Rick's Journal

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

How Wilderness Skills Reconnect Families

Hey All,

I am back from a trip down South, where I spent a week teaching a wonderful family about nature, about wilderness skills and native ways. For five days, we made fires, coal burned bowls and spoons, practiced hunting skills, explored the woods and streams, cooked over the fire, sewed leather pouches, made arrowheads and stone tools, carved bone and drilled stone pendants and twisted cordage from milkweed, dogbane and tulip poplar. We also sat in a circle around a fire, shared food and drink, took care of each other in many ways, kept our camp clean and listened to the sounds of nature.

Northern Alabama is hot in August, I won't pretend that it isn't! But the Creator was kind and smiled on us, and gave us some cool nights, and a beautiful breeze, and a sweet, cool stream where we could wash off the dust of the day, escape the heat and be renewed. We slept, played and learned underneath huge hickory, beech, sweet gum and oak trees, where the air was fresh and clean. The cicadas serenaded us all night, loudly, and the coyotes enjoyed the Coyote stories we shared around the fire at night, howling and barking their protests and pleasure! The woods were full of all kinds of owls and woodpeckers. The land was good to us and we learned from her each day, each night, even as we slept, lying on her soft ground.

Learning and sharing the skills of living close to the earth brings a family together in many ways. It brings us close to each other, as we look after each other with wood carving, or sharing a meal, or using fire to make a tool. We get to spend time with each other away from the electronic distractions of the modern world. We eat bread that is well done, toasted over the fire, and pick our way along the rocky stream bottom, holding hands and keeping our balance.

What other activity do you know that can bring a family together in this way? Nature's power is so great! She soothes us with her winds, her colors and her sounds. The skills of survival are built into us, genetically, as our ancestors all were hunter-gatherers, and we find ourselves in little ways as we make the tools and practice those skills. Carving a bowl, my hands work hard to create something unique, special, useful and beautiful. It relieves my stress, and the smell of the wood opens my senses and my deeper awareness. These skills help us grow as we develop them, and as a family, we get to see each other grow before our very eyes. We are there to see the joy on our child's face as they learn to drill a hole in a stone pendant, or make the evening's campfire.

As a parent, I love family camp outs. I know it is a lot of work. It isn't easy to drop our work, let go of checking our e-mail, and plan meals, set up tents and bring gear, etc. But it is very, very important. Our kids need these experiences, and if given the chance, they will help with the camp chores and make it work. They need to get dirty, and hot, and hungry, too. They need to learn how to do these most basic things to take care of themselves, because it is the foundation upon which to build our very lives.

I am not just talking about fire-making, or survival skills, either. Self soothing is a skill, where we take the time we need to let go of stress and unwind and heal by the banks of the river, or leaning against a tree. Studies have shown the extremely detrimental effects of stress on our bodies and mental health, and learning how to 'self sooth' at an early age is a true gift of life that we can give our kids by learning to unwind and relax in nature.

Leadership and communication is something that can be strengthened by a wilderness trip. We learn to talk to each other to make the decisions that affect us all, and share in a circle, in council, using a talking stick and listening with our hearts. Leadership is more than just making decisions, too, as good leaders rely on a deep and sensitive awareness of everyone in the group, their mood, morale, focus and needs.

My week in Alabama was amazing and special, as I got to spend so much quality time with everyone and see how hard each person worked in all of these areas. There was a deep caring, and a strong love between them as well. It was lonely indeed as I loaded up my gear and hit the road for my 18 hour/two day drive home. It was strange not to see Bella by the fire, or Lili working on her crafts or Robert showing off a salamander or frog.... We are back in our daily lives, getting ready for school or back to work, but the moments we shared by the Cypress Creek campsite will live in our hearts forever.

It's not too late to plan a campout before the cold comes! Don't wait, and if you need ideas of what to do, write and I will try to help you out! Trust me, it is well worth the effort....

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Summer Winding Down

It has been so busy here this year that I haven't had a chance to blog much these days. I am hoping that this will change, but I can't be certain! We are building timber frames, making beds and bunks for the camp cabins, clearing old fields of brush, working in the garden, cutting firewood, putting wood chip down on our trails and lots more important, good and fun projects that make Hawk Circle feel good.

We did raise a cabin since we put up Aspen! It is called Maple, and I will have more pics of it soon, and I will tell you all about it. It went very smoothly, the raising, that is, and we are working on the roofing and getting the siding up and rolling. It is a beautiful cabin in a great location nestled in among the maples on the west side of the camp area, near the lean to. I am enclosing a picture, too.....

I almost forgot to mention the awesome camps and skills being taught this summer to all of our campers..... How do you quantify that? You just can't! I will tell you more about them, though, I promise!

I am packing up for a trip to Alabama for a family skills week there, teaching all kinds of wild things like fire, shelter, water, food, stone tools, hunting skills, crafts, cooking and exploring and getting close to nature. It is going to be a great experience, and while I will miss my family while I am gone, I know it will help me to grow as an instructor and as a person too.

Luke is wrapping up a year of being our Youth Programs Director, and he is doing the Scout Skills Intensive this week and heading out for the Adirondack Expedition next week, so he will be busy. He has done a great job this year making our youth programs really great and working well with the summer staff too. We will miss him when he is gone in September.

The Fall Earth Skills Semester is coming up and I am looking forward to that as well as all of our workshops too. They are going to rock!

I will write more about them in the coming weeks, but until then, Trista might be filling in for me and sharing some of her work and vision about Hawk Circle too! Just so you know! Enjoy her posts and in the meantime, have a great 'end of summer' season!