It was an exciting, imaginative first day for all of us Gray Foxes. We arrived filled with joy for the beginning of a new season and ready to play. We enjoyed a boisterous game of “Tail Tag” and a sneaky game of “Tohee Tohee,” where the group must work together to hide the Tohee bird’s egg as they carry it away from the nest. We shared our gratitude for this beautiful day and expansive land, went over some important agreements of how we will carry ourselves at Forest Floor, and bounded up into the woods. We found many delicious flavors along the path, such as the sweet stems of black birch to chew on and the sour, tangy flavor of the staghorn sumac berries.
Soon we found ourselves in a hemlock grove with clear, open space around a fire pit and perfect “stadium seating” for our next theatrical endeavors. First, we took volunteers to act out the various hazards within the forest as the rest of the students guessed which one it was. We talked about some great ways to avoid the yellow jacket nests, poison ivy, and ticks so that we can stay safe and have fun.
Then, Luke told us the story of the fox who had no name. You see, this fox was different than the other foxes. He was loud, goofy, and had little skill at sneaking through the forest. He longed to have a special name, like the other foxes, and wondered how he could find one. One day he was wandering along a path where he came upon a grandmother spider. She told him of a witch who lives in these woods who is a keeper of names and could help him, if he could learn to weave or to ply rope. The witch loves weaving, just like spiders, she said. That is why they are friends. The fox was very excited at this prospect, and grandmother spider sent him on his way to find her.
We told the children that they, too, were seeking names, and we knew of a rhododendron grove within this very forest where there was a witch dwelling. They set out to seek identity and skill, like the fox. Soon, as in the story, they came upon a troll who guards the witch’s lair. He told all the young foxes that he would only let them pass if they brought him a natural object and could convince him it was magical and special. Then, he gave them the material they needed to ply raw material into cordage. Once they completed this challenge, one by one they brought their finished cordage to the witch’s lair to show that they were ready for a new name. She praised each child for their hard work, then told them “Go forth into the forest! Find a place to sit and ponder the meaning of your new name.”
Once everyone was done, we gathered in a circle and shared our thoughts and feelings about our names and our observations of the natural world made during our sit spots. Clint lead us in a guided fox walking exercise, where we practiced moving our bodies while making no noise on the forest floor, sneakily like foxes. We asked if they, too felt like quiet, sneaky foxes now. They responded with an enthusiastic, “Yes!” Then the witch told them of their final challenge. Now that they had earned personal identities, they needed to prove they were a cohesive team, that they were in fact the Gray Foxes. They would need to fox walk together back past the sleeping troll without waking him. They did a marvelous job: no one woke that troll up and everyone received fox track stamps on their new name-displaying “woodallions.” We all headed down the mountain feeling unified and inspired, looking forward to what other magic we might find in the forest this fall.