A massive storm had passed through town earlier in the week, and the children had many stories to tell.
One child told us of a tree that had fallen across their driveway. Another recounted how she was in the car when the storm hit. There was a crack in the sky. It was too noisy. We had to stay in the car and wait for the storm to finish.
We set off on our walk anticipating that there might be signs of the storm. We stopped at a look-out wall to survey the area and talked with the children about what types of things the storm might have left behind. Fallen down things or lots of water, a few thought.
We could see that unseasonal snow capped the distant mountain-tops. That was a sign. There is not usually snow in October. And closer in we could see the ground was littered with tree branches and bark.
As we headed down the hill, the ground became more and more sodden.
There were puddles everywhere. Eventually there were so many puddles that they had joined together in what the children called a ‘big lake’.
They spent much time wading through the water and seemed to enjoy testing out the transformation of their usual walkways into these elongated water-ways, exclaiming over and over: ‘So much water. It’s so deep’.
Some children noticed that the ducks too had come ashore to enjoy the sodden landscape.
It is unusual for the ducks to be sitting out in the open and not to move when the children approach. Nestled right down into the saturated grass, they seemed to be sun-baking and reluctant to give up their warm spots.
The best find of all came towards the end of the walk – an enormous eucalyptus tree sprawled across the ground!
This was clear evidence of the storm. ‘It came down in the storm. I think it was not very strong.’ But it was so big, it was hard to imagine what it would take to blow it over: ‘I think the wind must have been blowing at 350 to knock it down’
In a chorus of excitement, the children rushed towards the fallen tree. It instantly reminded them of the fun they had had at their last fallen-tree playground, and of the disappointment they felt when it was chain-sawed up and taken away. They exclaimed: ‘At last. I was hoping there would be another tree fallen down’. ‘Let’s go and play on it’.
A few children peered under the roots to notice the water pooled there, while others lost no time clambering straight onto the wide and inviting tree-trunk. Very quickly, there was a line of children crawling along the massive horizontal trunk, edging their way along towards the tangle of top branches. They behaved a bit like a procession of ants.
However, this time the children didn’t get far with their wild-weather tree play. A nearby park ranger was clearing up after the storm, and advised that the tree wasn’t safe to play on.
He had already chain-sawed some of the smaller broken branches, and he was concerned that this might make the tree unstable in places. As we moved away from the tree, we explained to the crest-fallen children that sometimes storms could leave debris that was not always safe to play on. They reluctantly accepted this. They could see in this case that the sheer size and mess of the fallen tree were reasons to exercise caution.
As a final stop on the way back, the children were drawn to their familiar ‘rabbit’ hideout, under the weeping wattle tree – only to notice they could barely crawl under the heavy drooping branches. Clearly this home had also taken a battering in the storm.