When my son was a child, I would sit him on my shoulders, and we would go for walks around the neighborhood. As we walked, I would make up stories about the trees, the shape of their leaves and which magical creatures enjoyed eating them. He would often pick a few leaves and bring them home.
When we would go on picnics, we would venture into the woods or by a lake and I would ask him to listen for sounds or look for unusual sights. He would point out colorful mushrooms or ask about the buzzing sounds in the air, and I would explain what they were by spinning fantastic tales.
One of my favorite memories was when at a picnic with friends, I took a break from the grownups and asked my young son to take a walk with me by the trees around the lake. Before we began our journey, I asked him to pick out a long stick to use as a walking stick. Well, before I knew it, two more children had joined our party, all with walking sticks. I explained that they had to be very quiet, or they would scare away the magical creatures. I was so proud of how serious they all took our adventure.
Let me say that it has been my experience, that when a child’s imagination is set free and explanations offered for strange noises and sights, their fears are replaced with curiosity. Insects become fairies, scurrying chipmunks become the steeds of impish warriors, and my favorite of all, dragonflies with their metallic like bodies and shimmering wings become the protectors of dragons.
As we walked quietly through the woods, the children would listen for any sounds. When a strange sound was heard, they would stop, turn to me, and I would give them a magical explanation. Falling acorns were caused by elves hopping on tree branches above, and the sound of rustling leaves were made by mystical creatures we had just missed seeing.
When we walked by the water's edge, one young child asked, "Where is the dragon that the dragonflies are protecting?" As luck would have it, this pond had an underwater aerator. This device makes bubbles below the surface which helps reduce muck, weeds and algae. My son then points to the bubbles and asks, “What’s that?”
They all hear the bubbles and look at the water. I whisper, “Those are the bubbles of the water dragon that is sleeping on the bottom of the lake.” With their curiosity piqued, they told each other what they thought the color the dragon was or what would happen if the dragon woke up. As we continued to stare at the bubbles, one child suggested that we go before we wake it up. Right then, something, (I think it was an acorn falling from a tree), made a splash in the water. We all stopped in our tracks, and I turn back to see all their little faces, with eyes wide open, scanning the water's surface, looking for the dragon.
With no new sounds, we turned and quietly walked back. All along the way, with each sound heard, they would whisper an explanation to each other, remembering what we had said it was when we first entered the magical forest. That is the name they had given it. Once we were back by the picnic blankets, the kids tossed their walking sticks aside, (except my son), went to their parents and told them of all that we had experienced.
As we sat eating out lunches, I overheard one child claimed to have seen the dragon, and another that he saw an elf on a chipmunk. My son told his mom all about the different sounds he had heard and that he though he also saw an elf.
I sat there thinking how wonderful it would be, to be a child again.
"Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today - Robert McAfee Brown"