“The heart of childhood, from seven to eleven, is the critical period for bonding with the earth.” – David Sobel
The southeast corner of the Olympic National Park is an amazing and sacred place. It is full of majesty and wonder. Captured best by the statement of a wise camper as we gazed up at the mountains: “This is the purple that I see from home,” referring to the Olympic Mountain Range when we looked to the west.
The Apprentice Journey began here. Leaving base camp, seven kids ages 8-10, two other grateful guides and I, shouldered our backpacks and set off on our mile and a half hike to what would be our home for the next two days. As with any Rite of Passage journey, the trials and tests we encountered and surmounted were abundant.
Less than 100 yards from our base camp, we had to shift backpacks and redistribute gear, and then watch as a water bottle took a lonely leap over the bridge. After rescuing the busted bottle, we continued on our way. Our trials continued too. The next half-mile met with weariness from carrying backpacks (to be expected!), a few wasp stings (ow! quickly remedied), and a stumble, resulted in a stunning, but luckily not wounding, experience. We reached our destination three hours later tired, uncomfortable and hungry.
However, we had made it to camp! As we dropped our packs and began to explore our new environment, something amazing happened. A shift took place from the feeling of the “grind” of hiking to the absolute wonderment of our surroundings. Once again I marveled in the present-ness of childhood — it took no time to immerse in the wonders surrounding us.
Over the next two days, we saw all kinds of wildlife, played in the water, and connected with each other and the earth. We supported each other when the distance of family or the “attack of mosquitos” proved to be too much.
The rite of passage into middle childhood is grounded in the world of wonder, nature and family. What a gift it was to watch these beautiful 8, 9 and 10 year olds adventure into middle childhood with strength and grace — a blessing I’m glad I was able to witness and share. Hope fills me as I venture into the future with these souls, our next generation of leaders.
“If we want children to flourish, to become truly empowered, let us allow them to love the earth before we ask them to save it.” - David Sobel