The children were keen to return to the fallen trees, which have become a favourite playground over the last week. We had intended to look for animals in their branches, but there were still few to be seen out and about in this cold weather. Instead, quite a few of the children themselves became tree animals, resuming the play they had started on the previous walk.
One child became a possum, climbing on the branches and hissing at the children below. He was looking to see if they had any food for him to eat. The children are familiar with possums. There are plenty that visit the preschool playground at night, leaving their tell-tale possum poo on the paths and in the sand pit. In lean times, it’s not unusual for the children to see them during the day, staring down from their vantage points above. They come out when they smell the fruit and are waiting to eat the scraps.
The possum boy in the fallen tree was enjoying the view from above. He stared intently to see what was going on below, and then crawled along the trunk, hissing loudly to attract the attention of a group of children at the ‘top’ end of the tree. They were being koalas in the leafy canopy. They were too preoccupied with the business of hiding in the leaves to notice him. ‘I’m a camouflaged koala’, they repeatedly told each other, and ‘I’m eating leaves’.
Another child, who had been quietly watching the possum, decided to follow suite. He started off as a baby possum, crawling along the same tree trunk, but suddenly changed his mind and declared himself to be a ‘transformer green tree frog’. ‘Look I’m a hopping green tree frog’ he said.
Apart from the children, there were few live animals to be seen in the fallen tree. However, some long-gone small creatures had left behind their tell-tale marks.
One of the bare tree trunks was imprinted with the long, windy tracks of previous wood eating occupants, and another spotted by insects holes and pimpled with the small raised bumps of insect larvae.
The children were fascinated with the patterns and textures of these bug habitats. They ran their fingers over the lines and bumps.
Inspired by the insects ‘drawings’ on the wood, they made their own imitations with paper and pencils – tracing the lines and making rubbings of the textured surfaces.
By now keenly attuned to the different kinds of markings on the trees, some of the children took another look at the wrinkles in the bend of the tree trunk. They had been running their fingers over these wrinkles on the previous walk. They noticed that they were not like the lines carved by the bugs, but couldn’t quite work out how they had come to be there.
They were not so perplexed by the ‘cut’ in the trunk, however, which they immediately identified as a ‘bleeding sore’, and as evidence that the tree had been injured when it fell.
The children’s close and pensive inspections of all these scars suggested that they had a sense of the fallen trees as more than just their playground. Although mysterious and not always easy to ‘read’, the inscriptions they were tracing on the surface of the tree trunks, seemed to bear witness to the fact that these trees have had their own lives and stories to tell.