When I left the house to go to school last week it was pouring. By the time I arrived at Steven’s Park the rain had slowed to a drizzle which allowed welcome time to set up the big green “rain house”. We watched the children waddle in wearing shiny rain boots and dressed from head to toe in rain gear, some smiling expectantly, some hesitant and unsure. After many of the class had arrived, a little boy walked up wearing big boots, a rain coat and shorts. He set his backpack down under the rain house and then looked tentatively out at the meadow where children were already back at work on their “animal shelter”, re-digging the worm corral where it had been filled in by last night’s downpour. He turned to me and asked, “Can I go out and play too?” “Sure!” I said enthusiastically, “as soon as you put on your rain pants you are welcome to go out and play.”
Soon the children finished their painting and ran out into the meadow to search for salamanders beneath the rocks. He watched them go. Once Jen cleaned things up, she too went out into the rain, leaving the boy by himself. He stood for a long moment while the rain fell softly all around, and I noticed the look on his face change from longing to quiet wonder. The next time I drew near he chirped, “I’m ready to put on my rain pants!”. As soon as they were on, he ran into the field, catching droplets on his tongue and eagerly seeing what each small group of children were up to. He then turned and said; “Jen, are we having another birthday celebration today?” “Not today,” she replied. “Can we have a party for the rain?! Then we could go and make a special birthday plate for it!” he said with glee.
So it was decided that today we would celebrate the rain himself. It was discussed by everyone during tea time; what the rain might like on his birthday plate and how to make such a celebration occur. We chose a beautiful woven platter to carry the “cake” on. After tea however, the imminent celebration was soon eclipsed by other important pursuits such as seeking salamanders, worms and then mushrooms.
At the sight of a stump covered in bright orange fungus, we all ran up the grassy hillside. Once the cluster of little velveteen mushrooms had been thoroughly petted, appreciated, and their whereabouts loudly announced, I noticed that we happened to be standing on a hillside most excellent for rolling down. One after another, children (and teacher) flung themselves down the sopping grassy slope amidst joyful dizzy laughter, squeals and screeches, all vying to be the one who rolled the furthest.
The boy began to make mud balls and throw them down the hill until suddenly he turned to me with remembrance in his eyes and said urgently; “Let’s make the birthday plate for the rain!” We hurried down the hill to get the woven platter when he stopped, “Look!” he shouted, “a mushroom!” Sure enough, a wide grey-white cap hovered shyly in the tall grasses. “This will be perfect for the rain!” he exclaimed, and gently picked it to carry over to the platter.
We found a pile of bright red toyon berries beneath the grandmother oak tree, tiny delicate white stellaria (chickweed) flowers, prickly green milk thistle leaves striped with white, and then a mud cake decorated with red berries and a mast of oak branches was offered to the plate. All of these we arranged carefully so as to create the most beautiful birthday plate we could.
When it looked lovely he said, “We need to put it somewhere so the rain can find it! Then the rain can come and eat his cake. It has to be somewhere in the open... I know!” He dashed across the meadow towards an old log that lay beneath the open sky. “This place is perfect!” he declared with triumph, and taking the platter from my hands, he carefully placed it on the log. Standing back, he quietly considered it. “Yah,” he said, almost to himself, “I want to thank the rain.” For the rest of the day he brought offerings to the rain plate, sat with it, and studied it with a magnifying glass to confirm it’s perfection.
We, along with the children are witnessing the natural world re-awaken after it’s slumber beneath the dry land, carpeting everything in green growing glory. It is Gratitude unfurling quietly, slowly and magnificently. The little boy could feel the entire soaking earth celebrating and he wanted to celebrate too. This is embodied awareness and true relationship, to respond spontaneously by giving a gift to what feeds life. In the Tzutujil Mayan culture there is no word for gratitude, instead they say “let the rain come down”.
~ Chelsey Adams
Lead Teacher, Wild Roots Forest School