The threatening clouds kept blowing by, allowing for sunshine to sneak through, but we were mostly prepared. Our “Looking for Spring,” Make your own storybook hike at Riverbend farm was on, regardless of the weather. My partner for this event, Kathryn Parent, was well-prepared. “Here are some umbrellas and ponchos,” she said, laying the items on the table in the visitor center classroom. She admitted, “The umbrellas are from our ‘Lost and Found’ box.” As it turned out, they weren’t needed, but we were prepared!
We also partnered with the Blackstone Heritage Corridor, and were so grateful for VIP Carol Dandrade, who showed up with her camera and got some amazing pictures of our event. Carol also pitched to the help with signups and release forms.
“Roots in Nature” founder Angie Stormont helped greatly with publicity for our event, and brought her little guys along as well.
We gathered and got everyone signed in. By the time we were organized, the rain had stopped, and we were on our way. A virtue of walking the tow path is that it offers dry footing. During another session this past winter, we took to the large field across from the visitor’s center, where our largest group to date ran, and ran and ran in the open spaces. But that day the ground was dry. This time, we kept to the high ground.
Before we had even crossed the bridge onto the tow path, someone spotted turtles. Everyone stopped to get a look at both the turtles and fish hanging out underneath the bridge, before we headed out for an easy one-mile out and back explore.
Kathryn pointed out nests from the past year, visible in trees that have not leafed out yet.
We also looked more closely at the tiny light green flowers blossoming on tree branches.
Skunk cabbage is unfurling its broad, dark green leaves in swampy areas along the tow path, on the opposite side from the canal.
We stopped at the spot where the Nature trail heads off into the woods, and where there was once a bridge across the canal.
Children headed down to the water and found multiple pebbles that were just the right size for tossing into the water.
I suggested they toss five more stones into the water, “You don’t want to fill up the canal,” I said.
“Would that happen?” they asked.
“Well, you never know. Better to be on the safe side and leave the rest of the pebbles where they are,” I answered.
And so we turned back.
Once at the Visitor’s center, the real work began.
Kathryn had laid out lots of prepared notebooks and various colored paper to use for book covers. She provided a large choice of colored pencils, and markers.
The twigs she uses for binding the pages together were covered in buds. No, the buds will not last, but they were a reminder that spring is here, and change is all around us.
Teamwork–this is where parents (or grandparents, when they come) get to work together with their children to help get the story from their minds onto paper.
Some children were able to write their own story, while others worked closely with their parents, dictating what their story was, and then illustrating the story as well. One child wrote about pirates. “He always tells us stories about pirates,” his mother sighed.
But it was all good. As we finished up, I saw some big smiles as children proudly displayed their “books.”
I sent them home with follow up questions to help get them started writing more stories together.
We’re already talking about offering more programs in the fall. I take the summer off to stay out of the heat. But plans are being made, so stay tuned!
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a personal historian who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, More Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, and editor of Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed. Just out is her latest book, Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. She has been a freelance writer for numerous local, regional, and national publications for the past 20+ years, has helped numerous families to save their stories, and has recorded multiple veterans oral histories, now housed at the Library of Congress. She is a co-author of the recent community history, Bellingham Now and Then