This year we've been running a weekly life-led bush school called Make and Play. We've carved spoons, made multi-pronged fishing spears, learned to cook on a camp fire, built cubbies, observed many aspects of the forest, made cord with flax leaves, yabbied and fished, swam, climbed trees, learned to find and share food, and enjoyed stories and good times with one another.
The last Make and Play for the year took place this morning and it was truly magical. After our initial acknowledgement of country and the Dja Dja Wurrung people and elders, and our own old people who have travelled from far and wide, Patrick told the story of how that morning the dawn Kookaburras had told him something strange was happening in the forest today. He asked the kids to keep an eye out for a sign or a clue as to what that strangeness might be.
Ashar told us the story of an indigenous group that uses ash from the fire to receive messages. We didn't know the full story so we experimented with our old camp fire. Patrick buried his hands into some cold char-ash, threw it up, and as it settled on the ground he'd discovered a letter under the coals. Everyone was stunned. He read it out.
We were all gobsmacked.
We knew we had to help The Captain of the Flying Pirate Ship, so the first thing to do was to find that person. We got Zero, our trusty Jack Russell and his scruffy mate Fluff, to sniff the letter and get the pirate's scent so these two rough coats could lead us to the Captain.
We found him sleeping not far from our cubby camp and we woke him up. He was so surprised to see us. The letter mentioned he couldn't talk unless he had his hat on, so we set out with the friendly mute pirate to try to find it.
The hat we found at the Can Tree, he put it on and lo and behold he could speak! But it was a foreign language he spoke. We had to use our best expressions to tell him we don't speak his language. He quickly understood and spoke a language we could understand. He was so happy we could hear him and that we were eager to help.
He told us that his flying pirate ship had crash landed and his things were scattered all around. He was especially hoping to find his beloved musical instrument. He told us when he lost it he had fallen asleep listening to magical sounds. Therefore we wondered whether we would find his guitar at the magical musical pipe (an old mineral water check point) that goes deep down into the ground, and where we've often stopped and listened for the music of the underworld. It was here we found his guitar.
The pirate captain, who calls himself Norseman, asked whether there was a magical fairy tree close by. He remembered learning a song from the fairies he'd met the previous night when he was lost in the forest. The fairies had promised him a magic coin bag. Some of the children knew about the fairy tree and led us to it. They looked everywhere but couldn't find anything, so our Norseman pirate sang the fairy song he's learned the night before, and we all joined in as echoes to the spell they cast through him. After the music Patrick said to Zero "where is it?" and the little dog went straight inside the hollow base of the tree and uncovered a beautiful coin bag. The pirate said that with this bag of magical coins he could now do magic. He showed us how he could bite a coin in half and then blew it back to full size again. We were absolutely stunned!
The pirate was keen to go looking for his tucker bag and find his treasure box so we all headed off to help him. It was by the spring water and we stopped for some underworld water and the pirate's fruit leathers and dried nuts and seed. Yum. But we were all keen to journey on to help the pirate find his things.
Keeping up with the older kids was quite a challenge.
We arrived at the Lake Daylesford where our Norseman remembered his ship crashing into. He also remembered holding on to his treasure chest while swimming ashore, but remembered little else after that. We all got very excited that we were possibly close to recovering the chest. The pirate showed us a stick riddle. It's answer, he said, would tell us the direction to go.
The fish revealed the path, and off we raced.
We knew we were getting warmer.
Two turtles in, and and three ducks on, the water all turned their heads as we approached and we knew this was a sign. A small bag with a key in it was soon found and we were jumping with excitement. We must be close now.
And then young Axel (or was it his brother Oscar?) found it. The pirate was so happy because it meant he could perform his true old magic that he'd learned from shamans from all over the world.
He turned a blank book into a book of colourful drawings by just rubbing the cover,
stuck four separate pieces of coloured cloth into his closed hand and when he pulled them out they were all stitched together.
The children were dazzled. How did he do it? He told us the fairies gave him the powers.
He was so grateful we helped him to find his lost things so he took a bow and thanked us for our generosity.
We then feasted on nourishing fruits and fibres of the earth.
And hung out on the jetty, playing games, not quite believing the adventure we'd just had.
Luckily Meg and Patrick took some photos to show our friends and family, because I'm not sure they would not believe the adventure we'd just been on.