Earthwalk creative nonfiction

Earthwalk was an outdoor school on the Goddard college campus where people from the ages of 7 to 15 would have a day in the middle of the week to go and be out in nature.

The last morning of Earthwalk was just like all other mornings of Earthwalk. I woke up, ate a rushed breakfast, and put on my snow gear. Then we got in the car, drove past the Montessori school in Barre, Vermont that I was attending at the time and drove on to Plainfield, Vermont for Earthwalk village school.  When we got there, Mom signed me in and then went to work in the Goddard library.

The morning was normal, first we hung out and waited for everyone to get there. Once everyone was there, the mentors (kind of like camp counselors or teachers) went around the circle, and we all had a chance to share something we saw in nature on our drive in. I shared that I had seen a chickadee hanging upside down from a bird feeder. Then we sang happy birthday to someone, the song went “This is your birthday song it isn’t very long, this is the second verse it's shorter than the…”. It ended like that because if you said “first” it would be longer. 

When the morning circle was finished, we all walked into the woods to get to base camp. Luke, who was one of the mentors, gave us each a thing to think about when we were walking in. My thing was to try and not look at my feet the whole way in because he had noticed that I was always staring at my feet.

After we all got to the open yurt building, Camillo lit a fire in the fire pit. We sang songs to help the fire get started. One song went “Earth my body, water my blood, air my breath, and fire my spirit”, and the other one went “Rise up oh flaaame by thy light burning, carry us beauty, visions of joy”. Once the fire was lit, we went around the circle and shared what our assignment from Luke was and if we had succeeded. 

We all ate snack, and I had a cheese stick and carrots with peanut butter. After snack, we played a game called Coyote Deer. During the game there is one coyote and the rest of the people are deer. The coyote tries to find the deer and tag them, if you get tagged then you become a coyote. 

The game was done, and we separated into 2 groups. The older kids or the gray foxes, and the younger kids or the otters. I was in the otters group. When we were in our groups, we walked to our base camp for that day. On the way, Yard and Marten (who were our mentors) made us play a game where you could lead for 100 steps and then someone would have to answer a question about nature and then they could lead for 100 steps. The question I got asked was, “what needle tree loses its leaves in the winter?” The answer is a Hackmatack, Tamarack, or Larch. 

As soon as we got to camp, we lit a fire and had a water break. Yard noticed that there was a hole in the tree that we were next to, and that there were tracks leading up to the tree. They lifted one of the other kids that was in our group up to look in the hole, and there was a porcupine in the hole. When the kid told us about the porcupine, we all had an argument about whether they can shoot their quills (they can’t). Once the argument was over, we moved onto the lesson Marten and Yard had originally planned. 

We all had to identify fox pee from other animal excrement. The trick is to smell it, fox pee smells mildly skunky and other animals pee smells different.  After that lesson, it was time to head back to base camp.

At lunch, I talked to Yard about their birthday because the year previous I had brought them a pound of ground beef from Spring Chicken Farm (my Mom’s farm) 3 months before their birthday. The reason that this happened was because the older kids were talking about things that they didn’t want adults to hear, so they said that they were talking about Yard’s birthday. Yard had said that they wanted a pound of ground beef, and I remembered till the next week and brought them some. They didn’t remember that they had said that they wanted beef because their birthday wasn’t till May, but they still kept it in the freezer until it was time for their birthday.

After lunch, we split into groups for our elective that week. The choice’s were tracking, skinning a roadkill deer, or basket making. I chose basket making because I didn’t like tracking and the skinning a deer elective was full. 

Luke was in charge of the basket making elective. We all went into the wood and chopped down a young White Pine tree and peeled the bark. Then we made clothespins out of the small branches of the tree. We pinned the corners of the bark to make a square basket shape. 

Once that was done, we went back to base camp to end the day with a story. That day the story was told by Luke, he had made puppets out of handkerchiefs and told a story about a weary traveler who found refuge with a nice man who fed him. After the story, we started packing up and walking out. Camilo was walking next to me and got very excited when we found some Witch’s Butter, which is a small, slimy, bright yellow mushroom that grows on trees. 

When we got out of the woods, Mom was waiting to pick me up, so that we could go get my brother Soren from school. The next day, the governor made the announcement that all schools would be closed for the next 2 weeks because of a new disease. This disease turned out to be Covid-19, and Eathwalk hasn’t opened since.

All the people and places in this story are real, but most of the events didn’t happen in the time I have specified or I have exaggerated them.



13 years old