Christine and I have teamed up for more adventures than I can count over the years, but this was the first time we worked together to bring the “Make Your Own Storybook” Walk to the church where she now works. We planned it for foliage season, and couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day.
The woods were glowing with afternoon sunlight at Rice Reservation,
which abuts the First Baptist Church of Westwood, where we had our event.
We were a good sized group, so there was little danger of our being mistaken for a deer or other object of hunters’ interest,
but I still wore orange and handed out some additional orange bits of clothing.
In fact, it was Sunday–no hunting in MA on Sundays–but it was an opportunity to offer a small bit of outdoor education.
“Make your own storybook walks” started as an idea DCR staff member Kathryn Parent and I came up with, and since we first offered some programs last winter, it’s been a program I have offered in a number of different locations.
But this was the first time I partnered with a church as the sponsor.
We had toddlers, a 5 year old, parents, grandparents, and older adults who simply wanted to enjoy the outdoors with others.
Rice Reservation, which surrounds Lymans Pond in Westwood borders a number of properties, and the First Baptist Church of Westwood is one of those places lucky enough to abut this 118 acres of conservation land. The church has a small area tucked adjacent to the reservation at the edge of its parking lot where they have campfire services in the summer. We accessed the trails directly at the back of the church property.
When Christine and I scouted the area a few weeks ago, we lamented the fact that we had not brought along anything to pick up trash as we went. We remedied this oversight by bringing along a bag on our group outing and challenging participants to help clean up the area as we went. My grandboy David took the challenge to heart and spent the rest of the walk in a passionate search for trash. He groaned at trash that was too hard for him to reach,
but his mom worked hard to help him extract some of the more difficult-to-reach pieces of junk.
A few weeks ago the pond was so full Christine and I were unable to reach the edge of the pond,
but our group outing this past weekend found the trail less wet (that’s not to say dry)
and we were able to get out to the edge of the pond
for a glimpse of the heron rookery that is within the reservation.
Along the trail kids found a number of rocks to climb on, slide down, and jump off.
This was a truly interactive experience,
with the children leading the way for us grownups, in how best to enjoy the outdoors.
We had a well-behaved little dog along for the outing, and enjoyed his company as well.
LIttle ones grow tired, as do we all, so we headed back inside for a snack,
a story, and a chance to create storybooks about our experiences. Christine has been a preschool teacher for over 30 years, and has arts and crafts down to a science. She had markers, stamps, stickers, and watercolors, and by the end of the event every type of supply had been experimented with.
Parents used toddlers’ hands to draw handprints, which some little ones found curious at first, and then realized that it tickled. Lots of giggles and smiles ensued.
One mom painted not only the paper with her little one, she painted her little one’s hands, then helped her produce a multi-colored handprint.
The little dog joined in on the indoor fun as well, offering more comic relief as he jumped into group photos, waited for gold fish crackers to fall on the floor, and was generally the sweetest little dog I’ve come across in a long while.
Books finally assembled, children and grownups headed home with smiles, waves goodbye, and relatively little mess left behind. What joy to partner once again with Christine, who has helped me say “yes” to many adventures over the years. I hear we are already planning another walk in the spring. We might even be able to spot herons on their nests on our next outing. You just never know what might show up when you head outside. Happy trails!
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.