We were excited to see old friends and meet new students at the beginning of this session. With Jason’s still-healing ankle, older participants enthusiastically helped small ones make their way up the impossible icy sledding hill, and once they found their way into a sled, gave them a push off in a good direction. By their smiles we could tell they were all really enjoying each other, one of the reasons we love creating space for mixed age play.
We made a large nest of dry wood, the children helped tear up strips of birch bark, and then lit matches to the fire. Mentors prepared dry bundles of evergreen twigs. to add next, followed by chickadee sticks (finger-thick) and beaver sticks (wrist-thick) of dead apple wood. In the middle of an overgrown orchard near Reeds Brook, Caitlin found a clearing with a big old fallen cherry trunk to sit on, and an open southern sky for the sun to beam down upon us. With a lot of tending and firewood-gathering, our fire grew and melted its way through six inches of icy snow to the ground, giving us a nice healthy bed of coals, warming us, heating our hot dogs and peanut butter sandwiches, and drying our clothes when they got wet.
When participants ask to carve we always check in to make sure they remember knife safety. Maxwell was able to remember all five knife safety rules even though it’d been months since we had been together, and then he carefully practiced safe carving near the fire. He removed the bark from two sticks: a small one for himself, and a big one for his brother because he knew Mikey wanted it.
Curtis enjoyed exploring with us through the woods on our way to the sledding hill. When his hand got pricked by the thorn of a multiflora rose. It really hurt, and he was quite concerned. I told him that this is the thorn bush’s way of saying “stay away!” Once he felt comforted, and we began to walk together after the others, he said that he wished someone would cut down all of the trees and plants. I told him that I love the trees, and I suggested that there was another option: we can learn to recognize the different plants, and stay away from the ones with thorns. That way, they can live, and we can keep from getting hurt.
Juniper and Birch and Caitlin Thurrell spent much of the day being otters, belly sliding and exploring the frozen stream. They fished for snow salmon and caught many, leaving some in a store cashe for the winter. At one point, one of the children said, “we’re not baby otters anymore! look how many salmon we caught! we’re kid otters now!”
Levi and Sylvan also did a lot of stream exploring. They were fascinated by all the kinds and thicknesses and textures of all the plates and crystals of ice. At one point they found beaver-chewed sticks for an impromptu hockey game.
Gil and Clover and Teaghan loved sledding and also explored the brook. With Maxwell they played a self-created thriller mystery game for almost an hour with a particularly intriguing hole in the earth, complete with shadowy monsters, dares, problem-solving, collaboration, acts of courage, and strategy. They even found a spear (a wooden stake) and then encouraged each other to not use it recklessly, just in case they were mistaken and what they thought was a monster was actually a baby animal.
Our first day at our Spring basecamp was a great success, full of warm sun, cold ice, new friends and many adventures.