Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Walk in the Woods

On Friday, I chaperoned a fifth grade field trip to the local woods.

It was a beautiful day.  The kind of day a city girl like me celebrates by sitting on a bench in a well-manicured urban park or perhaps lounging on the cement balcony of a high-rise.

Instead, I found myself in my idea of hell:  The Woods.

And I found myself with a tour guide who kept insisting on leaving the path to "explore." 

The words "Explore" and "Woods" do not mix, in my opinion. 

For this journey into nature, I was joined by a group of five fifth graders.  We were all wearing long pants to protect us from the ticks and the poison ivy.

Henry and I weren't very excited about either of these two items.  In fact, I suspect that our Henry is not a huge nature lover either.  He was enthusiastic about the field trip and in good spirits throughout the morning, but I did catch him swatting mosquitoes and doing wild-bug dances more than once. 

Not that I blame him.  The mosquitoes in this forest were gargantuan.  Enormous.  They were so large and engorged from their feast of elementary student blood that a few times, I mistook them for birds.

I realized about five minutes into the field trip that there was really no place I'd rather be less than this forest. 

Our tour guide for the morning was an enthusiastic retiree named Mrs. D.  She knew many interesting facts about the woods and she did a good job of keeping the children interested.

I also did a fabulous job.  I faked enthusiasm and merriment with every step.  I pretended that learning why very little grows on the floor of a pine forest is interesting and I nodded encouragingly while the children attempted to answer Mrs. D.'s questions about nature.  "Very good, children,"  I nodded.  "Very interesting, indeed."

After about 30 minutes of walking, we left the forest and approached a pretty pond.  At this point, things started to look up.  For one thing, the pond was filled with turtles sunning themselves on rocks and who doesn't love a good turtle. 

I should take a moment to tell you that we were walking our way through a nature preserve that is very close to a major city.  If you were to encounter a turtle sunning itself on a log in the REAL outdoors - say my parents' house in the country - said turtle would leap into the water within milliseconds of your arrival.  Most turtles are apprehensive about loud humans.

Not so, these turtles.  These were a more hard-core, urban breed of turtle.  And no pack of loud fifth graders was going to disturb their sunny day.  No indeed.  All seventeen turtles continued their sun bathing while the 100 or so students ran around the pond, screaming at each other to "check out the turtles."   The turtles didn't even more when a few children came within inches of falling into the pond itself. 

I was very fond of these turtles and I even said aloud "I would like one of those urban turtles at our house."  That's when Mrs. D.  came running over to tell me that not only is it illegal to remove animals from the forest preserve, but that the poor turtle would not survive living in my home. 

"Oh,"  I answered. 

"Duh,"  I thought. 

I guess Mrs. D. wasn't buying my Nature Lover act.

While we were at the pond, the children did a few scientific experiments.  Henry got chosen to rub some leaves together and make "lather." 

I tried not to think about the fact that Henry - my child who we once were told by a World Famous Allergist "...is allergic to ALL trees and ALL grass" - had just rubbed tree pollen and leaves all over his hands.  I tried to remember the four allergy shots Henry gets each week and the two different allergy medications he takes each morning.  I tried not to think about the time Henry got pollen in his eye and his eye ball swelled out of his eyelid and he had to be rushed to the hospital.  Or the many times he has gasped for air while suffering from allergy-induced asthma.

I tried to be a normal mom.

But this was extremely difficult for me.  My nature-normal is geared more towards beaches and boardwalks and less about trees, bugs and creating one's own soap from a bush.

Mrs. D.  also showed us a bin filled with pond water and insects.  One of the insects was in a special, kid-friendly, magnification jar which she passed around for the children to observe.  I had purposely let the jar pass me by  - not really feeling the desire to meet a bug up close and personal, but Mrs. D. had another agenda.  She GOT UP and leaned over all five fifth graders to hand me the bug jar filled with water and demanded that I check out that bug.  

I looked.  I may not be used to the ways of these nature-types, but I can tell when someone is about to go postal.  I've lived in four major cities and while I might not be able to tell you the age of a white pine tree by looking at it's branches, I am able to tell when someone is about to get crazy.

At last our field trip was up and it was time to head back to the bus.  

We had survived.


Elizabeth said...

You know you went back and bagged a few turtles later. Fess up! What did you name them?

Martha said...

I took them all! All 17 now live in my bathtub. Names to follow.

Meredith said...

Next year, when Henry is in middle school, your presence on field trips will be "unwelcome." One down, two to go.

Tara said...

Laughed all the way through this! Ah, my lovely Mart. My lovely, hysterically funny, witty, and yes, nature-hating friend. I give you major points for taking on this extreme adventure into the "great outdoors"! xo

Martha said...

Meredith - I suppose I should interrupt my cheering and merriment to fake a sombre look and act sad to be leaving the world of the field trip behind!

Martha said...

Thank you, Tara! You are one of the few who know what a great hardship this really was. And to make matters worse, one of the fifth grade girls was wearing a perfume that smelled just like a margarita and I spent the first ten minutes of the hike wondering when the bar was going to appear!

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