October 22, 2016

August



One year more in this place, and I have a gut feeling this will be the last one. I've come here since I was fifteen, slept by the river, under the stars, and made children play. Somehow that's a job.

Here we hold a belief that children are often cut off from the best source of education : nature itself. I've always thought there is a knowledge that can only come from experience, and that the walls of a school can bring both structure or limitation. Every summer I love seeing children come to us and instantly revert to a different rhythm, one they lose during the year when they have to get up and be in school, carried around between adults busy lives.

Here they wake up early, because the light shines through the fabric of their tent. They eat voraciously, because they've been running all morning. In the afternoon when the sun is too hot, they sit in the shade and nap, or we teach them to build little men out of straw or dreamcatchers out of yarrow and wool. Then when it gets too hot we bring them to the river and let them splash around and cool. We take them to the plateau and they sleep under the stars, and wake up covered in morning dew, before they get up shivering and come to have breakfast in the first lights. They build secret houses in between rocks or trees, and hide in them for hours, singing and telling stories we're not allowed to hear.

Every year I come back here and think I have to manage them, protect them, teach them – but they don't need me. I am here to make sure they eat and to bandage scraped knees and small cuts, but they are very much their own little society, one I'm tolerated in, but not part of. Every year I am reminded that they are the ones teaching me, bringing me back to things my age tries to make me forget. A wildness. A fury in how they feel, and a lightness too – the tragedy that makes them cry will be forgotten only moments after. They are like pebbles in a river : waves of joy, fear, jealousy, rage, sadness, extasy, rushing over them and leaving them, refining them, shaping them into the person they will become. They don't try to swim or escape the current – they just float.

And there is a beauty in sitting back and just watching this unfold in silence, taking in this lesson they offer : that they don't need adults, who are just here to witness the magic. This is perhaps one of the only times a year where they get to just be – untempered, and unrestrained, they get to explore and play and get hurt and get frightened and grow. Whether they want to run around for hours or nap all afternoon, here they are free to do so, and you can see that freedom making them glow as they go back to their families – it looks like they have grown, stretched tall and lean and fiercer than ever, like the wild pine trees in the forest. Feets scraped, mad hair, red earth streaks on their faces. My little wild tribe.


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