The hole is high enough to see easily, but too high to look into directly. Some of the children have moved logs over to climb on so they can get closer. The way up is adventurous – sometimes slippery, still a stretch.
Things can disappear into the hole. Things can come out of it. There could easily be something inside…
Alice: “I can hear the tree singing.” Ellis: “Did you know, there is a fox living in that hole?” Katie: “Birds live in there with sticks and leaves.” Evie: “I’ve found a treasure chest.” The tree is special, suggestive, iconic. “All of these haven’t but only this tree have” says Claudia. It is the only tree with such a hole in it. Claudia thinks an owl lives in the hole, and asks if owls like sticks. She thinks they would like leaves to eat.
Avni sees the fine detail and the richness: “There’s a spider’s web – there’s a fly – it looks fantastic! The birds are tweeting. Can you hear a parrot?”
There are other holes in the woods, many of them in the ground. Some children are fascinated by these mysterious places, the places we can’t see fully (underground, inside trees, in the middle of thickets) and in which, as a consequence, the imagination can take hold…Here is an example, involving two boys, Ellis and Jamie, who have had a narrative of adventure, trepidation, and bravery running for some time in their explorations of the park. Today they are intent on finding treasure:
“It will be hidden under a tree”.
They see a cat.
“Jamie, don’t run past the cat” says Ellis. “I think the cat will know where the treasure is”.
They find a log with a hole in it. “I think a mouse lives in there” says Jamie. The boys search for the mouse, then make a connection…
“Can we find the big hole in the tree?” Ellis leads the way. “A fox lives in there” says Jamie, “I can see his teeth. He climbs up and jumps in.” Jamie is intent on climbing in the hole to find the fox. “I’m bigger” he says. Ellis says “we need a net”. Harry joins in: “We need a grabber” The boys decide that a long stick will do and the three of them move a very long branch over to the hole. “I can do it, I’ve got big muscles.” “Well I’m three” says Harry. They work really hard to get the stick into position.
Ellis runs to tell another group of children “there’s a fox in that tree”. James comes quickly to investigate. Fred joins in. The boys all try to move the stick to grab the fox. Ellis runs to tell Serga (his teacher) and Katie and Ellen. Ellen and Katie join the fox boys, trying to move the ‘grabbing’ stick to catch the invisible fox in its hole.
The tree with the hole is near to the large fallen log (see “The World in a Log”). They seem to share their suggestive and generous natures – there have been no arguments about who exactly lives in the hole; the fox, the owl, the spider, the fly, the birds, the singing voice, the sticks and leaves all seem to be able to be there for different imaginations, with no-one needing to dominate.
It is an example of something we are noticing a lot in the woods – that children and their stories can co-exist quite peaceably. There is plenty of room for difference and for joining in. Play is socially more fluid, and although there is strong individual authorship in the imaginary and dramatic worlds that the children are constructing, there is also room for exchange, and for surprising alliances to build between children who do not usually play together in the classroom. These cross-connections between children are growing stronger still, as a culture of making and sharing stories in the woods is developing within each group and across the two classes. Listening to each other’s stories, they are captivated. And a woods mythology is beginning to grow…