Fox Walkers | Weeks 16 + 17 | Old Man Thuja & Tamias the Chipmunk

We’ve been diving deeper into tree ID at Fox Walkers these past couple of weeks, using storytelling to cultivate awareness of some special evergreens!  Pat and I shared the story about a boy named Thuja who was helpful and hardworking.  He was very skilled at building houses, making tools, and getting the fire going for his village, and he was always the first to lend a helping hand to his parents and to his siblings.  He even helped to change his younger sibling’s diapers!  Thuja was also an excellent listener— he’d make his friends some tea and listen to their worries anytime of the day.  His peaceful presence brought healing towards others.  Everyone in the village considered him be their best friend.  As Thuja grew older, he continued to spend his days working hard outside, building houses and canoes, and helping to make anything that his village needed to survive.  All of that time outside working with tools eventually made his hands rough and scaly, and his face turned reddish-brown and wrinkly from the sun.  One day when Old Man Thuja became very very old, he laid down to take his final rest in the woods.  Eventually, in the place where Thuja died, grew a very special tree.  Much like Old Man Thuja, this tree was incredibly helpful towards the village.  The villagers used the wood from this tree to build houses and canoes.   It’s bark was used to make so many things, including baskets, rope, and diapers!  Its wood was excellent for fire-making.  All of the the villagers felt drawn to sitting by this tree and drinking tree made from its fronds while telling the tree their worries.  They all considered this tree to be their best friend.  This tree was so helpful and so essential to the survival of the village, that it became known as the Tree of Life, also known as the Western Red Cedar tree (Thuja plicata).  And much like Old Man Thuja’s wrinkly reddish-brown face and scaly hands, the bark of the Cedar was reddish and wrinkly, and the fronds of the Cedar were rough and scaly.  Thank you for your generous gifts, Old Man Thuja!

The Fox Walkers also heard the story of Tamias, a little chipmunk who lived with his family in a great big evergreen tree.  One day young Tamias was feeling impatient and didn’t want to wait for his parents to take him and his little sister out in the woods on an adventure.  So Tamias snuck out of his home tree and went out all alone.  He ran around the forest and bounded from tree to tree, doing parkour the whole way.  Suddenly he stopped and realized that he was quite lonely out there by himself.  He tried to find his way home, but to him all of the trees looked the same, they were all tall and evergreen.  He started to cry when suddenly he heard a voice.  It was the voice of a tree.  The tree was named Hemmy and it assured Tamias that it could help him find his home tree.  The tree told Tamias that his home tree was actually her brother and looked just like her.  Not only that, but there’s part of the tree that looks like Tamias, too!  Hemmy showed Tamias the underside of her branches.  Her short evergreen needles had two white stripes on their underside.  Then she pointed to Tamias’ eyes and back.  Tamias the chipmunk also had two white stripes!  He had two white stripes around his eyes and two white stripes on his back.  She encouraged Tamias to look for the white stripes and he will always be able to find his home tree, the Western Hemlock. . .

Aside from learning about Tree ID, the Fox Walkers also had a very special guest instructor named Rourke last week.  Rourke has lots of experience teaching and practicing outdoor skills.  He brought with him lots of fun stories as well as big elk antlers and an elk leg bone knife.  On Friday the Whatcom Falls crew even got to witness Rourke shape-shift into a Velociraptor! Thank you, Rourke, for sharing your wonderful gifts and talents with the Fox Walkers!

Some highlights from Fairhaven over the past couple of weeks include: climbing lots of trees, riding the wild Cedar Horses, finding the bathtub in the forest and building a bridge over the hungry mud monsters, exploring the epic secret entrance to the Secret Swamp, working together to tidy up the Falcon’s nest, and having a funeral for a deceased Douglina Squirrel that Leo the dog discovered.

Some highlights from Whatcom Falls over the past couple of weeks include: playing sneaking games at Heart Home, working together at the Construction Zone, rabbit sightings!, bouncing on logs, playing lots of Fox Ball, splitting an Oak log into staves with Rourke, and having a treasure hunt with Rourke’s gold coin! 

We are so grateful for such wonderful nature-connection experiences with the Fox Walkers, and we can’t wait to have animal tracking adventures in the snow this week!!