Friday, July 30, 2010

Summer still life

Another week of adventure camp is over, with just one more week to go. I enjoy the walks, the kids and the camp, but week after week of hiking six times up and down the mountain in 90ยบ heat and high humidity are two things I won’t miss. I also enjoy the trail we follow, though after hiking it a total of 42 times in 7 weeks, let’s just say I’m looking forward to seeing something else for a while.

It certainly has been true that I see something different on each of my walks, even on the same trail. Yesterday, for example, we saw scads of tiger and black swallowtail butterflies, an assortment of toads and frogs, two female box turtles, a groundhog and two red-tailed hawks among the usual assortment of ferns and fungus. One of the turtles retreated to the safety of her “box” the instant we picked her up, but the second was actively “air swimming” throughout her brief encounter with 13 kids, to their delight.

I’ve noticed several common themes with the kids I’ve led on these hikes. Their conversation tends to run to the video games they play and they don’t know even the most basic things about being in the woods. Despite my attempts to keep them quiet “so we will see more,” they really don’t get that at all. I’m sure it would be easier with fewer than 12 or 13 kids in a single group. And if there’s one hyper-active kid in a group, that infects the rest of them too. I’ve told more than one group that if they had to hunt to survive, they would all starve.

More serious is the “can we pick it?” requests that I get, especially if I mention that a certain plant is rare. If it’s rare, they want to pick it. They have obviously never been told otherwise. I occasionally get similar requests when we find a turtle, a snake, a toad or a frog. “Can we keep it?” “Can I take it home?” And I have to gently tell them that this animal lives in the woods and its home is here and that we should leave it in its home. I tell them that in the woods we are the visitors and that we should act like guests in someone else’s home. I don’t think they get it, but I tell them anyway.


jeannette said...

Can imagine that you have enough of it for a while answering the same questions over and over! You may be surprised though, they may retain what you've said.
When we took some East European guests to camp and visited Yosemite, our guest wanted to take a big edible mushroom home.

My daughter became very upset with him, and kept repeating to him "You are not supposed to, the sign says you can't pick it." I was very proud of her!

Woodswalker said...

And maybe a few children will hear you. Don't despair. With each exposure to the woods, their memories and associations and sense of wonder grow. Thanks for what you do.

And there's nothing like walking the same path every day to discover something new.

Carolyn H said...

Jeannette: I can only hope at least a few of the kids retain something of what we say and do!

Carolyn H.