Beyond Wildwood

11007938_412861488885209_675740318_nA few weeks ago the Harmon Academy took a field trip to Hoyt Arboretum, located in the west hills of Portland. If you have ever read Wildwood, you would recognize it from the story as the ‘Impassable Wilderness‘.  Surrounded by an invisible electric fence, force field, or periphery bind; Forest park is an ‘enormous wooded area with many trails’ that is “really hard, nay, difficult to get into“. Obviously, we were able to get in and out without any of our children being carried off by crows, but the woods still have a bit of a spook factor.Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 9.30.30 PM

We wandered through the forest, amazed at what a seemingly endless maze of trails and valleys were at our disposal just minutes from home. Even though we only had a little over an hour, time took a back seat as we collected giant ponderosa needles, tiny pinecones, looked at volcanoes, and felt totally transported out of our usual routine.


Sometimes, we had to look twice at a tree to really gather in how tall, or how wonderful it was. I think Meri looked back at this one at least six times.


Being in the woods is slightly like going to the library…the quiet, the vastness, the inability to actually learn all there is to know about anyplace or anything. But, you can run, and shout, and climb on things, and listen to the sound of a stick whipping through the air. You can touch living things that are older than you will ever be, have survived wars, earthquakes, riots and depressions, and keep truckin‘. Good stuff. Plus, it smells good.

Elvis is slowly memorizing every Calvin and Hobbes comic strip that exists. This is one of his favorites, and it actually made looking at the underside of ferns very relevant, and exciting.


There’s just something about watching my kids running with wild joy, in the sun, without media of any kind, that soothes my heart. We watch our share of cartoons, and play plenty of video games, but it hasn’t put a damper on the enthusiasm that comes from a patch of dirt, or a good stick. That, my friends, is God’s grace.


A friend of a friend wrangled something like 80+ families over the last month to participate in a nature exchange. This means she took all our random information, and paired each family with another from a different area of the world, to send packages of ‘nature’ to each other. I would have never even thought of it. Ever. But, it is turning out to be pretty fun! The kids have enjoyed collecting odd bits of their natural world, and they are happy to share evidence of plants and animals that are important to them with our exchange family. We have had to get creative though, because watching other collections take shape on Instagram can tend to up the ante, if you know what I mean. We have a week left to finish it up and mail it out. I hope to go back to the Hoyt Arboretum to collect more ponderosa needles and crazy moss…because it’s everywhere.
spooky_treetreeThe light in the impassable Wilderness makes each photo look like a painting. I printed a few of these out for the nature exchange, and now I want to print out about a hundred more. {especially that first one of Vegas, its my favorite. It looks like something from another time. Another tax bracket.}


While Vegas was photographing everything along the path, and recording the sounds of birds singing their funny different songs, the boys swear they found a wolf’s cave. They were pretty fearless, seeing as a wolf definitely lived in there, and yet both of them threw rocks repeatedly at the entrance to the cave. They took off up the trail when I pointed out that if I were a wolf in my cave, and two boys were outside pelting me with gravel, I would run out and have them for lunch.


Pictured above: tiny pine needles, giant ponderosa needles, small pine cone, long pine cone, teeny tiny pine cones in between needles….Let me just say that the ponderosa needles smell amazing. We did a smell test on each thing we brought home. They all smelled like woods, and then the ponderosa smelled like you were in the middle of a Christmas tree, only better, if that is even possible. I made a print of this picture for the exchange, since I don’t know if we will be back in time to gather more things for our package before the deadline. {we gathered these before we knew about the exchange, so they ended up in the compost}

Here are a few more things in our collection: owl nutshells, birchbark, horse chestnuts, seed fronds from our ornamental grass, spiky seed pods from a tree that grows in our neighborhood. All these descriptions reflect my vast scientific knowledge of ‘nature’. {*ahem*} I actually need to spend some serious time this week with the boys working out just what we are sending. Even just an accurate name would be a good start, not ‘spiky seed pod from a tree that grows in our neighborhood’.

Towards the end of our time, we found the Magnolia collection, which reminded us of our tree in Seattle, that we had to leave behind. There was a knot in its trunk that always looked like a rabbit to me. This particular tree had an awesome climbing and sitting trunk, so we took a few minutes to document that we were all {even me} there together.


Listening to the Happy Hipster, turning up the heat, and wishing someone would bring me a coffee even though its past midnight,



  1. Awwww. What a wonderful day you all must have had! I have read Wildwood, and I must say that your pictures show a very tame woods compared to the story! : )


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