In Appreciation, The Tracks & Tales Book
Twenty-five miles east of Seattle, past the main Microsoft campus and over the fertile, oft-flooding Snoqualmie Valley, the Cascade Mountains touch suburbia. On the last paved road, a few miles east of Duvall, lies the Tracks & Tales Forest. It is a magical place. Century old Douglas Firs, wide-girthed Western Red Cedars, and sheltering Western Hemlocks shade an understory of bouncy Vine Maple, sweet Salmonberry, medicinal Oregon Grape and countless ferns. Salmon rich Cherry Creek flows along the southern border, attracting Bald Eagles, Great Blue Herons, Kingfishers, and the underwater-flying American Dipper. Mountain Beavers burrow, the larger flat-tailed beavers prune, coyotes yip and howl.
In the past few years, a growing number of children have also played and sheltered in the Tracks & Tales Forest. In the fall, when the salmon are spawning and the rain is falling, children bundle up in waterproof outfits and gather under the hemlock trees playing Otter Steals Fish and singing “Stand Like a Tree.” In the winter, they dress more warmly, practice Foxwalking, and listen to the wind, and the owls and the quiet. They hear stories like the Iroquois PeaceMaker legend, and make up their own tales. In the spring, they nibble on salmonberry flowers and play games of Couger Stalks Deer and Fire in the Forest. Songs and animal names are translated into Spanish and German and Chinese, reflecting the varied heritage of the children. In the summer, they splash in the creek, harvest berries by the handful, and learn to identify animal tracks and understand bird calls. Young children flutter like moths and balance on logs and learn not to be afraid of the wild. Older children learn how to caretake it. Always, they give thanks to the forest for its bounty, the rain and creek for their nourishing waters, the sun (even when hidden), the dancing moon, the creatures underfoot, high above, and all around, and all the wonderful greenery that make the forest a home.
Appreciating and connecting to Nature is critical, helping children feel grounded and at home in the world, but it is also just the beginning. We are inspired and informed by books like Richard Louv Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle, Joseph Cornell’s Sharing Nature with Children, and Coyote’s Guide to Connecting Kids with Nature by Jon Young and Ellen Haas. Further, we take to heart the call in Michael Gurian’s books The Wonder of Boys and The Wonder of Girls to not only connect children with nature, but to help them gain support and guidance from an extended family of teachers, elders and mentors, and become a fully appreciated member of a vibrant local community.