Guided through the English countryside landscape of fields by my cousin, we took a long walk to the woods. Sauntering down the woodland trail we finally saw a creature we had been looking out for, for the last few weeks – a deer!
Quietly we followed and tracked its movement – noticing deer scat, the clear pathways of chewed ferns and the less clear pathways of trampled vegetation.
We allowed our curiosity for the deer and its habitat to lead us deeper into the forest. The children got stung by nettles. They know by now to quickly look for dock leaves and rub the sting away but this time the leaves were scarce – maybe the deer find them tasty or maybe they eat them as a remedy when they accidently chew a nettle?
As much as no-one like a nettle sting they are great awareness builders that speak to the art of being present with each step and turn. In the absence of dock leaves I had my faithful bottle of lavender to soothe the sting and calm the mood.
Then we saw a circle of trees with a crumbling brick building underneath and we went to investigate. Near the ruins (which I later found out was an air-raid shelter from WWII), was evidence of a more recent human presence in the area – the remains of a den, fire wood, shot gun shells and makeshift string traps threaded between saplings. Had we discovered the camp of a deer and pheasant poacher? Whoever it was seemed to have some good basic bushcraft skills that we set about reviving.
My daughter, cousin and I excitedly dove in to building up the den while my son got out his penknife to sharpen bits of wood into spears. It was a beautiful moment of following our curiosity, interacting with other species, honing our ancestral skills, working as a team, learning through experience and joy.
And I realized that more than a vacation, this last month has been one of deschooling – following our own rhythm and interests and leaving behind any set curricula for one of our own creation. I’m still learning how to relax into it and have confidence in our choices along the way but these moments fill me with surety, peace and about the path we are on and will continue to create.