Monday, July 16, 2012

Becoming a Young Woman 2012

On the first evening of our time together, around the crackling fire, an old story was shared. It was the story of a village that barely survived a cold and hard winter long ago. The people of that village believed that if they went through one more cold winter that they would not be able to survive, so they lived in fear. As another winter approached the people asked nature to be kind, but the winter was hard yet again and the people barely survived. So, as in many good stories about the past, some of the villagers walked to the outer edge of the village to ask the wise old woman what they were to do. Her answer was to send a young warrior into the woods to look into the eyes of a wild animal and through that look a message would be communicated.

Many of the people of the village were not compelled to look a wild animal into the eyes and they shrugged away from the idea, they went about their regular business. But there was one young girl who accepted the challenge. She was nervous but she knew that her people needed her to face this challenge courageously.

I won’t share the rest of the story now… but as the dark of the evening set in we all, three mentors and nine girls chose to look into the eyes of the wild courageously for our week together. We each tossed a piece of cedar into the fire as we spoke about an “edge” that we are facing during the week: challenges like making new friends, solo time, and sweat lodge.

As the night faded into the next day we started to find connections within our group. Friendships began to form and we played goofy group building and awareness awakening games together. Laughter began to erupt across the Meadow of Sacred Groves on Bainbridge Island. One girl said, “Is this my life?!” and another said, “This camp should be named the Awesomist-Awesome-Camp!” and we were introduced to what would become our camp motto, “YOLO!” (or “You only live once!”).

In the days that followed we participated in meaningful ceremonies, learned some primitive skills (like starting a fire with a bow-drill, cooking directly on the coals, and making herbal medicine), and stepped into the woods for solo time.

On July 4th, Independence Day, the girls were sent off for their 8-hour solo time in the woods. As they faced a long day alone in the woods, something that many young people and adults never experience, the mentors maintained a Sacred Fire in honor of the girls. The 8 hours may have passed slowly in the woods but all of the girls met the challenge with grace. And as they returned to the Meadow to the sound of a celebratory song each girl smiled with pride. After the song ended and the silence was broken the girls began to chatter, excited to return to their new friends. The group became a community that night.

The next morning we shared solo day stories, this poem called The Forest was written by Sophie Altaras (age 12):

I sing as I tiptoe in my mind through the forest softer than you’ll ever know
I can’t really describe it, the feeling I get when I come here
It’s sort of a calmness, like in the eyes of a mother deer
The sunlight shining through the trees makes me come alive
Because it’s been a long winter when it takes power just to survive

The rest of the week sailed by quickly. And soon it was time to return to the “village” of Seattle. Each girl was given the new title of Young Woman and handed a few small gifts and insights that she could carry into her future. Just as in the story that we shared on the first day of our time together… through facing the challenge of staring into the eyes of the wild, a gift was bestowed and has now been brought back to the village. YOLO!

Friday, July 13, 2012

I'm a Little Hiker (Apprentice Journey 2012)

Nearly two weeks after our Journey to Staircase Campground I can still hear the laughter of our 9 courageous and hilarious young hikers (Did you know that our Apprentice Journey participants are between the ages of 8 and 10?!). We shared a number of wonderful moments... but some of my highlights, as a guide, were the following:

Playing blindfold "trust" games in the field at Staircase --- have you ever played "Hug a Tree" or done a "Sing-Song-Stalk" (the vocal version of a drum-stalk)? The Song-Stalk got our group laughing so hard at the zombie-like behaviors of blindfolded "stalkers." 

Having "Secret Spot" time at dusk in between large ferns, under elder evergreens, and next to "faerie-dust" white flowers. The forest was very magical as we sat in silence and enjoyed bird songs and the coolness of a light breeze.

Hiking the 3.5 Miles into Olympic National Park's Spike Camp. Yes, 3.5 miles with Backpacks on! And with good spirits... especially during our sunny lunch break along the Skokomish River. Then after lunch hiking slowly up-hill until finding a Doe standing at the junction to our campsite...

Spotting the Doe was a highlight for the whole group. She stood at the spot marking our hike completion and stayed with us as we set up our campsites. The participants sat in silence watching the Doe eat leaves for a long while.

Story time at night! One of the best story nights happened at Spike Camp where we huddled away from the rain underneath a tiny gear tarp. Tara read us a book by Byrd Baylor, "The Table Where Rich People Sit." And we talked about all the "wealth" in our lives... like New Friends, Spotting a Doe, Living for a week at Staircase in the beautiful woods... we realized that we were (and are) all VERY wealthy.

And preparing this song for the folks back home...

I'm a little hiker. HIKER! Hiker. HIKER! 

I'm a little hiker strong and small.
Here is my backpack here is my stick.
Tie my laces and send me out!
I'm a little hiker, hear me SHOUT! (Yea!)

I'm a little hiker. HIKER! Hiker. HIKER! 

Twinkle Twinkle little star,
How I wonder where you are?
It's been pouring down on us,
But we don't put up a big fuss!

I'm a little hiker. HIKER! Hiker. HIKER!

We saw a doe, pretty and lean.
She's the prettiest do we've ever seen...

"Hey. What's a doe?"

Doe a deer, a female deer
Re a drop of golden sun
Mi a name, I call myself
Fa a long long way to HIKE
So a needle pulling thread
La a note to follow so
Ti a drink of jam and bread
and that will bring us back to HOME HOME HOME HOME.