Friday, July 07, 2006

In Which We Discover Poohsticks

Pooh had just come to the bridge; and not looking where he was going, he tripped over something, and the fir-cone jerked out of his paw into the river.
"Bother", said Pooh, as it floated slowly under the bridge and he went to get another fir cone which had a rhyme to it. But then he thought that he would just look at the river instead, because it was a peaceful sort of day, so he lay down and looked at it, and it slipped slowly away beneath him... and suddenly, there was his fir-cone slipping away too. "That's funny," said Pooh. "I dropped it on the other side," said Pooh, "and it came out on this side! I wonder if it would do it again?" And he went back for some more fir-cones.
It did. It kept on doing it. Then he dropped two in at once, and leant over the bridge to see which of them would come out first; and one of them did; but as they were both the same size, he didn't know if it was the one which he wanted to win, or the other one. So the next time he dropped one big one and one little one, and the big one came out first, which was what he had said it would do, and the little one came out last, which was what he had said it would do, so he had won twice ... and when he went home for tea he had won thirty-six and lost twenty-eight, which meant that he was--that he had--well, you take twenty-eight from thirty-six, and that's what he was. Instead of the other way around.
And that was the beginning of the game called Poohsticks, which Pooh invented, and which he and his friends used to play on the edge of the Forest. But they played with sticks instead of fir-cones, because they were easier to mark. ~A.A. Milne,
The House at Pooh Corner

Playing Poohsticks has become a firmly established nature day tradition. I'm not sure quite how it started, none of us can quite remember. Perhaps on the particular day that we were crossing our favorite footbridge we'd just finished reading the Poohsticks chapter ("In Which Pooh Invents a New Game and Eeyore Joins In") in The House at Pooh Corner, or maybe one of the fine young gents had picked up a stick and I was looking for a gentle way to get rid of it before it turned into a sword or the like. Doesn't matter really. What does matter is that Poohsticks has become a delightful game, a lovely peaceful way to begin and end an afternoon of picking blackberries and exploring the park.

How to Play Poohsticks:

  • Find a footbridge and a river.

  • Gather sticks. (Sticks are great fun!)

  • Run to the middle of the bridge. Find the upstream side of the bridge and watch the water sliding slowly under the bridge.

  • Drop your sticks on the count of three...1,2,3! Try Eeyore's key to success: Drop your stick in a "twitchy sort of way".

  • Run or meander, depending on the sort of day, across to the other side of the bridge and wait for your stick to float out from underneath.

  • The person whose stick comes out first is the winner. But really, hanging over the rails waiting for your stick is the fun part.

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