Sylva Fae

Pay It Forward Woodland Style!

Face Painting Optional…

I spent the afternoon face painting at a fifth birthday party, something I do frequently. I’m no great artist but I can create a passable tiger, Spiderman or fairy princess on a wriggly little face. I reckon I have until age 9 before they realise I’m not really that good but at this age they think I’m ‘amazing’!

I usually get a few parents come to chat while they watch their little rascal transform into scary lizardman or rainbow butterfly.

“Do you do this for a living?”

Here come the usual questions. I explain that I do it for fun and offer whenever one of my children is invited to a party. This is usually met with a bemused expression as they survey the throng of small children jostling to be next, eagerly shouting their requests and thrusting pictures under my nose.

“But you could get paid for it. You could make a fortune doing all the kids parties.”

And it’s true, I suppose I could if I wanted a part-time job that took me away from my children all weekend. I reiterate the doing it for fun answer and suggest that I’d rather work on a ‘Pay it Forward’ principle. Bemused frown turns to unconvinced puzzlement but this usually coincides with finishing the face painting. Just before random parent gets to the ‘this woman’s a nutter’ stage they are distracted and busy themselves taking a photo of little Poppy’s new Princess Elsa face. What they don’t get is for that five minutes of painting time, I get a quality moment with the child, a moment of trust as I share their personal space and I get to know my daughters’ friends. Then I hand them a mirror and sit back to watch the smiles and smirks as they preen into the mirror marvelling at the face looking back. It’s worth doing it just for that brief moment.

20140720_164424We have a similar situation with owning the woodland. People tend to fall into two categories, those who are thrilled by the idea of having your own woodland and excitedly ask us all about it, and those who think we’re completely crazy. The former have become our Woodland Warriors and regularly join us for woodland adventures. The latter are like the bemused parent at a face painting gig. Incredulous, they ask much the same questions but with a slight frown of disbelief then you see the moment when the frown gives way to a sly smile…

“You could make a fortune running these woodland adventure days. If you charged £? per person… and if you charged £? for a bag of logs…”

The moment the conversation turns to money, insistently trying to convince us of where we’re going wrong, I know this person is unlikely to become one of our Woodland Warriors. I have stopped trying to explain the feelings of fulfilment that sharing our special place brings.

20140720_191104You see when we bought the woodland it was just a bunch of trees on a piece of land with a lot of potential. As I explored with the girls we found amazing places and named them together; Bluebell Bank, Badger Bank and the throne of the fairy king. We discovered the Secret Field hiding behind a forest of ferns and a magic clover patch that yielded a four-leaf clover every time we needed a wish. These became our special places and the woodland started to take on a magical quality.

Then our friends and family started to join in and together we created the Woodland Warriors. The woods rang with the sound of children’s laughter as they ran feral and our laughter at their antics. With my girls entertained, I had the chance to sit around the fire drinking camp fire coffee with adult conversation! Each visitor, young and old, left something behind; ideas to develop our woodland paradise and happy memories.

20140726_150646_BROWNIE_Nov-21-205153-2014_ConflictHow can you charge for that? Our woods are our second home. If someone came to your house for coffee, you wouldn’t charge them the going rate for a Starbucks, would you? As soon as something becomes a business, there are expectations, rules and restrictions, with that comes pressure to perform. You can’t really make plans in a woodland, you follow the seasons and adapt to whatever the English weather throws at you. The woods signify freedom; abandon all real-world problems at the gate, enter with excitement and anticipation and leave refreshed and ready to face the real world again. You can’t charge for feelings. You can’t charge for growing friendships.

Our experience is enhanced by the people we share it with. Our gain outweighs what we give. So if someone has enjoyed the day we hope they’ll pay it forward. As for us, we’re happy to take our payment in laughter and smiles.



6 thoughts on “Pay It Forward Woodland Style!

    1. Sylva FaeSylva Fae Post author

      Thank you, you’re very kind Michelle. I was attracted to you on Twitter originally because you seemed such a goodhearted person. xx

  1. AvatarNeil G

    Lovely piece! I really appreciate the point you make about the ‘business’ of money in such work as you and your family are engaged in. We need to return to the notion that it’s just ONE of the human currencies we trade in and not by any means the most important. Money will not buy respect and nurture from the land, nor can we simply turn every action of our guardianship of the land into a financial transaction. Contracts of the spirit run deeper than the dollar or pound.

    “When the green hills are covered with talking wires and the wolves no longer sing, what good will the money you paid for our land be then”
    ― Chief Seattle

    1. Sylva FaeSylva Fae Post author

      Thanks for another lovely comment Neil. I’m glad you managed to get to get through eventually – it was worth waiting for!

      “In nature’s economy the currency is not money, it is life.”
      – Vandana Shiva

  2. Pingback: What are you doing for others? - The Write Moms

    1. Sylva FaeSylva Fae Post author

      Fabulous! Proud to be once again a small part of a fabulous Write Moms article. Love the new site Michelle, coming along nicely. I hope to be able to contribute many more articles in the future. I do however feel like an honorary American when I write Mom instead of Mum.

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