For years I based my life on external validation and thought that my purpose was to make everyone around me happy. It was not until after my parents split up, and I came out of a very intense depression that I realized how important self-validation is and how to manage where I put my energy.
Viewing entries posted in 2017
I want to share some of my struggles during the three months that my son attended Wilderness in Utah. I am hopeful that writing about my experience, and the tools I utilized for coping will help at least one parent. My purpose is simply to offer you the knowledge that you are not alone. That there is healing in camaraderie.
Last summer, I found a low nest in the tree near staff packs. Glancing around to make sure everyone was okay, that no one needed me, I slowly, quietly, pulled the branch down to peek inside. Momma, or daddy bird, jumped and chirped nearby, anxious. My curiosity overcame my hesitation. Inside, three tiny, alien-looking creatures, smaller than my pinky toe raised yellow yawning mouths, begging for food. Scattered fuzz, more like a boy’s first facial hair than like feathers, covered pink wrinkled skin. They were more fetuses than bird. I returned the branch to its natural resting place. I didn’t want to risk scaring off the parents. These chicks would not survive.
At the time I was working in group 1, one of our adolescent boys’ groups, as a lead field guide. I wasn’t sure whether showing them the nest was a good idea. Members of the group were there to work on emotional literacy, social interaction, and boundaries. I wasn’t sure what kind of reaction they would have to the vulnerable life forms in the nest, but my desire to share the perhaps once-in-a-lifetime sight overtook my hesitation.
We instinctively hushed and moved slowly. Anxiety washed over me as the member of the group who struggled most with boundaries and respect cried out sharply, “Let me look!” But even he was able to pull the branch down, peer in and not let his curiosity, his impulsivity or his desire for power and control cause any damage to the baby birds. In that brief moment, we became stewards of the Ochocos, protectors of the thrushes and sparrows and bluebirds.
Wildness surrounds us: coyotes sing us to sleep, flickers alarm about a passing hawk, ravens call and chat. One morning, I awoke to the piercing cries of elk. Out of sight but close enough to hear the distinct textures of sound, two bull elk crashed into one another; cows cried out. I snuggled into my sleeping bag (wig); the sun already splayed across my face.
Our society often associates wildness with freedom, unpredictability, or acting “uncivilized.” Working in the ebb and flow of life and death, weather and seasons, though, I have witnessed an order in the wildness. I feel a storm brewing at times days in advance. We put on rain gear and string up the large tarp. If I’m looking where I’m walking, a wasp nest is easily spotted and avoided. We hang our food at night and sleep away from camp. Of course, if these precautions are not followed, there are natural consequences: Mice chew through spoons and ziplock bags. Improper layering results in cold bodies, cold feet. We only let these natural consequences play out when not dangerous. When they can happen, though, they are the most powerful teachers.
Two months after finding the birds nest with G1, I found another nest at a different staff tree. Something swung from a low branch. It drew me closer. A ball of feathers was still attached to an abandoned nest. What could have caused this? I looked into the ball of feathers, and there in the mess of old feathers and dried up grass were two small bird skulls. I jumped back. The baby bird skeletons continued to swing unceremoniously.
In January, I got an email from my friend Brad, inviting me to come and see his awesome Wilderness Program in Utah, Evoke Therapy Programs. "What a fun opportunity!" I thought to myself, and quickly, and rather impulsively, said yes.