Below is a story from this past spring’s Mystwood overnight where seventeen 6-10 year olds slept out in the forest. Mystwood is a Wild Earth nature connection program that meets one Saturday per month throughout the school year. The program uses elves, fairies, wizards and magic as storytelling and teaching tools. After a full year of adventuring, exploring and learning in the woods here’s a story from the group’s end of year overnight:
Once the hardest part of the day was over for the children (carrying all of their belongings to our camp spot!), the children made their way to a trail adjacent to the lake. This was not just any trail, this was a trail left by the Unicorn who had been visiting us all throughout the year.
As they followed the trail, picking up gems and beautiful tufts of hair along the way, a note left from Lady Abividonna (a character who visited Mystwood throughout the year) was discovered and read aloud. In her note, Lady Abividonna congratulated the children for the stewards they had become throughout their time in Mystwood and she left them with some final challenges.
The Mystwood children were to travel blindfolded from one section of land to another, upon arriving in the new section they were left with instructions from Lady Abividonna to find a package hidden in a leafy and rocky substrate. The Mystwood children searched and searched for this package without much success, (Lady Abividonna did not make it easy on them…) but finally the package was uncovered and the contents were uncovered one at a time.
Messages from all of the beings they had come into contact with throughout the year were found, along with face paint, wooden beads from Tyberius the Wizard, and little compasses so they could always find their way back to Mystwood! It was a joyful expedition fueling us all with excitement and wonder for the rest of the day.
After lunch, some children played down by the lake while others helped to form our village, allowing us to do all of the necessary things to stay safe, warm, happy, and fed for the remainder of our time together in the forest. Tarp shelters were hung for sleeping and for protection over our central fire pit, a comfortable woodsy bathroom was erected, fires were made for cooking and warmth, and the cooking and cleaning stations were created.
With plenty of daylight left, we entered the evening with fires crackling, many contributing hands from our volunteers, and enough food to ensure we would all be satisfied and nourished before starting our evening’s adventure.
Around a certain point our village hummed with the little ones following their interests. Whether they were painting faces, playing games, carving wooden crafts, tending fires, helping with camp tasks, or listening and engaging with interactive stories around our fire, we all found a spot in our new home for the evening.
As the sun set and darkness grew upon us, it was time for us to embark on our evening adventure; a lantern walk through Mystwood.
In pairs or alone, the children followed these lanterns through the woods until they arrived at a candle-lit village nestled in between two rock walls with a fire going to keep them warm. Awaiting by this fire was Thea, who for the first time, uncovered her elf ears and told us the story of our year in Mystwood from her perspective as an elf!
The children were also greeted by the Unicorn who was illuminated in the background for quite some time before making her way over to us. They had been tracking and trailing this unicorn all year, and this was the moment they had all been waiting for…it was time to meet this majestic being!!
The Unicorn, who appeared in human form just for this evening, greeted us with a voice ancient and deep…a voice that was unlike any human voice we had ever heard. She took us on a journey with her words and then gifted us all with dream pillows filled with special herbs to keep us safe and to bring us pleasant dreams. The little ones then had a brief window to ask the Unicorn some questions about her life in Mystwood and what it feels like to be a Unicorn.
After our evening adventure, we headed to our outdoor shelters and hunkered down for the night.
A melodic dawn chorus started around 5am, it was such a treat to be out there with the birds, listening to their music from the comfort of our sleeping bags. What’s next….a gentle rain, breakfast around the fire, tag game after tag game, and loving parents waiting for their little ones to give them comfort after a courageous night spent in the woods!So there you have it!! How lucky are we to spend time together in nature, learning lessons that will last a lifetime, connecting to ourselves and each other in ways only the woods can provide, and sharing moments that may unfold into future tales told around campfires in the years to come…
I want to send my deepest gratitude to all of the parents for helping to make our overnight such a success. Sending your children prepared and ready to go helped us move into the day with ease and excitement for what was to come!
We hope to see you back in Mystwood or at another Wild Earth program in the fall.
Michaela and the Mystwood team
Wild Earth joins inspired leaders in offering multi-generational programs and events that strengthen connections with ourselves, others, and the Earth while building ecological, social and cultural resilience. Located along the Shawangunk Ridge in New York’s Hudson Valley, Wild Earth is a not-for-profit that runs nature-based programs for children, teens, families and adults. More about Wild's work.