Rylie and I have been lucky enough to be a part of the Apprentice of the Wild program this winter. Every other week we meet at a beautiful natural area that is well outside the city, though still near the freeway (in LA you are never more than a stone's throw from the freeway, never.) It is a wonderfully diverse place and each time we visit we learn more and grow more comfortable in the space. As the weather has changed from week to week, so has the plant and animal life. When we were out there yesterday, on what was the warmest day of the year thus far, all of the trees and shrubs were aglow with bright green tender soft leaves and the pollen was floating like tiny cotton tufts lazily through the air. They say the pollen is going to be epic this year due to the heavy rains of this winter.
Despite free range exploration in nature and connecting with new people, Rylie learns ancient and survival skills aplenty. She has learned how to correctly carve with her knife, how to fashion a toothbrush from a cottonwood branch and how to catch a lizard in a snare. I can see her confidence and comfort level grow with each passing week. It is subtle, but each class finds her settling in just a little bit more and finding her place there amongst the trees.
And perhaps of equal importance is her comfort level socializing with new friends and unfamiliar faces. She's easily overwhelmed by large groups of kids, especially those in which she does not know anyone, so she typically stays pretty close to me on our class days. Yesterday was a different story all together when she used her sense of humor and goofiness to catch the attention of a group of kids playing in the water. They bonded quickly over a friendly game of throwing gigantic boulders in the water and naming them different random objects (I heard violin, pizza, baby pig, to name a few.)
This group of kids is unlike any other I've been a part of for how many of them that are present each week in the woods. They are calm, attentive, kind. They are helpful, interested, curious. It is such a treat to spend time learning from nature with them. And on the subject of learning, I, myself, learn so much in this class from identifying wild edibles to fashioning a willow branch into a mule deer. I had a thought yesterday along the lines of: Wisdom Keepers is doing it right, they are teaching all of the right things in an era in which the human relationship with nature is tenuous at best.
Rylie mostly loves to run off and explore while she takes to this wild area on each of our visits. It is a rare treat to be able to run, splash and play in rushing water in Southern California. They other thing she really enjoys is the stories. Our teacher, Sean, tells a folktale, parable, or other thought provoking and inspiring story each and every class.
I love to be out there in the fresh air surrounded by the infinite trees and to learn from Mother Nature's endless knowledge. I'm still learning each and everyday all the lessons this life has to teach me. Hopefully this early relationship with nature we are providing for our kids will inform their lives and their experiences in such a way to impart lifelong wisdom. Our greatest wish for them it to have a solid and firm understanding of who they are and where they belong in this world. That is an education without a price.