Great Hollow Wilderness School

Highlights from the Hollow ~ week 7

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It’s cold in the mornings. The light beams down, brighter but only bright enough to melt the frost. When the Tuesday students roll in, they are layered strategically in wool and polar fleece, smiling behind the cloud of warm breath. The first thing they do is start a coal; a practice in the most vital of primitive necessities, and a challenging one at that. 

Once the cold of the winter sets in, a tribe must be stocked with enough food to sustain them for almost six months. Green food is scarce and hard to store. Hunting takes on it’s most important time, when large animals and many small game can be cured at once for a stock of protein, fat, and mineral rich foods. 

Of the many gifts rendered from a hunt, bones are one way to ensure next autumn’s hunt. Besides dishware, costume and tools, spears and hunting gear can be carved while spending the days snowed in. 

As the temperature dropped throughout Tuesday, fingers deftly rolled small bones along a file, carving sharp tips and barbed ends, with extended shafts long enough to plunge into a shallow river. The bone was wrapped to its handle with sinew. After crafting a good spear, the only thing left would be to outsmart the weather and the animals. 

Thursday my camera and I were glued to the office, working on important sequences of numbers and tallies for the upcoming year. Lucky for me, I get all the juice at the end of the day when we have our staff meeting. It was reported to be a truly ‘epic’ game in the morning, where the Pioneers and the Scouts, together, went up against alien jungle instructors (in yellow rain ponchos), guarding the precious ‘food’. The fire was lit and they had until the last coal to win back their food. 

As the third week of this game, (tied score of 1-1) the intricacy, wit, and strategy employed was off the charts. It could have represented an entire year of social, tribal and governmental dynamics in an effort to maintain both needs as well as peace. Negotiations were attempted. Peace offers were tried, distractions and tall tales were exercised. Raw bravery was ignited in some of the more timid students, and incredible sacrificial plays were made by some of the seemingly boastful members. Meeting needs won out in the end, as the Pioneers and Scouts realized that there were precious goods to be traded, utilizing each individuals strength toward achieving their goal. Now, since this saga may be crafted into the full story, I wouldn’t want to give away all the details…. so you’ll just have to hang onto your hat, but I can attest to the many more layers of adventure and heroism than I elude to.

The Scouts had a great day. After the riveting game above, they did some new things like the hula hoop magic trick, dragon tag, and started on some cool storytelling exercises. they practiced leaping over their favorite ditch, made a collective talking bowl out of clay, and read the Miraculous Adventure of Turtle and Swan: a hilarious zen-like fable with a satirical twist! 

Meanwhile, the wilderness challenge had another day of team initiatives and physical challenge. Each member was bound to a partner’s leg for the day. Dare I guess it wasn’t a walk in the park? I’m not sure which is harder to learn; the physical science behind a duet fulcrum, Or the mental science of a personality fulcrum? I suppose it’s all individual. Maybe that’s the problem. Ohhh the thought of surrendering autonomy for something potentially greater than the Self…… that’s a tough one! But this group is a class act, coming out strong and resiliant, both physically and mentally fit. Not to mention they have an amazing set of mentors to guide them.

I guess you could call this lunchtime bonding? 

Friday morning the Jr. Naturalists began with an enriching show and tell, followed by an in depth study on bird nests. The design, material used, and location are all indicators of whose nest it could be. Some are stuffed with hair, with leaves, or with a variety of stuff. Some are packed solid with mud, and some are woven like a professional basket.

After crunching numbers long on Thursday, I was a ready participant in the day. I’ve been meaning to capture the bird sit, and I finally had the chance. See the scarecrow? It’s been sitting there a few weeks now, training the birds to come and feed from that spot. What’s not so easy to tell, is that the scarecrow is actually Campbell. Sitting very still, watching each winged visitor swoop in for seed from her hat or glove.

Slowly but surely, each Jr. Naturalists has had the chance to be the scarecrow. They are even advancing to the point where multiples can sit without donning the costume, and the birds still come.

During Herbal Hour, one of the highlights was getting to hike up to a special place where one of my favorite herbs grows wild. With a rich history of healing, wintergreen is a treasure to show and to gather. We collected a small amount to prepare into an oil for a project.

Lunchtime was fun as always. We listened to a story about a woman who hand feeds wild birds; a perfect fit for the day. 

After that, we chased fish up stream. Going farther up the trail than we have yet, we were lost in the magic of the forest and the spell of the glinting waters. The loamy fall aroma is intoxicating. The aliveness in the air a libation for the spirit. We followed the fish shadows as they slinked along the cavernous banks in hiding. One lucky fish got to be the center of attention for the afternoon, identified later by the kids as a brook trout.

On our top speed hike back (racing against the clock – we lost) we crossed a beautifully designed bird’s nest, bringing the day full circle.

Now, my post wouldn’t be complete without reaching the cute quota. Since I was playing hooky with the J-Nats, I’ll give you one I didn’t post last week, and tell you that they had another adventurous day, with stories, games, running, clay creativity, and nature awareness exercises.

OK – two! I promise I will get more of the Scouts and Microscouts this week.

Happy November!

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