The rain that had been gently falling all morning was just starting to ease when we set off. We had a quick talk about what we might find after the rain and someone suggested that the ants might not be out and about today, because they prefer hot sunny days.
The children were keen to follow tell-tale signs of the recent rain. Some pointed out the glistening droplets they saw lying in the folds of leaves. A couple of children stopped to brush the rain off one of the sculpture labels, using the water to clean it and make it shiny.
Someone suddenly noticed a glimpse of sunshine had just broken through the clouds overhead. ‘Look, look behind you I can find blue sky. I can see blue sky!’. Something was shifting.
Raindrops, mysteriously suspended in air, drew the children’s attention to a large spider web under the fir trees. They were captivated when they noticed a prominent golden orb-weaving spider in the centre of the web. It was at perfect eye-level for them and they spent a long time closely inspecting the spider’s long stripy legs, the intricate forms of the web, and the strange leaf-like object that was trapped in it. The children were not sure if the spider was eating this trapped object of not.
They also noticed that there were mushrooms popping up through the ground. They were definitely not here last time and the children surmised that it was the rain that was making the mushrooms grow. When they looked around, they could see that there were quite a few different kinds.
One mushroom looked like it had been eaten and the children pondered on what creature might have done this – ‘a rabbit’ or ‘a possum’ were two suggestions.
The wet weather had made the kangaroo bones at the Shrine ‘a bit sticky’. The old, weatherworn bones have started to fall apart when the children handle them. They always love to rub the bones against the rusty metal frame to see the marks they make.
In the wet, the marks were more prominent than usual. On closer inspection, the children could see that what looked like white chalk was actually tiny fragments of soft bone stuck to the rust.
A fan-shaped nature-art installation in a clearing under a bush caught our eye. It was made of carefully arranged pinecones, bark and brightly covered leaves.
When questioned, one child thought ‘a squirrel’ might have made it. We talked about how squirrels don’t live in Australia. They made another couple of tentative suggestions ‘a possum?’, ‘a bunny rabbit?’. It was interesting that the children were keen to attribute the assemblage to a wild creature and no one mentioned it might be a human creation. Maybe it was their intent focus on exploring the wildlife in these bush surrounds, or perhaps a sign that the children’s thoughts are not yet filtered through the western nature-culture divide that attributes cultural artifacts to humans alone?
By the end of our walk, the sun was well and truly on its way out. So was the birdlife. Suddenly, our attention was directed upward as the air filled with birdsong and the becoming-blue sky was punctuated with the flash of brightly coloured parrots.
The children were transfixed watching a flock of crimson rosellas darting through the treetops, and a pair of king parrots eating in a nearby eucalyptus. A number of them recognised these parrots as the ones they had seen at home or in their local park.
In continuity with the art-nature-culture assemblage that we had witnessed under the bush clearing, a pair of magpies perched high in the nearby bird-tree sculpture, started warbling their distinctive song.
On this walk, we were struck by just how much the weather influences the rhythms and movements of all life forms, including ours. And it illuminates our experiences. When it shifts, it makes such a difference, refocusing the children’s attention from one thing to another – from the micro-worlds of raindrops on leaves and spiders webs, to the expansive bird-filled skies.