Keeping our eyes (and ears, and other senses) open! (Session 7, August 3)
By Sandy Schenck
In Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard talks about vision as a “deliberate gift”—she notes that nature “conceals,” but also “does reveal,” as long as you’re on the lookout (18). And that’s what we have been doing, here at the Green River Preserve—keeping our eyes (and other senses) open, looking out for the treasures that nature holds. This morning, campers and staff set out on their first mentor hikes, and they saw some amazing things! One group went up to the Indian Cave, so named because local legend has it that Native Americans used to use it as a hiding place; while in there, they did “solo sits” for a few minutes, taking advantage of the dark for some new sensory experiences. But they were also on the lookout—using candles and flashlights to light up the interior, they saw some salamanders as well as a bird’s nest that’s up on a ledge in the Cave. Another group went down to the Green River Preserve Farm, where they had a big morning, harvesting 102 pounds of potatoes! (We will enjoy those at dinner!) After a while, they went exploring in Uncle’s Creek, where they, too, saw a salamander. When they went back to the Farm, they went to check out the corn, and they saw big bear paw-prints; apparently a local bear has been feasting on the corn. Our Uncle’s Falls group hiked up to the waterfall, where many of them transformed into “polar bears”—a GRP tradition, where we stand under the waterfall for as long as it takes to yell “polar bear” three times. It’s one thing to look at a beautiful waterfall; it’s a whole other experience to totally immerse yourself in it. Another group headed up to the Balds—a bare rock-face with a gorgeous view of the Green River Valley. While they were appreciating the view, a camper spied what he thought was a snake, but by the time they all got over to it, it had disappeared into a crack in the rocks. So campers and staff moved away and enjoyed their snack; after a few minutes, they returned, and they were rewarded for their patience—they saw a copperhead! That’s one of our Grand Slam animals. (When campers and staff have seen a turkey, a bear, a deer, and a venomous snake, all in one session, that’s a Grand Slam, and we celebrate with fireworks and an ice cream party.) We’ll be on the lookout for the other three (well, two—more on that in a minute!) species—ice cream and fireworks are a bonus, but the real treat is seeing—really seeing, taking note of—the natural world about us.
After lunch, campers and staff enjoyed rest hour and then we started our first rotation of activities. Even while swimming, BB Skeeting, and arching, we had our eyes open. Sometimes, campers were keeping their eyes on the activity—in juggling, campers worked their way up from juggling one ball (!) to juggling two, and some were able to get three going. In archery and BB Skeet, campers focused on the targets. In BB Skeet, we shoot at “wild” soda cans—one way to recycle—and Chewy Sweetarts, which shatter satisfyingly if you hit them exactly right. In the words of one camper who had just finished BB Skeet, “It was awesome!” In archery, we shoot at standard targets; we also have a cool moving target. It’s a painted styrofoam replica of a wild boar, attached to a string and pulley system, and after it moves across the range, the staff member can then pull it back to its starting place. Campers had lots of fun trying to hit it; they were also learning about things like persistence. Our gardeners were checking out the garden, looking for what was ripe, and then tasting it. They were making “sandwiches” out of tomatoes, cucumbers, and fresh basil—there is nothing quite like the smell of freshly picked basil—divine! In Outdoor Skills, campers built shelters—lean-to’s out of branches and leaves. We test them by crawling under them, and then somebody pours some of the water out of their water bottle on the “roof”—if you stay dry, good job with your shelter! While building their shelters, campers remained attentive to their natural surroundings. One group lifted up a piece of wood and found a bunch of small slugs and one really big slug under it, so they created a little slug farm next to their shelter. Back at the climbing tower, campers tried their skill at ascending the tower. Lots of campers made it to the top, and everyone was pushing their boundaries, trying new climbs on the tower and seeing how high they could go. They were also attuned to what was happening in the woods and the field next to them, and they were rewarded, when, half-way through their activity period, a deer strolled out of the woods! Maybe she was planning a visit to our garden. So that is the second Grand Slam animal—two in a day is pretty good! We’ll see what we see tomorrow.
After a delicious dinner—spaghetti, peas, salad bar, garlic bread, and brownies—we convened at our Upper Council Fire for our evening program. We traditionally begin the Upper Council Fire with some readings, and then we sing some songs. With the music, we move into the more light-hearted part of the Upper Council Fire; we are fortunate here at the GRP to have an exceptionally talented staff in terms of music—it’s the norm for us to have not only guitars, but also maybe a banjo, a mandolin, a fiddle playing along. When you throw in the crickets’ resounding chirping in the background, it makes you want to simultaneously laugh and weep with the joy of the music we’re making and the company we’re keeping. We finish the evening with a story from Bob—always crazy, silly, fun, tonight’s story involved Bob’s childhood ant farms, Mexican coffee beans, and an invasive species of Mexican ants. We hope we don’t see any of those this week, but it’s fun to hear about them!
We have had a great day, and we hope you have, too—you can see pictures here from our day, and we’ll let you know tomorrow what we see and hear and experience!