Not long ago we read a story in Winnie the Pooh, where Pooh tracks an unknown animal (perhaps a woozle) around a mulberry bush. Piglet sees this, and joins in. Each time they go around the bush, the creatures they’re tracking are joined by more. Cameron seemed interested in the story, but perplexed when it ended without them finding whatever it was, and with Christopher Robin saying something about Pooh going around and around in circles.
He didn’t get that Pooh was following his own footsteps.
This weekend, on sandy and silty ground, I asked Cameron if he remembered. And I played Pooh. I asked Cameron to stand where he was, and went around a bush, careful to leave footprints.
“Ah-ha!” I exclaimed, coming around and seeing my own footprints. Kate joined in the fun, and the kids exclaimed, “A woozle!” Around again – look, now there must have been two woozles, see, two sets of prints! This was a little unclear, but hey, work with me. Then I got Cameron to join in, and lo and behold, another creature joined!
Cameron got it – we were following our own tracks! There wasn’t really a woozle, nor a wizzle, or whatever we called the other creature.
I’m not convinced that he’s related this experience to the story. But I can’t tell. He won’t let me read it to him again!
The ground, for some reason, seemed to hold tracks and footprints quite well. Both Cameron and Kate enjoyed pointing out tracks, speculating on what might have left them. Wheel tracks over mud and sand. Dog pawprints. Bird prints in a muddy little hollow. Deer tracks – which direction were they going? Could we follow them?
“Look here, Cameron,” Leif’s dad, Sig, called. He’d crouched down in the dirt, and was pointing at tracks. “Tiny little ones. What made these, d’you think?” Cameron thought about it a bit, and shrugged. “What’s got two toes in the woods,” I hinted. “A deer,” Cameron supplied. Yes, my kid is that awesome, he knows that deer walk on two toes. Sig pointed out bigger deer prints nearby, ones more normal sized. “Well then, look at the size of these ones here. What do you think made the little ones now?” He pointed back at the thumbprint-sized ones. “A baby deer,” Cameron breathed. And off we went, tracking the baby deer, figuring out how many grownups it was with. In the end, it looked like two grownups, and two babies, slightly different sizes.
“And how about these ones,” Sig pointed to a five-toed, padded print, with claws, smaller than my fist – just after Meg, the dog, dashed past. Cameron peered at them, and was clearly thrown off by the claws. “Claws – Mommy, it’s a bear print!” Not entirely unlikely given where we were and that we’d seen a pile of bear poop fairly recently, but way too small. And just wrongly shaped. “Hold up there, Meg,” Sig called to the dog, then to Cameron, “Well, let’s follow them, see if we can find what made’em.” Surprised the living daylights out of me that Cameron, thinking it was a bear, was willing to do this. One print, another, another, another, and another. “Move yer foot, Meg,” Sig gently shoved the dog’s leg aside, “You’re standing in the tracks!” Sure enough, Meg had been standing right on one of the tracks. Four of them, in fact. It still took Cameron a couple of steps to conclude, “Afi, they’re Meg’s tracks! MEEEEEGGGG, I thought you were a bear!”
Later, still with Sig (aka Afi), Cameron got to make some other impressive tracks of his own. Leif and Kate were done their turn, and now it was Cameron’s. turn. They climbed into the excavator, bright orange in the green of the forest, and left caterpillar tread marks in the path they were making: a new driveway.