Words and Stories (Session 7, August 5)

By Sandy Schenck

The word “story” comes to us from “history,” which derives from the Latin historia and in turn from the Greek for “inquiry,” related to “to know,” “to learn.”  Here at The Green River Preserve, we believe in the power of stories and the types of knowledge they convey.  Every morning after breakfast, for instance, we have morning skits—these short enacted (silly!) stories teach us about the Word of the Day and the Bird of the Day.  Today, we had some great stories going on at The GRP!

Our mentor hikes embarked after breakfast, setting out for distant lands, far, far away.  Well, at least, a bus ride away!  Our Uncle’s Falls polarbears were very excited about all the wildlife they saw on their way up and down from the falls; they saw a very large black rat snake stretched out across the trail—an obstacle they successfully navigated around—and they also saw a small toad, camouflaged in the foliage (spotted by some sharp eyes!).  When they got up to the Falls, they saw a ton of salamanders, sometimes just their cute little salamander faces, poking out of the cracks of the rocks.  Another group hiked up to the Pine Barrens, which is a stand of white pines in the middle of the forest, elegantly spare.  They practiced their turkey calls—hoping to complete our story of a Grand Slam!—but no luck.  They also talked about Leave No Trace ethics, and how to hike with as little impact on the wilderness as possible, in order to preserve the stories forests tell for generations to come.  Our Reasonover Creek group explored the site that serves as a base camp for our Blue Ridge Expeditioners; there’s a Postman’s Walk element out there that they challenged themselves on, and they also found some jewelweed—nature’s remedy for poison ivy.  Somewhere in their story today, some mud figured into things, too….!  Our hikers up to the Lower and Upper Balds had a great time; they were excited about the copperhead they saw, sunning itself on the rocks.   They enjoyed the beautiful view and they told stories while they enjoyed their snack on the Lower Bald.

This afternoon, campers tried out a new round of activities.  Several campers hit either the bulls-eye or the “dream shot” in archery.  In field games, they re-enacted our Opening Day Capture the Flag saga, albeit with a smaller cast and for a shorter time, switching over to kickball after a while.  In swimming, campers enjoyed splashing around in the lake and jumping off our high “deck” (not really a dive—it’s an elevated platform they can jump off).  Cannonballs and “pencil” jumps were the favorites for today—trying to make as big a splash and as little of a splash, respectively, as possible.  In outdoor cooking, they tried something a bit different, making up pierogies stuffed with a cheese filling.  And we do, of course, have a creative writing activity, and today they were….what else?  making up stories.  One camper, thinking ahead to her own upcoming (one night) camp-out adventure, made up a story about a little girl preparing to go on a two-week camp-out.  As they say, “write about what you know!”—but writing stories also helps you to see what someday you might know.

We finished our day with our Lower Council Fire, an evening of songs and stories from campers and staff.  We sang the Scat Rap, a camp favorite about the appeal of scatology—very useful science, indeed, in figuring out what animals have been somewhere before you got there, and what they were eating!  We also sang a fun version of “My Bonny Lies Over the Ocean”; you stand up (or sit down) every time you sing a word that begins with a “B.”  Our Lower Council Fire wrapped up with a telling of “Raven Cliff Falls,” a legend about a lost tribe; they are threatened by an enormous black raven, and they are saved by a leap of faith, jumping over a cliff into a pool far below, where they live in peace to this day.

Today’s Word of the Day, by the way, was “upkeep,” and today’s Bird of the Day was a bluejay.  You will find the narrative of our day in pictures here, and we’re sure we’ll have more stories for you tomorrow!