By Jonathan Ismail
Dusk is a special time at South Mountain. With our beautiful sunsets and transition from day to night, the beginning of our recent Moonlight Walk included the best of both worlds. As things become darker, I think we begin to hear better as well, and align our senses with the beauty that surrounds us between the Gila and Ma Ha Tauk mountain ranges.
Last month, we heard the melodic “yip-yap” calls of coyotes, and even saw a great horned owl perched atop rock outcroppings near the trail. We watched the full moon’s ascent from behind the mountains, marveling at its brightness even on a moderately cloudy night. Sharing insight and talking as a group enhances everyone’s knowledge about the unique South Mountain environment that surrounds us all. Families shared previous encounters with owls, the colors of night-time flowering plants, and talked with our educators, storytellers, and park rangers along the trail.
Here in the park, volunteer storytellers lend their skills to add a new element to our exploration along the Judith Tunnel trail each month. The South Mountain Storytelling Institute, a program of South Mountain Community College, offers an academic storytelling certification program and hosts events for storytellers to hone their craft. The storytellers who volunteer at South Mountain are graduates and instructors of this program.
Often, tales have a historic origin or science tie-in; recently, one featured a story about hummingbirds with a preface about the science of how they find their food. Others are abridged versions of traditional Native American tales. Phyllis Ralley, a longtime volunteer at South Mountain, crafted a new story about how the funnel weaver spider gets its name. She used photographs of different spiders, like orb weavers, tarantulas and wolf spiders, to compliment the theme and make it tangible for guests to understand.
Debunking the notion that storytelling is for kids only, I’ve observed audiences of all ages engage with this extra special way to connect to South Mountain. Moonlight Walks are a wonderful blend of performance art with nature, complimenting our exploration of the outdoors and connection to nature.
We hope you join us for our next journey by the light of the moon!