drops began to flow like rivers down her tender face.
“Are you cold, Lilly?” I asked.
“No…” she answered as if searching for the word that might describe this new experience.
“Uncomfortable? ” I then asked.
“Yes, I am uncomfortable.”
It was time to pack it up and make haste back to farm. There was no way we were going to be able to run between these drops, and I was a little worried dear Lilly Rose and some of the others might be reaching their limit.
Apparently not, the adventure had just begun! On the way, a few intrepid kids, stood under the shower of the overflowing rain gutters on the barn, thoroughly enjoying the excess of it all. It looked absolutely delicious. I wanted to join them, but I knew I wasn’t dressed for it. At that moment I decided it was time to invest in a new raincoat, one at least as waterproof as Manuel’s, who managed to remain bone dry through it all.
Later, back in our cosy classroom, we sat around the lunch table enjoying our warm tomato soup. I asked the kids as I do each day, “What was the best part of the morning?” And without missing a beat, a little voice piped up “Picnic in the rain!” And it was none other than Miss Lilly Rose.
Are the flowers by the wayside.
They will guide us on our path,
They will teach us how to laugh.
There’s the bright big dandelion
Shining yellow like the sun.
And the cuckkoo flower’s flying,
When the spring has just begun.
Oh, faerie’s flowers, we could walk for hours.
You were planted by the wind
In a bed we call the earth.
Watered by the rain
And with the sun you’re given birth.
Oh Faerie’s flowers
Are the flowers by the wayside.
They will guide us on our path
They will teach us how to laugh.