Wednesday, October 29, 2014


I spent the last two days tromping through nature with my daughter and a classroom of children. Their teacher informed me that 3/4 of the children hadn't--ever--been camping before, and most hadn't spent anytime outside of the city.

The teachers and staff at the camp facility lauded the children for their respect of the land, how they were quiet and careful hikers. I, too, was glad for the children's good behaviour. About halfway through our time, though, I realized that at least a portion of it could be chalked up to the newness of it all.

Of course they didn't stray from the groomed paths. They'd never walked on one before. Of course they were quiet when they were told to be. They had no idea what they were listening for and needed minute by minute instruction.

I began to hope they wouldn't always act this way. I don't want them marching over protected species and bulldozing through native prairie, but I hope that the newness wears off for them and they can begin to take joy in the unnatural setting of nature. Not the blasé of I've already seen the muskrat, why are you calling me back to look at it again? But the take-root exuberance of knowing a place so well you can relax enough to enjoy it.

I didn't want the kids to act up, but to act out.

Act out of the expectations of a school system that commends you for parroting back the right answer. Act out of character and be curious about a thin trail that leads to parts unknown. Act out bravery and walk alone in the dark, listening for clues, not about how safe, how close to civilization they are, but for how wild, how still connected they are to a lost eden.

Experience is the only way to learn which rules you can bend, and which should--must--break. Not because you can, but because you know the land intimately and you can hear its heart cry and are powerless to do anything but respond.

1 comment:

Megan Sayer said...

OH!!! This is so spot on, thank you!! That one illustration opened my eyes in a whole new way.
I've been, through much of my life, a stickler for knowing what the rules are and a chronic intuitive rule-breaker. I think this is because when you're not sure even if there ARE rules then you forge your own path regardless - and then learn that you've done it all wrong - and then, sometimes, learn that it didn't matter anyway because it worked out in the end. Rinse, and repeat.
And this explains everything. Thank you!