Rick's Journal

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Last Day of Walkabout Camp

This summer has been intense. Both for me and the camps, as well as our staff and all of the many volunteers and students here this summer. It started off with a great staff training, waaaaay back in June, and then we had the most severe flooding we have ever had here in the county. The water ran over our bridge, and washed out a lot of our road, and we had to do some filling of ditches to make things safe for travel. Our newsletters alerted our friends and supporters about the situation, and we raised over $4,000 in the weeks that followed, to help repair the bridge and road.

We applied to FEMA and the NYSEMO, to see if we can get aid in the form of grants or loans, and are still waiting to hear back about how much we are eligible for. If there is a funding gap, we are hoping to see if there is a way we can seek additional aid. We are currently waiting for estimates from our area contractors, just to have them give us a ball park idea of what kinds of repairs and their costs might be, and with so much damage to other areas in the region, they are taking a long time to get back to us. So we are hopeful it will work out. I will try to keep you posted.

So, anyway, after the flooding, we kept rolling with our camps. We went to a one-week camp format this year, rather than two weeks, which is how we used to do our programs for the last 15 years. I am happy to report that initial responses to this new format were very positive. We were able to actually focus our teaching on specific areas that let to real skills being taught, learned and practiced. Hawk's Hearth, our camp that focused on wilderness cooking, and Yellowknife, which focused on camp skills, were really big hits. The students raved about what they learned, and more importantly, you could see the changes in the students, in how they stood, carried themselves, etc. You can't hide confidence, and it was great to see.

We had so much rain this summer that the wildflowers were especially spectacular. Our gardens flourished, and the kitchen staff made meals the kids seemed to enjoy each day. All in all, it seems, the ingredients for a good summer came together perfectly! We also completed many projects, with Earth Skills Program graduate Ryan Smith creating a new stone causeway for our trail up to camp, to alleviate the perpetual muddy path and bridge. We had many staff and caretaker helpers complete the Chesapeake Deck project, which was promptly enjoyed by all by the time it was operational. Volunteers Schuyler Senft-Grupp, Justin Katsuki, and Ryan Smith helped get the frame done, and Walt Gigandet did much of the construction for the frame and deck. Rebecca Schinazi, Josh Roberts, Eli Martz, Abigail Houghton, Tim Brown and Barry Keegan helped with the decking and then the white ash railing, which is beautiful and sturdy, and keeping with our wilderness theme! Many caretakers helped with other aspects of the deck and construction, including the stone ramp and courtyard in front of the deck, and Tim Manney helped with lots of stone work around our barns and camp. We really appreciate the work you all did, and for all of the supporters who donated to the Deck Fund in so many ways, to help it to happen. Thank you.

I have photos that I want to post, but I don't have my camera ready to download them, so I will put them up next time, but soon I will be posting many things all through the website, and I will let you know when I send out our e-Newsletter. If you want to get it, just e-mail me and I will sign you up, or you can click on the menu to the left and sign yourself up. It is easy to do, costs nothing, and you can get off the list at any time. Best of all, it is full of camp and program news, articles, stories and community learning, as well as updates and even a little poetry if we get the space and time. So don't miss it!

Have a great last week of summer, and we will hope to see you soon.....


Sunday, September 3, 2006

A short recount of The Beginning of Hawk Circle

Before the camp was born, there was a vision quest.

Four days in the wilderness, without food, with just enough water, and lots of deep meditation and introspection. I was pretty young, but asking for the universal life force to give me an insight into the future, into my purpose for being here on this earth at this particular time.

It was spring time, but the first couple of days were rainy and very cold. The nights were long, sitting, sleeping little, and waiting for dawn. I unraveled my life and felt Spirit waiting around, as if testing me to see if I was ready for what was to be revealed.

What I saw, felt and understood, was a vision of a future where the peoples of the earth were in massive confusion, pain, suffering and change. I didn't see anything specific, but storms, disruption of our social world and daily lives was prominent. There was fighting, and fear in everyone, and many people were lost, in both a real and a spiritual sense. This vision was powerful, intense and scary to me, just 21 at the time, because it appeared so much larger than my own experience and skill to handle.

I saw many other things in my quest, that helped guide me to the work you all are familiar with in our programs. But it was this overriding vision that started me in this life. It was still years away from the time in which I would run my first camp, but my training had begun. I took courses in wilderness survival, wild foods, native skills and crafts and earth philosophy.

The name of our camp and our organization, Hawk Circle, comes from several sources. The influence of William Ackerman, the guitarist who founded Windham Hill Music, was with me as I wandered the coastal mountains of Central California was considerable. Hawk Circle was the name of a composition that he wrote that captures not just the beauty and power of a hawk in flight, but also the depth of it's soul as a predator, as the keeper of balance.

Another source was the sheer volume of hawks that made themselves known to me in the first few years of my training. I saw hawks in trees, in deep blue skies, in thorny brush and hovering over grassy meadows. I learned many things about hawks in those days, mostly from being around them, feeling them looking at me, and seeing their beautiful yet terrible eyes. I waited while they waited, hunting and sitting in trees over grasses, and we shared something that I can't describe.

In the days the followed, I saw how the circling flight of the hawk allowed it to spiral up a column of warm air, called an updraft, and with each pass, rise higher and higher. When it was high enough, the hawk would fly in any direction it pleased, and it could use very little effort, just gliding easily. No flapping.

I thought about how our camp, our programs, were like the updraft that a hawk needed to grow and ascend into the sky, with each skill learned, each expansive experience pushing awareness higher, until the young 'hawk' could fly anywhere it needed to go.

It was the right image, concept, philosophy, for our work. The name "Hawk Circle" has passed muster, for 17 years. And the journey continues......