The school year began and weeks passed. The heat held. I took to filling the rain barrel and buckets so the children would have access to water. The water evaporated in the heat. With the loss of three more trees, the play yard continued to bake and the children with it. The root ball of the hickory tree produced a fine silty dust that the children called smoke when they whacked it with their shovels. Digging wasn’t really an option. The clay soil was hard as a rock. Still the heat held. Each day children would leave exhausted from moving through the overheated air and over the hard ground.
Then it rained.
And oh what a rain! It was a real soaking rain. It was cold. It rained and rained all day. By the time the afternoon class rolled in everything was positively swimming in rain. You have never seen so much joy, “This is the best day ever!” and “This is the best mud!”
The mud at the roots of the fallen tree only needed to be made wetter! Obviously. The children scurried back and forth, shouting encouragements, collecting the rain water from the now overflowing rain barrel and buckets to fill and then dumping it at the fallen tree. There were three colors of mud, even — who knew why! It must be mixed together. The shovels could finally bite into the dirt. It could be moved! The cement it produced was surely the most miraculous stuff ever!
It seemed to the observer that the children suddenly bloomed in the rain. Their edges were no longer sharp, their laughter filled the air, and their connection to the Earth perfectly sealed.
And then it rained again!
Please notice that the children’s focus zeroed in on this area on one side of the top of the hickory tree rootball. One reason for this is that the mud is especially rich and chocolaty there. But the more compelling reason is that the children discovered that there was a stone that could surely float up and out if it had more water poured into the pit . . . “More water, more water, more water!” they shouted as they transported more rain in buckets, plates, coffee cups, and spoons to the mud pit. And they no longer even cared if it splashed along the way! They were rich with rain!
The rain passed, but their attention on this rock did not. All the rain catchers were filled and with the sunny (but thankfully cooler) days came crunchy leaves, crumbly clay, and dry sand to add to the mud pit.
This connection to Earth, to the ground beneath their feet — how rich and eternally-resonant this connection will be to these growing and caring humans. On one of these dry days, a treasure was discovered. The treasure they discovered was a second stone.
Now I will tell you that I know these rocks having moved them myself many, many years ago. I had forgotten about both though because when the tree fell, it fell on top of them as well as some tree stumps. The stumps are surely gone, gone, gone now. The first stone was obviously THERE even though they felt that they were the first ones to discover this ancient thing. Why would I tell them otherwise?!?!
On the other hand, the second stone had been buried for years after our the “big kids” from the summer camp dug deep into the ground just to the right of that very spot first looking for the “Stink Pot” (enough said about that) and then they continued the big dig in order to create a giant pit to immerse themselves in mud up to their waists.
As you do.
I told the children I hadn’t seen that stone in seven or eight years — they were fascinated! Seven or eight years is as good as hundred, no a thousand, years. What a discovery!
It has been just two short weeks since the BIG RAIN. Each day, the children have circled back to this mud pit. They are pulled back to wonder about this second stone. How could they get it out? Is it actually one stone, cracked in half when the tree fell? These children don’t really remember the tree ever being upright or just how destructive it was when it fell, but they can plainly see that it is a giant statement of a tree. It could surely break a great stone!
Imagine the children’s immense satisfaction as they wedge their shovels and sticks under the “new” stone, using those as levers to lift it. The children are game changers, they are super hero strong, they are connected to the land.
Thank you rain. See what you have done!
Go outside and play. Especially when it rains!