Friday, February 27, 2015

Indoor Outdoor Kids-- and the Mysterious Man in Black

Though this week failed to bring another
major snow event to our portion of the
Sandhills, the epic play sessions of Thursday
and Friday were noteworthy.  Let's begin on
Thursday, playing indoors with Claire and Evan.

When Claire plays "Horse Ranch," it's serious business.

Evan had a ranch, too, but his included some cowboys
and other characters.

And of course, where there are horse ranches, you must
have . . . castles and dragons?

Grandma and I do as instructed when it comes to
these play sessions.  There are certain rules of engagement.

Methodical Claire patiently arranges ALL her horses
in a line.  They're on a raiding party looking for "bad guys."
 Soon, it was time for some fresh air.
At this bridge, the melting snow and overnight rain
had raised the stream's level even with the wood.
As we crossed our other bridge to the main island,
the current had carved what the kids dubbed
Quite accurate. When you go down that bridge,
you'd better take a sharp left or you'll be in the brink!

Here's a closeup of the "extra waterfall."

Claire's eyes are full of wonder and excitement as
she takes it all in.  Grandma and I simply tried not
to fall in, and to prevent Evan from doing so (he's
a water magnet).

We're all delighted to see our little stream in
paradise so full of activity and energy today.

Claire used various sticks and assorted implements
to gauge the depth of the stream at several points.
On Friday, it was Bri and Hunter's turn.
After playing with pirates, dragons, and
super heroes for a while they were revved
up about heading outside. First, to the stream.
Bri is dredging soggy leaves out of the stream to
speed up the flow of this tributary.
 Hey, who's this mysterious man in black?

There he is again, making a stealthy getaway
ahead of Grandma and Bri.

Bri and the Mystery Man are breaking up those bubbles
to send them downstream.  But who is he?

Whoever he is, he likes Hunter's game of fishing
with hockey sticks.  But he cleverly keeps his
face away from the camera.

Even after two afternoons above freezing, we find
remnants of the snow in the most secluded nooks
of our property.

Slipping away from the stream, the Man in Black sees
Grandma and Bri approaching his hideout in the tree house.

Can he elude them once more?

Yes, even if he has to rappel a steep gorge to escape.

"Wait," says Bri. "Who are you?"

Bri covers every foot of the trail, over and through the
tunnel, up and down steep banks, searching for clues
to the identity of the Man in Black.

Back at the house, while playing a game of "Cat's Eye,"
(ever heard of that one?), everyone puzzles over the
Mysterious visitor.
It was Hunter!
In an unguarded moment, Hunter allowed himself
to be caught on film.  There can be no doubt, he's
our Mysterious Man in Black.

Let's close up with a couple of short videos
of the sights and sounds of the stream
and waterfalls in winter. Relax and enjoy.

I hope you're having good days,
whatever the weather!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Another Mystery

Back in 2011, when the grandkids were not
quite ready for hikes and gypsy walks, I began
to prepare a future play spot five acres back on
our property, where an untainted stream, fed by
underground springs, flourished and never ran dry.
(Note: This picture predates the bridge I later added.)

This pool, more than two feet deep, is at our
favorite waterfall, just as we cross a little foot bridge
to our island paradise (small though it may be).

At some point during the clearing process
I made an interesting find.  While clearing 
branches and debris from the stream, I dredged
up an odd specimen of wood.

It is remarkable in several regards.  First of all,
there is evidence that it had been burned in the
distant past, only to find a resting place in this
deep pool, where it had rested undisturbed for
who knows how long.

When we moved here in 1978 we were
told there had been at least one historical
fire in these woods, but I am uncertain when
it would have been.  As years go by, evidence
of forest fires diminishes.  But being submerged
seems to have preserved the scars on this piece
of wood.  

Note the graceful spiraling striations
that mark the wood.  Whether it grew
like that or whether decades of whipping
by the streams waters made the marks, I
cannot discern.

The wood is heavy and solid, exhibiting
no sign of rot.  Whether it washed downstream
or was tossed in long ago by a strolling 
woodsman, I cannot tell.

Until I cleared the area in recent years,
there is little likelihood of human intrusion
in that secluded area for a long, long time.
Though Jennifer and Amanda made occasional
excursions to the stream in their childhood, we
never established much of a play space.  We could
always hear the waterfalls, even when we didn't
want to fight through the brush to see them.

Here's evidence that the black is indeed
charred wood, not just discoloration.

My imagination begs to know who
else has handled this "ancient" artifact,
and under what circumstances.  I'm glad
it has come into my hands, where of
course it will receive the homage it's due.
I will appreciate any theories my readers
may wish to share.

As I've learned before, especially in writing
"Mystery at the Loyd Homeplace," mysteries
don't always have to be solved to be mesmerizing.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Exuberant Grandkids Bring the Tree House to Life!

No, that's not one of the grandkids in the
tree house.  It's Chipper, who some of you
may recognize.  Chipper was my classroom
mascot the last several years I taught, and now
he accompanies me to all my singalongs and
other events at school and nursing homes.

A few weeks ago I outfitted him in this
construction outfit and created a narrative
for his rest home friends.  It goes like this:
"You may have heard that the unemployment
rate has gone down.  That's partly because 
Chipper got a job!  That's right.  I've hired him
to build me a house.  Of course, with him being
a monkey, it had to be a tree house.  I couldn't
be too picky, because I only paid him with bananas."

Now these are grandkids.  And I was thrilled
with their response this week.  On Tuesday
Bri and Hunter made their first visit.

Bri is on the upper deck.  It takes a little
getting used to.

Amanda could get attached to this place.
And Hunter hopes she stays put.

Tree house follies with Bri and Hunter

It takes three to make a ring around this tree.
It's not part of the tree house.

On Wednesday, Claire and Evan were
introduced to the new tree house.  They
scampered ahead on the trail and arrived 
before the adults.  Up they go.

They made themselves right at home.

Claire was all smiles the whole time we were there.

Posing on the "deck" or "patio." Whatever.

An equally big hit was a deer skull and
assorted bones just a few feet from the
tree house.

Now that all the kids have seen it, I think
Amanda is going to take the bones home
and use them in science study.

Claire has an eye for the camera today.

That old ladder from my childhood bunk bed
is serving admirably for getting to the top floor.

One happy girl!

It's so relaxing to just sit and chill. Judy
and Claire sat there swinging their legs
for several minutes.

Just a swingin.'

Evan, our daredevil (one of them), likes to
lean over the railing and grab leaves off the
neighboring trees.  Then he watches them
flutter to the ground.  

Speaking of daredevils, here's another one.
Claire was emphatic that I should get her
"in the air." And I did!

I was snapping a picture of Judy and Evan
hanging out on the top deck when guess
who should pop in?

Yes, it's been a big hit.  And all of us will 
enjoy it even more as winter inches toward
spring.  Even Chipper!