Words for the Wise: Evokian Wildy-slang
Most folks who have worked in wilderness have become familiar with strange languages borne from years of living in the wild. To this day I find myself saying things like, “Did you bring your wig?” when asking my partner if they have their sleeping bag for a camping trip, or “Do we have torts for taco night?” to my roommate at the grocery store in reference to the tortilla rack. Even staff who have been gone for years and are now working in non-wilderness realms will throw Evokian lingo into our daily conversations, “I could just really use some p-time right now,” when rain-checking plans in order to have some personal/alone time.
Wilderness programs use Three Letter Acronyms (TLAs) and alternative language as a way of creating their culture. Evoke has also slowly developed what we would call “Evokian Lingo” that allows us to identify items and activities we use in our practice. Upon your initial days of working at, or participating in programming at Evoke, you may be confused by some of the wildy-slang that staff and clients alike use. To help, here’s a short primer of Evokian acronyms that we use in the field routinely.
TNT: Not dynamite, but instead, The Next Thing. Often our daily routine is dictated by things outside of the staff and group control, like weather, logistics, etc. TNT refers to what the next thing on the schedule will be. At times TNT will be exactly what the staff had in mind, other times TNT will be a response to the uncontrollable needs of the program, clients, families, and/or weather. This is often paired with the concept of Future Information (FI, see below). Some examples: “We must finish cleaning up camp before we move into TNT,” or “What would you like to do for TNT,” or even, “Because we see dark clouds in the distance, TNT is now getting our gear and bodies ready for rain.”
MFT: Mandatory Fun Time. Yes this is therapy, yes this is the woods, and yes we have a plethora of chores and activities that need to be accomplished for our days to be productive. Yet humans have an inherent need for fun, and neglecting that need can also have a negative impact on productivity. Our staff are encouraged to observe the needs of an individual or a group and then re-direct the daily activities to meet those needs, including their need for fun. There is a balance between earning the space and time for fun, and also creating spaces for fun that allow future success in “less-fun” activities such as therapy assignments or camp chores.
CBD: Camp Break Down, which includes yet another TLA: Leave No Trace (LNT). We attempt to leave each campsite as we found it, which means practicing LNT to our best abilities. A tedious amount of time is spent visually sweeping the land to ensure the extraction of garbage and all human traces. CBD includes packing up all of our gear, bringing gear to the road for transport or replenishment at the next camp. Otherwise, all other personal items, trash, group gear and so on is placed in and on packs to make it to the next camp. CBD is usually run as a cycle, like most meals, which means there is an allotted period of time for the group to complete the task before moving onto TNT.
H&I letter: The Hopes & Intention Letter. It’s one of the first letters that a parent will send a client; it outlines the intentions for the placement of the client in the program, and the hopes for their treatment. This particular parent assignment can be a challenging and cathartic reflection of the relationship and events parent and child have experienced in the last few months or years. When it comes into the field, it can be a catalyst of understanding and engagement with the program. Each client shares it in group when they get it, and it acts as a ceremonial acknowledgement to the group of the beginning of each client’s journey. It also gives clients an opportunity to relate to one another with their experiences.
LOA: The Letter of Awareness. This is an assignment that allows clients the space for reflection on their previous behaviors. At Evoke, our staff hold the understanding that all behaviors are in response to meeting a need of some sort. As clients become more aware of their personal beliefs and needs they will be able to better identify why they’ve behaved in certain ways. From there they can identify ways to meet those needs with more productive behaviors. They also learn that this takes time, and that the process toward change takes a lot of self-compassion.
FI: Future Information. This is information regarding what’s next that’s being withheld from the group or a client for an intentional reason. According to the 12-Step Program of Alcoholics Anonymous, “expectations are premeditated resentments,” and that principle is the foundation of the term, FI. We encourage staff to focus on the here and now with clients, as a way of moving away from those premeditated resentments. Ideally, we are focusing on how we are thinking and feeling about the reality in front of us, to help us into a greater state of awareness of our personal beliefs and responses, as opposed to pinning ourselves powerless to an imagined inevitable future. In no way does the concept of FI eradicate the power of planning and to-do lists. Rather it allows us to be in the moment and remember the things inside our control. At any moment the intended schedule can be rocked off course by the needs of something else larger than a plan on paper. The ability of our staff and clients alike to release future moments empowers them to act fully in the current moment with all available resources.
This doesn’t cover all the lingo, but it’s a start. Clients and staff who go onto other programs or find other people in the world who have been immersed in wilderness culture will inevitably swap jargon from their wildy-past. The uniqueness of the language and the way it seeps into our daily life outside of the wildy signifies the impact the community has had on us. I use made-up, wildy-born words in my home because those words feel important to me and my past, and frankly, they are more forthcoming in my brain than the real words I learned early on. Philosophies and practices like FI continue to help me pause, preventing me from future-tripping or past-ruminating. It also begs the questions to others, what words or phrases have come into your life through the journey of Evoke that continues to empower or challenge you?