SYNOPSES OF SUMMER CAMPS
FAIRY TALE FOREST: KINGDOM OF MAJESTY 2016
Well, we made it! We opened the door and went down the spiral staircase and learned a bit about the fairies who live in the heart of the earth. We followed the bumpy routes of Fairy Tales as they led us into the unknown, the strange and the wondrous. We danced into relationship with the birds and breezes, the horses and flames, rivers and oceans, mountains and forests. We built fairy houses and made potions of mud and flowers. We painted and drew, and made up silly rhymes. We gave riddle names to places on the land to make a heart-felt relationship with them. The children choose a tree to play with and to tell their wishes. We made up new names for ourselves and we played games.
Each afternoon, I told a traditional fairy tale: Thumbelina (Grimms), Iron John (European), Baba Yaga and Vasilisa (Russian), The Cheeno & the Little Listener (Native American), the Fox Woman (Native American). At rest time, I sang songs I’ve written from old poems that celebrate the earth and its magic.
Thank you for supporting this program. Fairy Tale Forest is a vision for children's education in the future -- education with joyous celebration, imaginative story, and loving connection to nooks and crannies of the land as central aspects of childhood. Through merriment and play, feeling part of a collective, honoring nature, and tromping through the enchanted woods, children feel fully embraced by the love nature holds for them. As I said on the first morning, and feel every year at camp – the forest awaits the children’s arrival and thrives in the presence of their joy. And how marvelous to see how the children also flourish in the forest’s embrace.
FAIRY TALE FOREST: RAVEN'S NEST OF STORY 2016
Our Raven's Nest week of camp was a wonderful adventure into the magic of story, dance, nature and collective dreaming. In the morning we danced into the mythology of Raven as told by the native peoples of the Pacific Northwest: We danced the elements, plants and animals taking form in the Time before Time. We danced heroic Raven in his quest to bring the Sun down from the Spirit world.
Then we spent time in a special nook in the woods where the children learned the art of giving a personal name to a place. They named this spot 'Bear's Hat' because it was shady and good for listening and dreaming -- like a bear's den -- but was also hidden away --so they added the hat to remind them of the hiddenness of the bear’s listening ears. This activity I call 'riddle naming' and is one I invented to encourage children to enter the dreamtime of the earth, where our inventive vision forges a personal connection to the land around us. I have noticed that once children have named a place, they are enthusiastic to spend time in it as often as they can. Perhaps you can try this at home.
Back at the cabin we ate our festive snack, then painted and drew. Darren taught the children how to build a tiny 'debris hut' - a basic survival shelter - and the children built these and other mini-homes for their fairy and chipmunk friends. Building homes for our woodland neighbors deeply satisfies children's natural desire to give back to the magical forces that sustain life... I always feel blessed to observe children’s devotion to this work of giving back to the unseen.
We also made tunics: Cutting and sewing them came first. Then Darren led the children to 'Berry Land' where they learned about respectful harvesting and gathered Oregon grape berries for dyeing the tunics. We also made beaded Raven attractors....Raven's stories say that he loves sparkly things and while we were working on these, a Raven sat in a nearby tree and talked incessantly. I think he was pleased.
Another day, we practiced the weaving of Dreamcatchers, hearing the story of how old woman Spider taught this way of capturing bad dreams. For our last crafting adventure, we made little bird houses to hang up at home and remember our special times together. Raven visited us again while we worked on these treasures.
Every afternoon the children heard a traditional fairy tale and many old songs at rest time. This year's stories were 'The Cheeno and the Listener' (NE native American), Vasilisa & the Baba Yaga (Russian), Thumbelina (European), The Lion & the Field Mouse (Aesop-African), Tatterhood (Norwegian). Perhaps with some encouragement, your children can remember and share these tales with you. Another part of rest time was daydreaming. In this activity, we remember our way to beautiful places on the land and use our imaginations to see what is happening there. The children really loved this slow and dreamy afternoon time!
Thank you for supporting this program! Fairy Tale Forest is a sacred space for the magic of childhood to return to the woods—as we tromp through the hills we bring with us a feast of celebration, imagination, songs, poems and love. What a joy to see the children flourish in the enchanted life of the forest.
MYTHKEEPERS: LEGENDS OF HUMAN-ANIMAL RELATIONSHIP 2016
Each morning, we danced into a story about our distant ancestors who were discovering and inventing primary ways to relate to the earth. We danced the thrill of the hunt, the beauty of crane, horse, snake, deer and hound, and many aspects of relationship with plant and animal. These movements were lovingly accompanied by master harpist Margot Krimmel. The movement education methods of camp are based on the theories of Isadora Duncan, and for this age group focus on engaging the imagination in tandem with the physical body. The children were at first hesitant, since many were new to this form of movement, but as the week progressed, the whole group was fully engaged. Quite a few children commented, at the close of the week, that the sense of freedom they found in the movement was the most important aspect of camp for them.
Everyday we painted and drew pictures inspired by our activities. We also sewed and dyed tunics to wear especially for our dance. One afternoon we had a visit from world-renowned sculptor Forest Rogers who brought her fantastical human-animal sculptures to show and discuss. Many in the group were inspired by this visit to bring new attention to their own visual arts pursuits.
With Darren, the young people learned to listen deeply to the sounds of the forest and to observe its ways with a curious and open heart. Each day they spent time listening and watching from their chosen spot, and were blessed with an extraordinary visit from a bobcat during this special time. They also learned essential survival skills including how to keep warm and how to build a basic shelter. They learned about making fire by friction and the best way to construct an efficient fire. They also learned making cordage from the leaves of the yucca plant. And when collecting the oregon grape plant for making our tunic dye, they learned respectful and sustainable ways of harvesting.
Each afternoon, I told a traditional fairy tale. Our stories were: the Cheeno and the Little Listener (NE Native American), The Seal Woman (Eskimo), The Red Shoes (European), Baba Yaga & Princess Vasilisa (Russian). These stories are ripe with wisdom for the teen years on subjects like the importance of dealing delicately with aggressive characters or explosive issues, of the beauty and wonder of maintaining a relationship with the wild and unknowable, and of the necessity to avoid tempting traps that promise a quick way around the hard road of learning and service. After story, we practiced an ancient European form of vision-seeking, following certain paths of 'daydreaming' on the land, until we arrived at images of insight and connection.
It is always my aim to create programs that feed the soul's needs, including the need for deep relationship to the natural world. The Mythkeepers program grew out of my belief that nature skills and environmental knowledge are art forms of our ancestral past. I believe that like all art forms, out of respect for their deep history and embodied wisdom, these skills need to be taught within a holistic context that addresses the soul and in this way invites the student's whole being into relationship with the art. And indeed, Darren was amazed at how much more truly attentive the children were to his teachings than in programs that focus only on wilderness skills. Many children commented on the last day that connecting in this special way to nature was the most important part of camp for them. One camper said it was like ‘remembering the forgotten other half of my life.’